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San Mamés to host France v World XV rugby union clash

Featured image credit: Marco Almbauer/CC0 1.0 DEED/Edited for size

Featured image credit: Marco Almbauer/CC0 1.0 DEED/Edited for size

San Mamés, home of LaLiga football team Athletic Club, has been awarded hosting rights to an international rugby union match between France and a ‘World XV’ team.

The match will take place at the 53,000-capacity stadium in Bilbao on June 22. It will not be the first time San Mamés has staged a major rugby union event, with the venue having hosted the finals of European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR)’s club competitions back in 2018.

The 2018 finals weekend marked the first time the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals had been held outside of European rugby’s traditional six nations. In January, it was announced that San Mamés will host the EPCR finals again in 2026.

June’s event will be supported by the Bilbao City Council and the Provincial Council of Biscay. It will also be organised in collaboration with the Basque and Spanish rugby federations.

The World team will be coached by former New Zealand coach Ian Foster and will feature English brothers Mako and Billy Vunipola.

Juan Mari Aburto, Mayor of Bilbao, said: “Holding this sporting event in Bilbao means we can once again revive the great passion with which we hosted the 2018 European finals, the most important in European rugby as they left the Six Nations circuit for the first time.

“It was a historic occasion and a challenge that we applauded then … and we will now enjoy again preparing for the 2026 finals. There are new milestones and events which can demonstrate, once again, our professionalism and the pride of this land that shares all the rugby values of nobility, passion, commitment, effort, teamwork.”

Jean Marc Lhermet, vice-president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), added: “We are delighted to be able to announce today this top-level international meeting in Bilbao. Our French team is a magnificent showcase to export rugby to those countries where this sport evolves progressively, it is a pride and a privilege to be able to contribute to its growth. We are looking forward to seeing the stadium full of Basque fans, with that magical atmosphere that they know how to create so well.”

San Mamés is due to host this season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League final and the 2025 Europa League final. The stadium was awarded these events in July 2021 as compensation after Bilbao was removed as a host venue for Euro 2020, which was delayed by 12 months due to COVID-19.

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