The second biggest stadium sporting event in the world, alongside the FIFA World Cup, will be inaugurated this Friday. Who are the favourites to win the Rugby World Cup? More importantly – which venues will host matches of the event?
Who are the favourites for the 2023 Rugby World Cup?
The men's Rugby World Cup – compared to the FIFA World Cup - is a relatively young tournament. The event was first held in 1987. Prior to that, the world's best teams in the sport were determined through regional competitions and the Five Nations Cup (since 2000 the Six Nations Cup). The idea to determine the rugby world champion through a single tournament with transparent and open qualification originated back in the 1950s, but met with resistance from the national teams affiliated to the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB). It was only in the 1980s that it was recognised that other sports were gaining huge popularity, prestige, and most importantly, making money by hosting global championships. This decided that it was high time that rugby also had a similar event.
The triumph of the first World Cup organised in Australia and New Zealand was the national team of the latter country. In the final, the popular All Blacks beat France 29:9. The team from this island country in the south-western Pacific is considered a cult and can be compared to the Brazilian national football team. Like the Canarinhos, New Zealand's rugby players are the most successful team in the history of the World Cup. In 2019, the third World Cup was won by South Africa equalling the All Blacks in the number of titles, but the country from the south of the Dark Continent, unlike the New Zealanders, does not have a silver medal in this tournament.
Stade de France, © FrancoisFromFrance
Which stadiums will the 2023 Rugby World Cup be played in?
The Rugby World Cup, which starts on Friday, September 8, will run until October 28. Bookmakers and experts are predicting two strong favourites for the final triumph - the hosts, France, and New Zealand. The certainties to complete the TOP4 in their estimation seem to be South Africa and Ireland. Surprisingly, they do not give teams such as England, Wales and Scotland much of a chance for the title. It is also worth noting that Friday's opening match will be against... All Blacks and Les Bleus. Ironically enough, the biggest favourites to triumph are in one group. Predictions therefore say that both national teams will open the event and then close it out with a clash in the final.
The tournament will visit 9 French stadiums. The opening match and the 3 remaining group stage matches as well as the 2 quarter-finals, the semi-finals, the third place match and the final will be played at Stade de France. The venue will be the main arena for the Summer Olympics Games in Paris in less than a year's time, and it hosted the Champions League final in 2022. In addition, this year's Rugby World Cup matches will be played at Stade Vélodrome in Marseille, Groupama Stadium (Parc OL) in Lyon, Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, Matmut Atlantique in Bordeaux, Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Étienne, Allianz Riviera in Nice, Stadium de Toulouse. The aforementioned arenas have hosted Euro 2016 matches, and it was just prior to the tournament that they underwent major upgrades that did not need to be carried out again before the event just started.
World Cup matches will also be played at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes. This venue did not host the 2016 European football championships - however, Euro 1984 were played there matches in the past. The 35,322-capacity stadium last underwent renovation in 2017. Interestingly, this arena will not be one hosting the Rugby World Cup for the first time. In the past, the event was played in France in 2007 - at which time it was in Nantes.
Stade de la Beaujoire, © Rodrigue