The Stade de France will retain its position as the centrepiece of the country’s staging of the Rugby World Cup when the tournament returns to the country in 2023, according to Claude Atcher, director general of the organising committee.
France was awarded hosting rights to the rugby union showpiece in November 2017 and while the division of games amongst the host cities has yet to be fully determined, Atcher said the Parisian venue will reprise the role it played at the 2007 World Cup.
“Potentially, there will be between seven and 10 matches (at the Stade de France),” Atcher said, according to French newspaper Le Figaro. “The opening match, the semi-finals and the final, that’s for sure. Logically, the Stade de France will host the biggest matches because it has the largest capacity. If one has, in the group stages, France v England, there is the chance it is played at the Stade de France. It’s economically logical.”
Regarding the bronze medal game, held the day before the final, Atcher said: “For the small final, we realise that with the means of transport in France, we can play it at the Stade de France, but also in Bordeaux or Lille. It’s something that can be perfectly organised.”
France 2023 is currently holding consultations with the nine host cities, which include Paris, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Nice, Saint-Etienne and Toulouse. Concerning the wider allocation of games, Atcher said: “There are cities that have made wishes. Lyon has expressed the wish to host a quarter-final. The city of Toulouse wants to host a France match and the All Blacks. Bordeaux has expressed a wish to host the small final, but not a quarter. Each city has placed its specific interest, which has been recorded. This will be taken into account when scheduling.”
However, Atcher did say that an agreement has been struck that will see all host cities, aside from Paris, host a France or French Barbarians game, or the semi-finals of the domestic Top 14, before the World Cup takes place.
He said: “This is a commitment made by the federation (FFR) and the league (LNR). This represents eight or nine matches of the France team, five or six of the Barbarians and six (Top 14) semi-finals. We made the commitment to organise them in the host cities of 2023.”
The future of the Stade de France itself has been the matter of debate of late. In July, the Stade de France Consortium (CSDF) said the venue is in line for redevelopment after a new deal was secured under which it will continue as the home of showpiece French rugby union games.
Under a tripartite agreement between the CSDF, FFR and LNR, the 80,698-seat stadium will host national team games and the finals of the Top 14 until 2025. The Stade de France is already in line for redevelopment ahead of the 2024 summer Olympic Games in the French capital. This project will reportedly cost between €50m (£43.8m/$57.9m) and €70m, while a more ambitious venture led by the Vinci-Bouygues group has also been reported in recent days, ranging from €100m to €450m.
Commenting on these reports, Atcher said: “We need to work together to benefit from a renovated stadium, a stadium that meets the challenges of organising major sporting events. We participate in work meetings on this renovation, we look closely at the progress proposed by Vinci as part of a larger renovation. But we are witnesses, we try to participate but the decisions will be made between the state, Vinci and the Stade de France.”