Sport For Members

Everything you need to know about France's Rugby World Cup

James Harrington
James Harrington - [email protected]
Everything you need to know about France's Rugby World Cup
Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

From strikes to fan zones, travel plans to tourist recommendation - plus some handy French vocab - here is everything you need to know if you're in France during the Rugby World Cup.


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.

Fan zones

If you are unlucky with tickets, you can always soak up the atmosphere in the fan zones.

Each of the host cities will also have a 'rugby village' - aka a fan zone with a big screen, entertainment, food and drink on sale. They are;

  • Paris - Place de la Concorde
  • Bordeaux - Parc des Sports Saint-Michel
  • Lille - Place du Général de Gaulle (Grand' Place)
  • Lyon - Place Bellecour
  • Marseille - Cannebière (on Vieux Port side)
  • Nantes - Parc des Chantiers, Boulevard Léon Bureau
  • Nice - Jardin Albert Ier and Théâtre de Verdure
  • Saint-Denis -Place Victor Hugo (at the foot of Saint-Denis’ Basilica)
  • Saint-Etienne - Parc François Mitterrand
  • Toulouse - Prairie des Filtres

Find full details of the opening times for fan zones here.

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

If you're in France, all matches of the tournament will be on free-to-air TV channels - variously TF1, M6 or France Télévisions.

Opening ceremony

The tournament opens on Friday, September 8th with a match at Stade de France between France and New Zealand. Immediately before the match, also at Stade de France, is the opening ceremony.

Exact details of this are a closely guarded secret but we do know that it will feature at least one Oscar-winning actor - more details here.

It starts at 8pm and will be screened at fan zones and on French TV.

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.


 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?

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 and it's a standard negotiation tactic to target big events.

So far there is one confirmed strike during the Rugby World Cup period - French air traffic controllers will walk out on Friday, September 15th. This is likely to lead to some flight disruption - full details will be available 48 hours in advance.

Unions have also called for a day of 'mobilsation' and demonstrations on October 13th, although it's not clear at this stage whether this will cause transport disruption.  


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!'

Beer, balls and tackles: The essential French vocab for the Rugby World Cup

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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