- Host nation France secure 27-13 win over New Zealand in front of a partisan home crowd
- France’s largest domestic TV audience of the year as 15.4 million tune into TF1's opening night coverage
- Incredible scenes as Paris Rugby village welcomes 40,000 fans to celebrate a historic occasion
- Opening ceremony fires up the French public with spectacular display
Rugby World Cup 2023 has opened in spectacular style, capturing the imagination of a nation to smash records and set the tone for rugby’s 200th birthday celebrations.
The occasion attracted the biggest domestic broadcast audience of the year in France as 15.4 million viewers tuned into TF1’s coverage of a breath-taking opening ceremony and compelling opening match between hosts France and three-time champions New Zealand on a sultry night in Paris.
Meanwhile, there were celebratory scenes at the iconic Place de la Concorde as more than 40,000 fans packed into the official rugby village, a Rugby World Cup record.
The opening ceremony saw over 280 performers including actor and co-director of the ceremony, Jean Dujardin, tell the story of the roots of French culture, inspiring the crowd, reaching a crescendo with a fly past and the arrival of the Webb Ellis Cup.
Passionate fans and playing legends
An enthralled audience of 78,690 fans at the Stade de France saw the tournament formally opened by World Rugby President Sir Bill Beaumont and President of France Emmanuel Macron. Top names in attendance included sporting superstars Kylian Mbappé, David Beckham, George Russell and rugby legends such as Dan Carter who unveiled the trophy ahead of kick-off. The names from the world of sport were joined by stars of stage and screen including singer Mika and director Taika Waititi.
In his welcoming speech Sir Bill said: "It was 200 years ago that our great sport was born. And there could be no greater place to celebrate our birthday than here in France. Home to some of our most passionate fans and playing legends.
"We know that you will be magnificent hosts in the coming weeks, in stadiums… in your villages, towns and cities and in your hearts!
"It will be rugby’s ultimate celebration of togetherness. We will experience the very best of our sport, of France and friendship.”
Open for business
Sir Bill’s remarks were echoed by French President Emmanuel Macron, formally opening the tournament. “Rugby fans all over the world know about our French flair," he said. "This year, in 2023, we will show our French share: our art of sharing, conviviality and fraternity.
"I wish you a fantastic World Cup in France, full of the courage and panache which, like us, you love, and for which rugby truly flies the flag. The time has come. Get ready for kick-off! I now declare the 10th Rugby World Cup open!”
The teams proceeded to put on a show worthy of the occasion with New Zealand wing Mark Telea scoring the first try of Rugby World Cup 2023. It would prove not to be enough for the All Blacks as the home team rallied, with two tries and 17 points from the boot of Thomas Ramos to win 27-13.
The eyes, not just of France but of the world, were on Paris with huge global TV audiences joining the 15.4 million domestic viewers on TF1. Over 40,000 people watched the game from the rugby village in the French capital, generating memories to last a lifetime and images that have had huge reach. Queues to enter the official megastore on Place de la Concorde are testament to the fact that rugby fever has taken hold in the host country.
After the opening party in Paris, cities across the country will take centre stage over the rest of the weekend with a further seven fixtures taking place in Bordeaux, Marseille, Saint-Etienne and Toulouse. From the world’s top ranked nation Ireland, to Chile making their Rugby World Cup debut, the world is set for a seven-week festival of rugby.
Reflecting on the opening match, World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “This was the perfect way to open what is going to the biggest, most watched and most engaging Rugby World Cup ever staged. This is just the start of what will be a fantastic competition. The world will wait with anticipation to see what unfolds between now and the final, back in Paris on 28 October.”