Paris’ Stade de France and Marseille’s Orange Vélodrome will be the settings for the knock-out stages of the 2023 Rugby World Cup (RWC), with organisers today (Friday) confirming a match schedule that aims to engage the whole of France.

In what is an expanded eight-week tournament, the 2023 World Cup will kick off with the host nation taking on New Zealand on September 8. Each host city will host a minimum of four games and welcome at least one 2019 World Cup quarter-finalist.

In line with the goal of making the tournament the most accessible RWC to date, and attract new audiences in France, 80% of the population will live within two hours from a match venue.

In October, the organising committee reached an agreement for the Stade de France to host 10 matches at the tournament. Along with the opening match, the 80,000-seat stadium will stage the final on October 28, the bronze final, both semi-finals and two quarter-finals. The Vélodrome will host the other two quarter-finals.

The other stadia for the pool stages are: Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Étienne; Stade de Bordeaux; Stadium de Toulouse; Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille; Stade de Nice; Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes; and Parc OL, Lyon.

Earlier this week it was announced that RWC 2023 in France will feature increased rest periods for all teams after the Rugby World Cup Board, the World Rugby Executive Committee, France 2023 and International Rugby Players agreed a ground-breaking package of player welfare principles that will underpin the greatly enhanced match schedule.

Included in this plan is that all teams will have a minimum of five rest days for all matches, optimising recovery and preparation for the tournament. The pool phase has been extended by a week to accommodate the additional rest day requirement.

The extended pool phase aims to facilitate the very best experience for teams and fans alike with the big matches concentrated across Wednesday to Sunday, while for the first time Mondays and Tuesdays will be clear.

One highlight of the opening weekend is a double-header in Marseille, a fan-favourite at the 2007 tournament in France. England will launch their Pool D campaign against Argentina on the first Saturday, while reigning champions South Africa will start their title defence against Scotland the following day.

All matches being organised between Wednesday and Sunday aims to maximise fan attendance and broadcast engagement, with seven double-header weekends seeking to translate into a festival atmosphere in the host cities. Building on the record economic impact of RWC 2019 in Japan, France 2023 is seeking to be the most impactful and sustainable Rugby World Cup ever, delivering a tangible impact for society and rugby.

France 2023 CEO, Claude Atcher, said: “An increase in financial investment for the purpose of better player welfare is unprecedented in the history of major sporting events. This new match schedule format will also provide a more equitable platform for all teams involved.

“We are also very pleased that each of our nine host cities and regions will host at least one quarter-finalist from RWC 2019, meaning the tournament, and all it has to offer, will be accessible to the widest-possible audience across the country. With this in mind, we believe this match schedule can deliver the most competitive and entertaining Rugby World Cup ever held.”

The RWC 2023 ticketing programme will launch next month, with details to be announced on March 4.

Images: France 2023