Sport For Members

What you need to know about visiting France for the Rugby World Cup

James Harrington
James Harrington - [email protected]
What you need to know about visiting France for the Rugby World Cup
Fans at the Rugby World Cup. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP)

Nearly a year before the Paris Olympic Games, France will host another major international sporting event - the Rugby World Cup 2023. Whether you're a dyed-in-the-wool rugby fan or a newbie to the game, here’s our guide for anyone visiting France during the tournament.


How can I get tickets?

Tickets for the tournament sold out fast - but the official site has a resale section, where tickets may be bought and sold until 24 hours before each match. All tickets made available for resale will be available at the fixed individual ticket price from earlier sale phases, to a limit of six tickets per person.

Keep checking here - you might get lucky.

The site is the only official resale site, so if you see tickets for sale on other platforms be very, very careful that it's not a scam.

If you are unlucky with tickets, fan zones will pop up in all the host cities, with giant screens showing matches, food and drink stalls, and entertainment on tap.

And of course bars throughout France will be screening the matches.

Where can I stay?

Matches take place at venues in nine cities in France - Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Nice, Saint-Denis (in the Paris suburbs) Saint-Etienne, and Toulouse. 

Where you want to stay may depend on which of the 20 nations taking part you follow. 

Hosts France play their pool matches in Saint-Denis, Marseille, Lyon and Lille. Defending champions South Africa travel between Marseille, Bordeaux, and Saint-Denis in the pool phase. World number one side Ireland, meanwhile, are in Bordeaux, Nantes, and Saint-Denis. England’s four pool phase matches are in Marseille, Nice and Lille; while New Zealand’s are in Saint-Denis, Toulouse and Lyon.


If you’re following a single team, you may want to base yourself near where the squad is staying and travel with them to matches in various cities in France. 

You may, instead, decide to base yourself in one city for the pool phase, and enjoy watching a range of teams. 

Marseille, for example, is the venue for matches involving England, Argentina, South Africa, Scotland, France, Namibia, South Africa, Tonga - as well as two quarter-finals. Nice, meanwhile, welcomes Wales, Portugal, England, Japan, Italy, Uruguay, Scotland and Tonga. 

You can see all matches by venue on the Rugby World Cup 2023 website.

Don't expect to find many hotel bargains (or even many vacant rooms) in those cities for the duration of their involvement in the tournament - especially those like Nice and Marseille which are popular summer holiday destinations even without the Word Cup.


In French cities, public transport tends to be pretty decent, so you might be able to find something on short-term rental portals (like Airbnb) that meets your needs. Obviously, however, the longer you leave it, the more difficult it becomes. And do look slightly further afield. Consider, for example, Balma or Blagnac, if you want to base yourself in Toulouse, or the Paris suburbs for matches at Stade de France.

According to the EU Consumer Centre for France, you will also want to remember that when cancelling a booking, you will be held to the terms of cancellation already set by the hotel or rental agreement.

Is there anything to do on non-match days?

The tournament is in France, the world’s most popular tourist destination. They know how to look after visitors here. 

Every host city is a tourist destination in its own right, but here are a few suggestions;

Bordeaux: Wander through the iconic columns of the Grand Théâtre; sample vintage wines at the Cité du Vin; enjoy the local speciality canelé cake; visit the impressive Place de la Bourse or take in the reflections of the Miroir d’Eau, the largest reflecting pool in the world. Alternatively, on the right bank, be entertained at Darwin, an ecologically restored creative space.


Lille: Close to the border with Belgium, Lille is arguably the most European city of France. So you can stroll along the Grand’Place, wander around the Old Quarter of Lille or admire the Vielle Bourse (the Old Stock Exchange), while basking in the local hospitality.

