Tour de France for Les Bleus
There are those who think it won't be easy to find three stadiums to rival the Stade de France. And others who think that it is an excellent opportunity to travel the country and share the achievements of the French national team.
Although it is not completely official yet, it is unlikely that France will be able to play any of their three home men's Six Nations 2024 matches – against Italy, Ireland and England – at the Stade de France.
With only 16 months to go before the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the iconic venue is set to be transformed. The athletics track will be turned purple, the number of giant screens will be doubled, the stadium will be equipped with 5G and a number of temporary facilities will be built.
In order to facilitate those changes, the Stade de France has been made unavailable for any sporting, cultural or other event from December 2023.
That means the Rugby World Cup 2023 final on 28 October, 2023, will be the last rugby match played at the stadium until the Paris 2024 sevens tournament kicks off on 24 July. With that in mind, we take a look at the venues that could host Les Bleus next February and March.
FORTRESS MARSEILLE AND LYON POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVES
The French National Rugby League (LNR) had already anticipated that the Top 14 final of the 2023-24 season would be held in Marseille.
This back-up solution could turn out to be a blessing for the French national team and its fans, as Marseille seems to be the best choice. With a capacity of 67,847, the Stade Vélodrome is the second largest stadium in France and has already been booked for four Rugby World Cup 2023 pool matches (England v Argentina, South Africa v Scotland, France v Namibia and South Africa v Tonga) as well as two quarter finals.
The Stade Velodrome has a rich history with rugby since 2000 when it hosted its very first test, a 42-33 victory for France over the All Blacks.
Twelve matches have followed (including a France v Italy men's Six Nations match in 2018) with an overall record of 11 wins and two defeats making it a fortress for Les Bleus. The last of those was on 12 November, 2022 when France beat world champions South Africa 30-26.
The third largest stadium – after the Stade de France and the Stade Vélodrome – is the OL Stadium in Lyon, which has also been contracted for Rugby World Cup 2023. With its 58,883 seats, it could also be an interesting alternative for one of the three Six Nations 2024 matches to be held in France.
This autumn, it will host no less than five matches during the RWC 2023: Wales v Australia, Uruguay v Namibia, New Zealand v Italy, New Zealand v Uruguay and France v Italy. A rehearsal before France v Italy in the 2024 Championship?
Opened at the beginning of 2016, OL Stadium has mainly hosted the biggest football matches, but also the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals. It is also where, in November 2017, France were beaten 28-23 by New Zealand in front of 58,607 fans.
THE OTHER OPTIONS
Outside the top three, the maximum capacity in the stands is 50,000. This is the case at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille (50,096 seats), which was opened in August 2012. Three months later, it hosted its first rugby match: a 39-22 victory for France over Argentina.
Five Rugby World Cup 2023 pool matches are scheduled to take place there: France v Uruguay, England v Chile, Scotland v Romania, England v Samoa and Tonga v Romania.
In order of capacity, the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Etienne (42,152 seats) completes the Top 5. France played there for the first time on 24 November, 2001, with a very large victory over Fiji, marked by 12 tries (77-10).
Six years later, three RWC 2007 pool matches were played at the stadium and four RWC 2023 pool matches will take place in Saint-Etienne: Italy v Namibia, Australia v Fiji, Argentina v Samoa and Australia v Portugal.
Press reports have also mentioned the Stade de Bordeaux (42,060 seats), which will host five pool matches at RWC 2023. The other RWC venues – La Beaujoire in Nantes, the Stade de Nice and the Stade de Toulouse – can only accommodate 35,000 fans so are unlikely to sate demand for tickets on the potential Les Bleus roadshow.