Saint-Denis or Dublin? The confusion was possible as the Irish presence was visible and noisy at the Stade de France this Saturday evening on the occasion of the huge shock of Group B of this World Cup. With green absolutely everywhere, the shade of "Irish green" far taking over the "fir green" of South Africa. For the first time in the competition, French fans were in the minority at the Stade de France with "only" 24,000 tickets sold in France. Opposite? 40,000 tickets sold in Ireland (23,000) or England (17,000). It was a human tide from across the Channel that flooded Saint-Denis.
On the forecourt of the largest stadium in France (80,000 seats), which hosts the third of its 10 World Cup matches, a bunch of Irish dressed up in clover suits attracts us. Bad fall: the six friends are French and Swiss. "We wondered who we were going to support and we leaned towards Ireland. They are the friendliest and in the northern hemisphere, anyway, "says Mathieu, originally from Montélimar. But when asked if they prefer to see South Africa face Les Bleus in the quarter-finals, nothing moves, doubt invades them: "Oh, that's a good question... ».
The debate postponed, they return to tackle the most important: the pre-match. After the problems of beer supply during the first weekend of competition, around France-New Zealand or Australia-Georgia, the organization has corrected the shot. Two hours before kick-off, security guards began monitoring access to some points of sale, to organize flows and redirect spectators to the interior of the enclosure. The Anglo-Saxons remain attached to a late settlement. But, at the time of the anthems, there were not many empty seats.
©PHOTOPQR/LE PARISIEN/Fred Dugit ; Saint Denis; 23/09/2023 ; SportSaint Denis (93), September 23, 2023South Africa-Ireland Rugby World CupPhoto LP / Fred Dugit Supporters Ireland SAINT DENIS STADE DE FRANCE sept 23rd 2023. Rugby World Cup in FranceIRELAND - SOUTH AFRICA *** Local Caption *** Rugby South Africa-Ireland LP / Fred Dugit
"It's a nice stadium," says Andy, dressed all in green, hat screwed on his head and surrounded by his Irish friends. This is my first time here. We couldn't miss the opportunity. And we hope to see them in the final in a month. After playing the game of the "kiss cam", the Irish let their fervor burst out, from the presentation of the teams and, above all, from the first image of the idol Johnny Sexton at the exit of the dressing room. Ireland's call, the anthem of a reunited nation, resonated as loudly as Munster or Connacht. And it was not the first Dantesque period of the XV of Clover that would calm the green tide.
Also present by the thousands, the South Africans, reigning world champions, offered a national anthem, in five languages, just as striking. The noise of this crowd on every Springbok tackle resonated as much as Irish chants. This Saturday night, everyone agreed on one point: the green, that of the chance to attend such a meeting.