When my family and I disembarked on an adventure on the 6th of September in our motorhome, I was not sure what to expect. Two years ago, we began planning the trip of a lifetime, where we would follow the Rugby World Cup in France for the full two months. We planned to attend ten games in total, watching a variety of nations across different stadiums…nothing could have prepared me for the experience I was about to have.
We started the trip in Paris for the opening game on the 8th of September, where France and New Zealand battled it out on the field – actually a little unexpected. The opening show, with the stadium transformed into a French town and full of dancing, singing, and acrobatics, was spectacular and kicked off the World Cup in style. France put in a brilliant performance, beating New Zealand 27-13, and the fans lapped it up.
While the French seem to ‘boo’ any decision that doesn’t go their way, no matter how obvious the result, the passion and support for their country is like no other. They sing, dance, ‘sauté’, and chant the entire way through the game – the atmosphere they create has been unmatched at any other rugby game I have ever been to.
Marseille was our next destination, where we watched South Africa v Scotland. We stayed in Avignon, a beautiful town, with a gorgeous medieval castle – a more relaxing backdrop for the next game. One afternoon, we visited the idyllic town, and momentarily lost sight of my dad, only to find him on stage with the Uruguayan rugby team following the welcome ceremony! We quickly joined him up there and preceded to get lots of photos with all the players, who were so friendly. Fast forward to the game day, and the record for the number of pints sold was beaten. It previously stood at 50,000, but the Scottish fans managed to take drinking to another level, and polished off 80,000 before kick-off! I don’t think the French were quite prepared for the drinking habits that the UK and South Africa have adopted!
We spent the next few weeks travelling along the South Coast, travelling to Nice, Frejus, and Antibes, the latter being my favourite place from the whole trip. The weather was incredible, feeling like July rather than September. We enjoyed days on the beach, wandering around the port, as well as visiting restaurants and bars. We also took a trip across to Monaco, where my F1 fanatical sister was in her element as we visited the famous hairpin bend and car museums. The holiday was a perfect mix of rugby and relaxation.
Our first England game came around quickly, where they took on Japan on the 17th of September in Nice. A convincing 34-12 win for England, and while we had the easiest group, as an England fan I was still very happy to see it! Following New Zealand v Italy, where New Zealand proved a point, and put Italy’s place in the Six Nations under scrutiny for some, I had to fly home in preparation for the first week back at university.
I flew back into Paris Orly just under three weeks later. The last 10 days were packed full, with four games on the itinerary. After two nail-biting games against Samoa and Fiji, England was lucky to be in the semi-final, and I was more than elated to be able to watch them play against South Africa! For me, this day was a real highlight, as my family and I spent the day dressed as English medieval knights walking around Paris. The response we got was brilliant, with all sorts of fans getting involved.
We hit the bars, and there was lots of singing and dancing among the anticipation and excitement. I was so incredibly proud of the performance England put in, managing to hold the lead for 78 minutes, and out-play South Africa for at least 70. We knew what we had to do to get to the final, and we continued to shut down the Springboks with every step.
However, it wasn’t our day.
The English fans, like the French, created a brilliant atmosphere in the stadium, with constant support through cheering and singing throughout the game. The positive atmosphere wasn’t just confined to the stadium, with singing and shouting continuing onto the metro.
The final was just as close as the previous two games, and while the French weren’t as vocal, the Saffas were filling the stadium with their cheer. While I don’t agree with some referee decisions made, it was a brilliant and exciting game! What a way to end the most incredible trip, right where we had started it!
Eight games, four stadiums, and I don’t know how many pints of beer later, it was time to get the ferry home. It was an amazing experience, one that I am beyond lucky to have had it and to get to share it with my family. Bring on Australia 2027!!!
Images: @Chloe Willis