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Who will get over the line? Bumper weekend for pubs as rugby fans hope England can beat the odds

The Rugby World Cup is set to start on Friday with the hosts, France, playing the All Blacks (Evening Standard)
The Rugby World Cup is set to start on Friday with the hosts, France, playing the All Blacks (Evening Standard)

The Rugby World Cup is kicking off in France on Friday night — with hospitality businesses this side of the Channel anticipating a sales bonanza.

The opening ceremony is being staged at the Stade de France in Paris, before the hosts get the tournament under way with a clash against favourites New Zealand. The ceremony, which promises to “showcase French culture”, will be beamed to 182 countries with fans of both teams hoping to reach the final on October 28.

Thousands of England supporters will be at the Pool D opener against Argentina in Marseille at 8pm tomorrow. Twenty teams — including all the other home nations — will battle for the crown, with England hoping to emulate the side which won in 2003.

Hopes of an England success are being tempered by a series of poor performances and controversies in the run-up to the finals, but analysts say the tournament will still give the UK economy a major boost.

Dom Collingwood, co-founder at pub finder app Fanzo, said: “Our data indicates this should be a busy opening weekend for pubs. Compared to the week preceding this year’s Guinness Six Nations, searches for pubs showing rugby are up by 217 per cent. Unlike some recent tournaments, where pub traffic has really picked up as the knock-out stages hot up, a lopsided draw here means we’re blessed with some truly blockbuster ties right from the off.”

In London, venues in Wandsworth, Earlsfield, Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith are leading the way.

Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Rugby fans are set to bring cheer to pubs and bars, after wash-out weather saw five weeks of tricky trading during the second half of July and a big chunk of August.

“While the Lionesses’ charge brought a spurt of sales, it’s been a tough summer. But a big dose of World Cup enthusiasm should bring an autumn boost to the drinks sector.”

Pubs will face competition from the supermarkets, particularly with the majority of fans planning to watch games at home. The short hop across the Channel means far more England fans will be able to travel to games than at previous tournaments — especially when the team plays at Lille in northern France.

Eurostar says it will transport up to 600,000 people from London St Pancras to Paris Nord or Lille during the competition. That is 30 per cent more passengers over the same period last year. Eurostar has also added 50 services to the timetable to cope with demand.

England were runners-up to South Africa at the last World Cup in Japan in 2019 but have since parted ways with coach Eddie Jones and are now looking to replacement Steve Borthwick to breathe new life into the faltering team.

He has said England’s players are determined to give the fans something to cheer as they take on Argentina, Japan, Samoa and Chile in the group stage. He added: “I sense for us there is a renewed determination. I get the feeling from the players that they feel they have been written off a bit too early.”

There was a TV audience of 14.4 million when England lost to South Africa in 2019, while more than 15 million watched Jonny Wilkinson drop-kick England to glory in 2003.

Bumper TV audiences are expected if England make it through to the knock-out stages, with games kicking off at prime time. The Prince and Princess of Wales will be among those cheering on England and Wales this weekend. Kate, who is patron of the Rugby Football Union, will attend England’s game against Argentina, while William will be at Wales v Fiji in Bordeaux on Sunday.