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Rugby World Cup: players will (mostly) take the train

The best rugby players in the world taking the train to go to matches, (almost) like everyone else.

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Rugby World Cup: players will (mostly) take the train

The best rugby players in the world taking the train to go to matches, (almost) like everyone else. This is what it will be possible to witness during the Rugby World Cup, which takes place in France and starts Friday evening with the France-New Zealand clash at the Stade de France (Saint-Denis). The public was able to have a first illustration of this on Wednesday, with the arrival by TGV of the All-Blacks in Paris from Lyon, where their base camp is located.

The organizing committee has put forward the objective of achieving 80% of the travel of the twenty teams via rail. “We want to demonstrate that a major sporting event can limit its carbon footprint,” explained Jacques Rivoal, the president of France 2023, on Wednesday. “We want low-carbon mobility to be one of the legacies of this World Cup,” added Michel Poussau, executive director of the tournament for World Rugby. Especially since the competition must deal with almost induced CO2 emissions, those from international travel of teams and supporters from their country to France. They represent 85% of the carbon impact of the World Cup, underlined Amélie Oudéa-Castéra on Monday. “It was therefore all the more important for us, once we arrived in the territory, to encourage the use of the train as much as possible,” pointed out the Minister of Sports, also ensuring that the train would be used for 88% of spectator travel.

Official sponsor of the competition, as during the last Rugby World Cup in France in 2007, the SNCF is therefore on the front line to ensure that the organizers' environmental commitments are respected. The public railway company estimates that it will take charge of “more than 70% of the journeys of the teams and their equipment, between the base camps and the various stations in the host cities”. And this, via its SNCF Voyageurs trains, but also via the coaches of its subsidiary Keolis for “proximity connections” and “low-emission” trucks from Geodis for the transport of materials and equipment. The 80% of train travel mentioned by the Minister of Sports “includes, in addition to the teams, staff, volunteers and referees”, the SNCF is told.

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The vast majority of teams will therefore take the train. The SNCF affirms that it will transport 17 of the 20 participating nations - including the French XV, already accustomed to traveling by train -, for nearly 80 trips operated in total over the seven weeks of competition, the vast majority of which by TGV (69 ). “Ireland, for example, will exclusively use the train during the group stage,” said Michel Poussau, who clarified the rule in force for the teams during the World Cup: for journeys of less than 5h30 door to door, the train (or bus) should be preferred to the plane. Everything has been done to limit long-distance travel. "The teams' base camps have been selected to optimize travel," welcomed Jacques Rivoal. This organization should make it possible “to halve the carbon footprint of team mobility”, estimates the SNCF.

The company also emphasizes that the players will travel on commercial trains, like ordinary supporters, in privatized carriages. And not in so-called “special” trains, which are trains that can be entirely privatized and with completely customizable options. When boarding their TGV, players and supporters will be able to hear the voice of Blues captain Antoine Dupont, who recorded sound announcements at the station for the SNCF.

In any case, the omnipresence of the train for this rugby event looks like a stone in the garden of football, still lagging behind in its transition to soft mobility. During the last major football competition organized by France, Euro 2016 in this case, “the partnership between SNCF and UEFA did not provide for the rail transport of teams”, the SNCF was informed. . One and only team, Romania, had chosen rail for a round trip between Paris and Lyon.

Football teams and clubs remain reluctant today. We remember the controversy between the SNCF and Paris Saint-Germain a year ago, born from a tweet from the director of TGV-Intercités Alain Krakovitch offering his services to the capital club after a trip from Paris to Nantes made in plane. When will Kylian Mbappé be at the SNCF microphone?

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