Lyon: At the centre of the major wine regions of Beaujolais and Côtes-du-Rhône, Lyon is also known as the 'foodie capital' of France. You almost have to visit one of the ‘bouchons’, traditional restaurants serving the local specialties in the alleyways of the Old Town. Don’t forget, either, the Basilique de Fourvière, the Place Bellecour, the Théâtre des Célestins and the Fresque des Lyonnais…

Marseille: Climb up to Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde (called the ‘Good Mother’) which overlooks the city, stroll through the Panier district, or enjoy a bouillabaisse at the Old Port. You could also get away from the bustle of the city by hiking the Sormiou or Sugiton calanques, which offer breath-taking views over the sea, or just hit the beach.


Nantes: From the Château des Ducs de Bretagne and the Machines de l’Île, between the Passage Pommeraye and the Creative Arts District, historic Nantes is a vivacious, cultural centre that will keep any fan happy during the rugby down time. 

Nice: The capital of the Côte d’Azur is one of the most beautiful cities in France, nestled between the sea and the mountains. Try Mediterranean gastronomic specialties, pan bagnat, pissaladière or socca in one of the small restaurants on the typical narrow streets of the city or on the piazzettas. Alternatively, pack a picnic and head to the beach, or take refuge in the shade of the wooded parks. If you fancy a day trip, Grasse - the perfume capital of the world - is a one-hour train ride away. 

Saint-Denis: It's right outside Paris which has one or two tourist destinations, it's true. But don't discount the vibrant, bustling Saint-Denis itself - check out the Basilica of Saint-Denis, Street Art Avenue, its vast flea market and the Cité du Cinéma. 

Saint-Étienne: Cité du Design; the Musée de la Mine; La Comédie de Saint-Étienne; and the Museum of Modern Art are all on the must-visit list for anyone who heads to what was once Europe’s industrial capital. It's 45 minutes by direct train from Lyon, so these two can make a good dual-centre trip. 


Toulouse: The old - Musée des Augustins, the Basilique Saint-Sernin - and the modern, Toulouse is the European capital of aeronautics and space - combine in the southwest’s Pink City, where good food and good living are pretty much on tap.

Getting from city to city

If you are following one team, or plan to catch matches in several cities, you’ll be pleased to know that the travel network in France is up to the job. Be aware, shorter domestic flights may not be an option, but you can still fly from Nice to Paris, for example. 

And the high-speed TGV rail service is a very pleasant - and rapid - way of getting around. If you plan to drive, the toll-paying motorway network in France is routinely excellent. 

What about strikes?

The French are good at strikes and protests - there was a small furore over a deliberate power cut at a domestic ProD2 match at the end of April - but it's far too early to say whether there will be strikes (or even the threat of strikes) during the World Cup.

The likely worst that could happen, if there is strike action during tournament, is that your plane, train, bus or ferry might be delayed or cancelled. 


But just because there is a strike, don’t assume that everything will be cancelled – strikes vary hugely in how much disruption they cause. You can keep up to date about all strike action in France at The Local's strike tag HERE.

Useful French rugby phrases

In case you want to brush up on your French rugby lingo

Essai (pronounced essay) - try

Transformation (pronounced trans-for-mass-eon) - conversion

Tentative (pronounced ton-ta-teev) - attempt 

Merci de respecter le buteur (pronounced mer-see de repectay le boot-err) - please respect the kicker (the sign is put up to ask people to stay quiet during a kick attempt - honestly, the French pretty much ignore this)

Caramel (pronounced cara-mel) - a heavy, legal, big tackle (quelle caramel ! - what a monstrous tackle)

Chandelle (pronounced shon-dell) - a garryowen, up-and-under

Arbitre (pronounced arr-beet-rr) - referee (video arbitre - TMO)

Putain (pronounced poo-taaahn) - offered paired with arbitre if a referee's decision is not to the fans' liking is this, the French all-purpose swearword

Allez les bleus ! (pronounced alley-lay-blur) - how to ingratiate yourself with your new French friends, this one means 'Go France!'

The tournament runs from September 8th to October 28th, 2023. You can keep up with all the latest developments in France - and any strike action or travel disruption - at The Local France's homepage HERE.


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