SAINT-ETIENNE, France — Rugby World Cup organisers have pledged to improve their service delivery ahead of the second round of matches, blaming a reported lack of beer supplies on the “heatwave” conditions which engulfed the tournament across its opening weekend.
And there will be a greater backing track for each country’s national anthem after mixed feedback on the suitability of the children’s choir groups that performed across the first slate of matches. While each choir was welcomed warmly, fans found it difficult to sing in tune with the choirs because of the noise levels and acoustics around the stadiums.
But it was a lack of beer supplies that really irked those who attended games across the country, with multiple stories of long queues and even the complete exhaustion of supplies by halftime at Stade de France for the tournament opener, and then again in Marseille on Sunday afternoon, shared across social media.
But organisers claim they did not run out, rather that the extreme heat had made it difficult to keep the kegs cool as supporters’ thirsts swelled more than they had expected.
“The fans’ experience is at the heart of our concerns and we understand the disappointment of fans after the first weekend,” Julien Collette, France 2023 CEO, told media at the weekly tournament press briefing on Wednesday morning. “We have had a heatwave in September, which has never happened before, which had two major consequences.
“The fans drank a lot more – we thought we had sufficient supplies based on previous records, but those records were broken. For example, the previous record was 50,000 cups, and there we sold 90,000, well over any previous records.
“The second consequence is that the barrels have been difficult to keep refrigerated. It was not so much the supplies but how cold the barrels were, which is why there were queues. We are working hard with our teams to improve the efficiency of the refrigeration and service. The consumption of water also broke records too.”
Michel Poussau, Rugby World Cup 2023 Tournament Director, added: “We know there was no beer shortage, there was no lack of beer. It was a series of unfortunate difficulties. We are going to be working with France 2023, the venues and our partner Asahi – who have done an amazing job helping us address these challenges – to improve the situation.”
While conditions are set to be cooler for the second block of games this weekend, temperatures could still creep up towards the 30 degrees Celsius mark on Sunday.
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Aside from the issues in service delivery and the previously reported problems with stadium access — some fans were left outside the venues in Bordeaux and Marseille at kick-off as entry gates could not handle the late flood of supporters — World Cup organisers lauded the success of the opening weekend of the tournament.
“The first eight matches saw 430,000 people inside the stadiums and 276,000 attend the rugby villages [fan zones], and we had some magnificent moments of popular jubilation,” Jacques Rivoal, France 2023 Chairman, said
“Around 140,000 gathered in the rugby villages for the opening match, with 15 millions viewers on TF1. One in five French people watched the match. That underlines the public engagement with the event.
“For Japan v Chile in Toulouse, there were more than 30,000 spectators. For Italy v Namibia in Saint-Etienne, more than 35,000. For South Africa v Scotland in Marseille, more than 63,000.”
The onfield discussions, meanwhile, have centred around the three different rulings issued for head-on-head-contact that occurred across three different games over the weekend. England’s Tom Curry was handed a yellow card for a collision with Juan Cruz Mallia, before it was later upgraded to a red by the TMO bunker; Chile’s Martin Sigren received only a yellow for a similar incident; and South Africa’s Jesse Kriel no sanction at all after he looked to have made direct contact with the head of Scotland No. 8 Jack Dempsey.
Curry later opted not to challenge his red card at the judiciary despite the two similar incidents, the England back-rower hit with an effective two-game ban once he completes World Rugby’s “tackle school”.
Asked on Wednesday about the inconsistencies from those three incidents, Dominic Rumbles, World Rugby Chief Communications Officer attempted to explain the foul play process, which may answer some complaints as to why Kriel, in particular, wasn’t cited post-match.
“Incidents are reviewed by the TMO in real time, they do a sweep as things happen. If they feel there is clear and obvious head contact they will escalate that to the on-field match official – so that’s the referee – and if not, then it is play on.
“There is also a second stage in the process which also helps and that is the citing process. The citing window is 36 hours. The citing commissioner has access to 15 or 16 angles to review, they also have access to Hawkeye technology as well.
“If they also feel there is no clear and obvious head contact, that does not go through to the disciplinary. So instead of talking about inconsistency there is actually a lot of alignment on and off the field.”