Close this search box.
A photo of a restaurant in Paris during the Rugby World Cup. The restaurant is called Le Paris-Sports, and a French flag is hanging out front.

The 2023 Rugby World Cup Comes to France

Full disclosure. I know next to nothing about rugby. I tried to watch a game once. But I couldn’t stop laughing at the sight of grown men being flung into the air to catch a ball, and then being abandoned by their teammates to crash to the ground if they failed to do so. As a result, I have no intention of watching another rugby game. However, I can’t help but notice that rugby is all over Paris at the moment. All over the country really. This is because France is the host of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and it’s happening right now. So I decided that now was as good a time as any to learn more about this game.

A New Sport is Born

For example, I now know that the Rugby World Cup is contested every four years, and the winning team is presented with the Webb Ellis Cup. This trophy is named after William Webb Ellis, the man who supposedly invented rugby in 1823. The story goes that while Ellis was a student at Rugby School in England, he caught the ball while playing football one day. Instead of dropping it like a hot potato like you’re supposed to do in football, he ran with it. Et voilà! A new sport was born.

That’s the legend anyway. In truth, this story only appeared after Ellis’ death, and historians have been unable to find any actual evidence that this is what really happened. Regardless, this legend persists. So much so that there is a statue of Ellis outside Rugby School, and his grave in the south of France is maintained by the French Rugby Federation. More importantly, the best rugby teams in the world are currently vying to lift a trophy named after him. Quite the legacy for a clergyman who was more well known for his cricket skills during his lifetime.

The Rugby World Cup Takes Over France

The 2023 Rugby World Cup is only the 10th iteration of this tournament. It was first contested in 1987, and since then, only four countries have ever won the Webb Ellis Cup. New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and England. France, on the other hand, has been the runner-up three times. However, William Webb Ellis is buried in France, and the tournament is taking place on the bicentenary of him supposedly inventing the game. It would definitely make a good story if France were to finally triumph this year.

Unfortunately, we have over a month to go before we find out how this tournament will end. The 2023 Rugby World Cup began on September 8th, and the final game won’t be played until October 28th. In the meantime, 20 teams are competing to be in that final, and there is definitely an air of excitement about this in Paris. Bars and restaurants all over the city are decked out in the flags of the competing nations, and fan zones have been set up all over the country. In Paris, the fan zone is located at Place de la Concorde, and it is very impressive.

Next Stop the Olympics!

The 2023 Rugby World Cup also has another significance. It is a test, of sorts, for the next big sporting event to land in France. We are less than a year away from the Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Summer Olympics, and questions still remain about how France will handle the logistics of that event. A smooth tournament this fall could go a long way in assuaging many of those fears. Hopefully the organizers can pull it off.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the coming month. There is something special about being in a host country of an international tournament like this, regardless of the sport. People are excited and there is an electricity in the air. And maybe, just maybe, the fourth time’s a charm for France when it comes to winning the Webb Ellis Cup.

Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.


A close up photo of a plate of food. It is a full fish with lots of garnishes.

I Was Wrong About Food Tours

Controversial opinion: I don’t like food. Wait, WAIT!! Before everyone grabs their pitchforks, let me explain. If good food is placed in front of me,