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‘In the deep end’: What it’s like to play in front of a French rugby crowd

By Finn Morton
France's scrum-half Antoine Dupont (L) leads his players in the national anthem ahead of the pre-World Cup rugby union international Test match between France and Australia at Stade de France in Saint Denis, on the outskirts of Paris on August 27, 2023. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP) (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

The Wallabies were thrown into the “deep end” last weekend when they came up against Les Bleus in their final Test before the Rugby World Cup on French soil.


Playing in front of a sensational crowd of more than 80,000, Les Bleus brought their trademark French flair to the Test as they ran away with a convincing 41-17 win at Stade de France.

France brought their A-game to that match, and the fans did as well. The vibrant French crowd were signing and cheering an hour before kick-off and carried that passion long into the night.

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The atmosphere was truly special, and as coach Eddie Jones said, it sets the stage for the “World Cup that no one will forget.”

“You come to this game today, which for both teams is a game to get ready for the World Cup,” Jones said after the Test.

“You’ve got 80,000 people, you’ve got a fantastic atmosphere. This could be the World Cup that no one will ever forget.”

The Wallabies were clearly impressed, too, with young flanker Tom Hooper sharing a hilarious story about debutant Issak Fines-Leleiwasa.


Fines-Leleiwasa, 27, entered the fray of Test rugby for the first time last weekend. This journalist watched the halfback emerge from the tunnel during the Wallabies’ pre-match warmup, and the Wallaby began to soak up the crowd.

The crowd was by no means quiet, but they hadn’t yet reached full voice. But then, almost suddenly, captain Antoine Dupont made his way out onto the ground 40 minutes before kick-off – and his French teammates followed.

“What better way to prepare yourself, to throw yourselves in the deep end and see if you can swim. We got chucked in there with 80,000 people,” Hooper told reporters earlier this week.

“Apparently Finesy got out there and he was like, ‘Geese they’re pretty quiet,’ and then he heard the French team run out and he went, ‘Oh there it is.’


“The roar came up and it was a great atmosphere. It prepares us well.”


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