for Africa, the road to the 2023 World Cup passes through Provence

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Eight African teams meet in Marseille and Aix-en-Provence to compete for the Rugby Africa Cup, with the key to a qualifying ticket for the Rugby World Cup to be held next year in France. Among them, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Algeria who hope to shake Namibia, favorite of this tournament.

>>> Follow the match Zimbabwe – Ivory Coast live on the France 24 website on Friday 1 July at 8.30 pm.

The Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region has been invited to the map of African rugby. Hostel 1er on July 10 in Marseille and Aix-en-Provence, in two modest stadiums of 4,000 and 6,500 spectators, eight African teams that will try to qualify for the next World Cup, organized in France in 2023, and will join especially in the South. Africa, current and already classified world champion.

This region was proposed by the organizers of the World Cup in France, in response to a call from Rugby Africa to host this qualifying round. With the Africa Cup of Rugby, the goal of the organizing committee is twofold: to ensure the promotion of rugby in this region and to rehearse for the world competition next year.

“The idea is also to help African rugby gain visibility and develop,” explains Martine Nemecek, director of this tournament. This competition will in fact benefit from an unprecedented media exposure and the African federations present will receive training from international rugby bodies, especially in the areas of healthcare and refereeing.

If the costs of transport and accommodation are borne by the organizers of the 2023 World Cup during the ten days of competition, the eight African teams had to finance their preparation upstream of this Tournament. Most of them have been in France for several weeks, hosted by various French clubs, thanks to relations between some of their players or managers and French rugby.

An unprecedented media exposure

The Namibians have made the decision to prepare in South Africa, near Stellenbosch, and join France only this week. In March 2022, when the decision to play the African Rugby Cup in France was announced, the Namibian Federation did not hide its opposition to having to travel to Europe. And he had asked, in vain, Rugby Africa to reconsider his decision, arguing that the development of African rugby cannot be done outside the continent.

The transfer of this competition was not to the liking of Baky Meïté, former captain of the Ivory Coast team. “It wasn’t especially for that. I thought, why host this qualifying round and not the ones in Asia or America?” Explains this former professional player who retired from the sport last year.

Once the election was confirmed, he sided with the arguments of those who see an opportunity “without common measure” for African rugby players. “With Côte d’Ivoire I have played in total anonymity. It is a great opportunity for the federations and the players who will be able to show themselves,” said Baky Meïté, who stressed that the matches will be broadcast on television at prime time. France. They will also be broadcast on different channels in Africa.

Bary Meïté understands, however, that this formula can generate a certain sporting imbalance between the teams. “We know that Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Algeria depend on strong diasporas of players playing in France,” adds Bakary Meïté, who advises Ivorian strikers during this competition. For these nations, it has been easier to bring together international players and prepare them for this competition.

A place in the group of France

This was the case in Algeria, which was mainly prepared at Gennevilliers, near Paris, before joining Aix-en-Provence where it will face Senegal on Saturday 2 July. The vast majority of players play in different divisions of French rugby. Many of them were born in France and chose to wear their parents ’nation t-shirt.

Officially admitted in May 2021 to the World Rugby Federation, Algeria is the worst ranked team among the eight participants in the Africa Cup of Nations. But they are 90e place in the world is due more to its recent entry in this ranking than to its real value. And he intends to reveal himself during this competition, which offers a classification for Group A of the World Cup, where New Zealand, France, Italy and Uruguay are. And if he succeeds, he will be able to play his duel, on September 21, 2023, against the XV of France at the Vélodrome stadium in Marseille.

Namibia also plans to return to Marseille next year. She has already participated in the last seven World Cups and is the favorite of the African tournament, with several players in her ranks playing professional French or English rugby. But he is wary of several teams in Provence, starting with Côte d’Ivoire against which he lost last summer during the preliminary qualifying phase for the next World Cup.

Zimbabwe, which has just climbed to 27the world place, also dreams of competing again in a World Cup, 32 years after his last participation. For the team that will lose the final of this African Rugby Cup, on July 10 in Aix en Provence, next November will present a last chance to qualify, during a second leg competition that will bring together four teams from different continents. Its winner will be the 20the and last country to qualify for the 2023 World Cup.

The Africa Rugby Cup program

Quarterfinals:

1er July, in Marseille: Namibia – Burkina Faso (6pm) and Zimbabwe – Ivory Coast (9pm)
July 2, in Aix-en-Provence: Uganda – Kenya (3pm) and Senegal – Algeria (6pm)

Semifinals:

July 6: Uganda or Kenya – Senegal or Algeria, in Marseille (6 p.m.)
July 6: Namibia or Burkina Faso – Zimbabwe or Ivory Coast, in Aix-en-Provence (9 p.m.)

Final:

July 10 in Aix-en-Provence (9 p.m.)

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