The countdown towards the start of the 2023 Rugby World Cup ramped up on Tuesday evening when Tendai Mtawarira, the retired Springboks prop forward, arrived in Paris for the ceremonial handing over of the Webb Ellis Cup from the holders South Africa to host nation France.

It was November 2019 when the loosehead first got his hands on the famed trophy, the Springboks defeating England 32-12 in the final in Yokohama.

More than three and a half years have now passed since that memorable denouement to the brilliantly hosted Japanese tournament and ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira arrived in France on an Emirates A380 to deliver the trophy just hours before Wednesday’s 100 days to go celebrations kicked off across the country.

After making the journey from South Africa, the retired 117-cap was met at Charles de Gaulle airport by World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont and Jacques Rivoal, the France 2023 chairman. Mtawarira will now accompany the trophy through a programme of activities on Wednesday showcasing French culture and expertise.

The former front-rower is scheduled to pay a visit to chef Julien Duboue’s restaurant and pastry chef Christelle Brua’s workshop, while also stopping off at Montmartre and at an amateur rugby club in Gennevilliers. Mtawarira will end his Wednesday by placing the Webb Ellis Cup on top of the Arc de Triomphe, triggering a projection onto this iconic French monument and in the host cities.

World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin enthused: “Things kicked off when Tendai Mtawarira arrived with the Webb Ellis Cup in France, passing the cup from the champions to the hosts, putting the cup back up for contention for Rugby World Cup.

“These activities in themselves, never mind the tournament, have taken a lot of planning and that is a testament to the great partnership that we have got with the France 2023 organising committee, with the French rugby federation and with the French government.

“We are all driven by the common objective of really highlighting and celebrating what is going to be an incredible Rugby World Cup. We will leave you to judge the spectacular nature of that on Wednesday.”

More than 600,000 international visitors are expected to travel to France 2023 from September, a record for a Rugby World Cup. Tickets for the tournament sold out in record time with all available 2.5million tickets sold a year out. That demand will see the tournament break the RWC 2015 attendance record.

2023-05-31T00:16:12Z dg43tfdfdgfd