‘The atmosphere is just electric’: how fans are finding France 2023 so far

Diego Segrin – Chile

My brother is Martin Segrin, the captain of the Chilean team. My father also used to play for the Chilean national team a long time ago. We’re five brothers in total. We all play rugby back home and we’re now here, at the World Cup, with both our parents and cousins and aunts and uncles and we’re all here supporting my brother. Wow, it’s insane! I can’t even tell you what this means for us. We were crying after the first game. We know how much work he has put in and watching him on the field, at a World Cup, when the anthem was playing, that was one of the proudest moments for all of us. The boys are now getting an opportunity. Some of them are getting paid and some are starting to get attention from foreign clubs. It’s amazing watching Chile rugby grow. I believe it’s going to be great for future generations.

Ada Todoran and Adela Stratila – Romania

Ada: We’re both partners with the players. My fiancé is the No 15, Marius Simionescu.

Adela: And my husband is Damian Stratila. We’re here in a group. Lots of the players’ partners are here. We’re so proud of them. It was such a trek over here from Romania. We took a train, a plane, another plane, another train, an Uber. It’s been 24 hours.

Ada: I’m speechless to be here. The level that they’re playing at such a high level now. Rugby has a proud history in Romania. Of course people are more interested in football but when we tell them that we’ve been at the World Cup since the beginning they want to know more. We’re not expecting them to win the tournament but we know that they’ll represent the country well.

Adela: It’s something that they’ll always have. For them to play against South Africa, against Ireland, against Scotland. These are big teams. It’s so incredible. This means everything to them.

Miguel Alves – Portugal

It’s our first time at a Rugby World Cup … it’s 16 years since Portugal last made it. We’re very happy to be here so we decided we should all wear Portuguese moustaches. The Portuguese moustache is very famous! When we’re wearing them we know everyone will recognise where we’re from. We are going to lose but if we can score in all the games we’ll be happy. The tournament in general? We’re enjoying it. There are several guys in our group who play rugby and I’ve come along with them. It’s been very peaceful most of the time but we’ve also enjoyed chatting to fans from the other countries. The Welsh drink quite a lot but we drink too!

Tony Murphy – Wales

We’re having a wonderful time. The atmosphere is just electric. Did you hear the Welsh singing in the square in Nice? We also had some good fun with a group of Japanese fans in town earlier. Even the rain’s warmer than Welsh rain. This is my fourth World Cup and the whole event’s been good, although I think they should hold it slightly later in the year. Early afternoon games in the heat are a killer … and it is hard work for the players too! Accommodation has also been tricky. We couldn’t find anything in Nice so we’ve been staying in Antibes. Food and drink? Some of the prices are extortionate but we found a decent pub in Bordeaux last week. And the Fiji game was incredible. Gareth reckons he aged 10 years in the last 10 minutes. Another five minutes and they’d have won.

Polly Chrihton and her husband, Failo – Samoa

It’s been a long journey to get here. We live in Apia, the capital of Samoa. Too many hours. Samoa to Fiji. Fiji to Singapore. Singapore to Dubai. Dubai to London. Then here. That’s three days of travel in total. But it’s all worth it. It means everything to us, supporting our Manu Samoa. Not everybody can make it and we’re very grateful that we can. It’s an experience of a lifetime. This is my fourth World Cup after 1999, 2007, 2011. I feel like I’m representing my country. There are only a few of us out here. We’re a small group but we’re like a family. We want to make it to the quarter-finals. The last time we did that was 1995. I really feel that the supporters can help the team play well on the field. We’re in this together. That’s the Samoan way. We’re small in terms of the world, but we’re proud.

Sanda Mpanza – South Africa

I’m from KwaMashu in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Life is rough out there for a lot of people. Me and my brother, who is here with me, made it out and we’re doing well now. I live in Oxford but the Springboks are this thing, man, it’s just an incredible thing. It’s an incredible journey. They’re inspirational. Watching so many of them coming from backgrounds like the one we had is inspiring for so many of us. And for the expats who now live somewhere else, it connects us. Look around this World Cup, regardless of where you come from, or where you now live, the Bokke brings us together. Regardless of what’s going on, this is a team that means so much. They’re looking good, but I’m not sure they’re going to win this World Cup. Don’t record that! But I think this one might not happen. The next one though …

Shinichi, Reimi, Kimi and Haido – Japan

We attended the World Cup in 2019 at home, went to the semi-final, and had so much fun. It was an incredible experience and we wanted to experience it in France again. We had a few problems with our travel but we got over those and now we’re just so excited to watch. We were in Toulouse to see Japan’s first game against Chile and even though we probably outnumbered them in terms of the fans who were there, the Chilean fans were a lot louder in cheering for their team. So we need to do better, and really be the 16th man for Japan.

Adriaan Pieter Coetzee and Grace Taylor – Namibia and Canada

“My cousin Andre van der Berg is playing, and my cousin’s brother-in-law, Jacques Theron, too, so we made a point to come over here and support them. I’ve been living in Windhoek for years, but Grace is Canadian, so she’s an honorary Namibian, and we’re just in the middle of moving to Portugal together. I’ve been to northern France before, but this is my first time in the south, and man, Toulouse is amazing, I didn’t expect it, I didn’t know it was so pretty, it’s really an eye-opener. Sunday we’re leaving to go Marseille for the game against France, and the week after that we’re in Lyon for the game against Uruguay. So we’re doing it properly, man, with plenty of wine, definitely, you don’t even have to ask that.

“It feels really safe, and it’s so well organised, like they have a plan for everything. The French people are so accommodating, so friendly when they hear that we are here for the rugby, and you know I maybe shouldn’t say it but it doesn’t always feel like that when you’re travelling. I just want to see us win a match, we’re getting tired of losing, man, we have to win one, and I thought it was going to be Uruguay, but I saw the way they played against France and now I’m not so sure.”

Katu Katonivualiku and Joe Savali – Fiji

“It’s our first time in France, We’ve come over from the States, we’re based in Oakland, California. It’s so very beautiful here, the food, the weather, everything. We’ve come for two games, the Australia game and then we also did the one against Wales last week. It’s a special game for us because there’s about seven Fijian players in that Australian team, so there’s a bit of a brotherhood there.”

Alexander and Kirsty Moore – Australia

Alexander: “We’ve come over from Perth. It’s our second time here in France, but we were young uns when we came the first time, doing the backpacking thing. Now we’re back with the whole family. We’ve got our boys, Joel, Stirling, Hamish, and the in-laws, Calum, Ian, and Betty. Perth is a real AFL town but we’re part of a pretty passionate union community there, we’ve been playing it in my family for the last five generations. We’re quite happy to have Eddie Jones back, it’s just a shame we didn’t get him sooner, because they’ve had a poor culture in the team for a while, and that’s going to take time to change.”

Kirsty: “The trip is definitely a once in a lifetime thing – between us we’re celebrating a 40th birthday, and a 70th birthday, and we’re doing two games, against Fiji today, and Wales next week. Everybody’s been lovely and friendly, we’re really happy, it’s just a beautiful place to travel around.”

Interviews by Robert Kitson, Daniel Gallan, Andy Bull and Jonathan Liew