Rugby World Cup – highlights from day 21
England will be returning to the same venue at which fans were previously caught in ‘dangerous’ queues when they face Fiji in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals this weekend. Steve Borthwick’s side have already been beaten by Fiji this year and will be desperate to avoid a repeat performance as they hunt a place in the last eight.
The fixture will be played in Marseille, where England beat Argentina in their opening pool stage match after fans were caught up in chaotic scenes before kick-off. Hundreds of supporters missed the start of the game after overcrowding in the city, with lengthy queues preventing them from entering the stadium on time.
World Rugby later issued a statement to confirm that an investigation had been opened, saying: “We are aware of delays experienced by fans entering for the match between England and Argentina this evening.
“While fans were able to take their seats, fan experience is paramount, and we are working with all stakeholders to establish the facts and implement measures to prevent such delays for the remaining Rugby World Cup 2023 matches at the venue.”
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Journalists and relatives of players were among those to miss kick-off in Marseille, with tournament bosses subsequently pledging to improve communication and offer more people on the ground to direct supporters. One fan described the situation as a ‘total disgrace’ after being left frustrated by the lack of organisation, which on another day might have proved ‘catastrophic’.
They told The Telegraph: “It was a total disgrace to get into the stadium, genuinely scary and dangerous in a crush on a super steep set of steps. The only saver was a rugby crowd being polite because it could have been catastrophic if people had charged the gates.”
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Many fans have endured miserable experiences in France, with supporters of Wales and Australia being stranded outside the stadium in Lyon during their crucial pool stage encounter last month. There was also a crush after England’s win over Chile as people rushed to get the tram back into Lille, which reportedly caused at least one supporter to faint.
It remains to be seen whether fans will face similar problems at this weekend’s match against Fiji, although it seems there may be a considerably lower attendance than initially expected. Thousands of tickets remain unsold, according to The Guardian, with interest apparently fading despite England being just two games away from the Rugby World Cup final.
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