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France trims Rugby World Cup venue plan, rejects Stade de France concerns

Organisers of France’s bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup have shed three venues from their original masterplan for the national team tournament and have rejected concerns over the Stade de France’s role as the centrepiece of the event.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) in March selected 12 host venues for its bid for the 2023 World Cup, with seven applicants falling by the wayside. Paris was set to have two venues in a successful France 2023 bid, with the Stade de France pencilled in to host the final and potentially a semi-final and the Parc des Princes, which hosts Ligue 1 football club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), lined up as the other venue.

Elsewhere, the FFR’s venue masterplan was made up of: Bordeaux, Matmut Atlantique; Lens, Stade Bollaert-Delelis; Lille Métropole, Stade Pierre-Mauroy; Lyon, Parc OL; Marseille, Orange Velodrome; Montpellier, Stade de la Mosson; Nantes, Stade de la Beaujoire; Nice, Allianz Riviera; Saint-Etienne, Stadium Geoffroy-Guichard and Toulouse, Stadium de Toulouse.

However, France 2023 director Claude Atcher told the AFP news agency that the Parc des Princes has been removed from the plans owing to failure to receive approval from the Paris mayor's office, bound by an occupancy agreement with QSI, the Qatari owner of PSG, which is opposed to the stadium hosting rugby games. Lens and Montpellier are the other cities to miss out in the revised masterplan.

France 2023 today (Thursday) submitted its bid book with a decision over whether it, Ireland or South Africa will stage the tournament due on November 15.

Reports earlier this week said that organisers had yet to receive state approval for the Stade de France to be used as a venue. However, Atcher has sought to allay these fears, telling French newspaper L’Equipe that the World Cup final will be played at the Stade de France, should France secure the hosting rights.

He added: “To go back in time, historically, in the convention signed in 1995 between the state and the stadium consortium, the consortium has an obligation to host international events. The Stade de France cannot oppose the will of the French state to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. We have had discussions with the Stade de France which were materialised by a letter for provision of the Stade de France against a (compensation) sum of €5.7m ($6.3m) for at least seven matches and a period of 45 days.

“This agreement is subject to the agreement of the state. However, for some weeks now, the state has been in a situation of transfer of power and has not officially responded to the Stade de France. This does not mean that the state does not agree.”