Great rugby grounds of the world

Matt Rowley August 19, 2007 5

No GravatarYet again Nursedude has provided the inspiration for a bit of a ramble:

“Of the rugby stadiums that you have been to in OZ and Europe, which ones do you think are the best in terms of sight-lines, and ambiance?”

Bloody good question. Here’s my personal ranking – let me know what you guys think:

1 – Stadio Flaminio, Rome. (pictured above)
I saw the Wallabies play the Ities here in November with my dad and a mate. Crap game but brilliant ground/ experience for a number of reasons:

  • It only seats about 20,000 so you’re right on top of the action (it’s by a famous architect so it’ll never get built on).
  • As no-one gives a toss about rugby in Italy, the ground is full of real fans, not corporate tossers so you can just go on line and buy a ticket at face value (impossible @ Twickers)
  • Vendors walk down the isles selling beer, you don’t even need to move (note: if you don’t want to end up asleep face down on a restaurant table later like me, you might want to ignore them)
  • You’re in Rome so the weather and food is top notch (see actual photo of pre-game steak above).
  • The teams just walked around outside the ground after with fans etc, Mortlock on his way out to get a beer and abuse the coaching staff……

2 – Stade de France, Paris
The most beautiful of the big stadia, really quite breathtaking. I’ve seen a couple of games here, including when the Wallabies again played like idiots and got thumped 27-14 in 2004. The Frogs were literally pointing at my green and gold jersey in the street and laughing afterwards (was it the Jersey, or was it me?). I haven’t forgiven Eddie Jones for that one.

3 – The SFS, Sydney
It might be the nostalgia of going home for me, but I think the SFS is great. Not too big, can get a VB and a pie, near the centre of town for pubs before and after. What more could want (apart from the Waratahs to win a few).

4 – Twickenham, London
I’ve been lucky enough to see some ding dong games here; the ’91 world cup final (Australia’s first win, in case anyone forgot) where I somehow got to talk to drunkenly talk at Bob Dwyer afterwards, the France vs New Zealand semi at RWC’99, the best game I’ve ever seen – what a crowd reaction. Even being an Aussie I have to admit that God Save the Queen sung full tilt by 80,000 pissed up poms puts the hairs up on the back of your neck.
To do Twickers properly avoid the corporate packages like the plague. Go to the Eel Pie pub in Twickenham pre game, grab an ecoli burger on the way to the ground, and then make sure you know someone with a car park party that you can crash just before the game and directly after.


  • Nursedude

    Thanks Matt! I have to say, I am envious as hell…to say nothing of hungry after that picture of your spread in Italy. If you cannot have fun in Rome, you need to switch to Decaf or you just are not trying. The only sporting events I have had a chance to see in Europe were football games at Villa park in Birmingham and The Stade Velodrome in Marseille for a ‘L’OM Match’. I have to say, I am looking forward to seeing Argentina-Namibia in Marseille, because the view of the city is amazing at the Stade Velodrome and I thought the sightlines were great.(A lot better than Villa Park)

  • Andrew Mosey

    I have to agree that Twickenham is a phenomonal ground, especially when the Wallabies claw a victory there! I was there for the 04 game – world cup rematch and Giteau’s coming of age.

    The Sydney Football Stadium (nee Aussie Stadium nee SFS) is a great ground, around the 40-50k capacity and everyone gets a good view. Great atmosphere, and beer lines work pretty well.. for a stadium. I don’t know where they find the retarded bar staff though, apparently the concept of setting up 20 beers then pouring them all is beyond them. Not like that line of 60 people will drink 20 beers, hmmm.

    Telstra Australia nee Stadium Australia (sydney olympic stadium) is a terrible ground for rugby. It’s an athletics oval for a start so anyone at the sides is a mile away. There’s no atmosphere even when it’s full.. you can imagine how crap it was for the saffa test this year. It’s in Homebush so a real mission to get there and back, Tickets are way overpriced ; $100 for silver when you need binoculars to see the numbers on players backs from all but the gold seats. Half of the good seats are already sold out to the stadium members and never an option for the rugby public.

  • Nursedude

    Matt, you may have touched on a new subject along the lines of “5 greatest international games played”. That ’99 semi final was an amazing game with France upsetting the AB’s. The French just played like a team who had nothing to lose-and it showed. What really stunned me is that the Twickenham crowd was just going batty cheering for the French. In my wildest dreams I could never imagine that. The only game I can ever think of that was better was the ’87 RWC semi- final with France beating the Wallabys. I know from an Aussie point of view, the result was disappointing-but what a dramatic game with some super tries. My number 3 choice would be Wales upsetting England in the last rugby game played at the old Wembley-thus denying the English not only a grand slam, but handing the 5 Nations title to Scotland in 1999(I think that was the right year).

  • Nursedude

    Matt, this is a posting that is rich for follow up questions and discussions. In mentioning VB, how difficult is it to get Aussie beers and Ales in Pommie-land? From my trip to your native land last year, I have to say the VB was my second favorite Aussie beer, right after Carlton Mid, and just ahead of XXXX. I also loved the Darwin Stubbie.

  • KingChili

    I’ve been to all those stadia (stadiums) and I would rate Twickenham top of the pile, but still a very very distant second to Croke Park. Never experienced anything like the atmosphere there for the Ireland England game in February.