What makes a great rugby staduim? Is it simply the atmosphere that it ignites on match day, the history of the stadium, the intimidating nature, the local fans, stadium capacity, features, the architecture and design or is it something more? Personally we believe it is a mixture of all the above which makes up the ultimate rugby cauldron.
The World’s Best Rugby Stadiums
After our controversial post, on the best ever Springbok XV, we thought we will keep the controversy going and compiled yet another list…the world’s greatest and most intimidating rugby venues. Most will agree, many will disagree, so without further ado we bring you…the world’s top 10 greatest rugby stadiums.
10. Velez Sarsfield – Buenos Aires (Argentina)
Capacity: 50 000 Most rugby players will tell you that Velez Sarsfield in Argentina, is one of the most intimidating and hostile rugby venues on the planet, nicknamed the Fort’ (El Fortin), Velez Sarsfield has been responsible for many upsets over the years just ask Heyneke Meyer and the 2015 Springbok team.
9. Aviva Stadium – Dublin (Ireland)
Capacity: 51, 700 Officially opened in 2010, the Aviva Stadium has become a fan favourite. Die-hard rugby fans will remember this staduim as the old and iconic Lansdowne Road, which was first built in 1872, thus the Aviva Stadium is still considered a historical and hallowed turf, despite the name change and redesign. Beating Ireland at the Aviva Stadium is no easy task, and the Springboks has especially struggled at the Aviva having won only 2 games in 7 fixtures, since 2004.
8. Murrayfield – Edinburgh (Scotland)
Capacity: 67, 144 Yet another historical venue in our list. Build in 1925, Murrayfield is home to the Scottish Rugby Union. Although primarily used for rugby Murrayfield has hosted a number of major events over the years including American Football, rugby league and some major soccer matches. It remains the sixth largest stadium in the United Kingdom and has seen some memorable victories for Scotland over the years, especially over fellow six nation rivals and even a number of wins over the (once) mighty Springboks.
7. Suncorp Stadium – Brisbane (Australia)
Capacity: 52, 500 Australia is renowned for their iconic and humongous cricket stadiums, the MCG and SCG, however, if there is one venue who can be mentioned alongside the latter it is Suncorp Stadium. Originally known as Lang Park, Suncorp is home to two passionate sets of rugby fans: the Reds Super Rugby team and the Broncos NRL team. There is easy rail access to the ground and the venue has hosted many high profile teams in recent years, including the British and Irish Lions in 2013. Remember
Kurtley Beale , winning losing kick?
6. Loftus Versfeld – Pretoria (South Africa)
Capacity: 51, 762 One of the most intimidating venues for any opposition team in world rugby, even for the mighty All Blacks. The capacity seems almost triple when the South African national anthem is sounded out and the ground is the heart and soul of rugby in the jacaranda city, of Pretoria. Loftus can also boast with hosting a number of FIFA World Cup matches, and some major concerts. With that being said, rugby always takes centre stage and the fans is what gives Loftus its heart and soul. Home of back to back Super Rugby champs, the Blue (Pink) Bulls, the venue has seen many historical Super Rugby and Currie Cup moments.
5. Stade de France – Paris (France)
Capacity: 81, 338 This mammoth multi-purpose venue became famous during the 1998 FIFA World Cup and has since hosted many great rugby union matches. When filled to capacity the venue creates an intense and intimidating atmosphere and gives a distinct advantage for Le Bleus. The Stade France has been a happy hunting ground for the Springboks, with many memorable victories, Stade de France will always be remembered by South Africans fans as the venue that Jannie de Beer destroyed the English with five drop goals in 1999, as well as being the setting for the Springboks 2007 World Cup triumph, against the same opposition.
4. Twickenham – London (England)
Capacity: 82 000 Aah, the proverbial home of rugby, good old ‘Twickers’. Situated in the south west of London, it is the only ground that hosts all of England’s international matches. It is the second largest stadium in the U.K, after Wembley and has been known to host many top-notch music concerts as well. For South African rugby fans Twickenham evokes mixed emotions, although the Boks have recorded some memorable victories at Twickenham it is also the venue for one of the Springboks worst performances in SA rugby history when they went down 53-3 to the hosts in 2002. Although Twickenham has a great design and always creates a lovely atmosphere it just does not compare with the next three rugby arena’s on our list.
3. Eden Park – Auckland (New Zealand)
Capacity: 50, 000 If ‘Twickers’ is the home of English rugby then Eden Park is without a doubt the spiritual home of New Zealand rugby. We are all familiar with the long and impressive unbeaten streak that the home team are currently enjoying at this ground and it is also the scene of two of the All Blacks three World Cup final triumphs. A daunting venue for any team, it is the country’s largest stadium and also plays host to other sporting codes, particularly cricket. The arena was given a much needed revamp ahead of the 2011 World Cup. Eden Park is high up on our list due to history and pedigree rather than for aesthetics and eye-pleasing reasons.
2. Ellis Park – Johannesburg (South Africa)
Capacity: 62, 567 Surely every rugby fan is familiar with Ellis Park and its long history with the 1995 World Cup being the most memorable. It is also the ground where New Zealand has their worst record. Arguably the most intimidating venue in world rugby for any team. The altitude plays into the host’s hands and is always a telling point during the latter stage of any game. The home of the Lions Super Rugby team has seen many a memorable international matches, particularly between the Springboks and the All Blacks. Revitalised for the 2010 World Cup, the stadium is now modern and easy on the eye, while remaining intensely hostile to opposition teams even the bus drive to the venue intimidates rival teams!
1. The Millennium Stadium – Cardiff (Wales)
Capacity: 74, 500 Currently named the Principality stadium for sponsorship reasons, this superbly constructed and modern stadium was built in time for the 1999 Rugby World Cup. It has also played host to major concerts and international football matches. The retractable roof remains a high-end feature and even though the ground doesn’t quite have the history and intimidating factor of the likes of Ellis Park or Eden Park, it is when the roof is closed and the Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (the Welsh National Anthem) starts when the Millennium Stadium provides an atmosphere matched by none.
Aside from the amazing atmosphere the Millennium Stadium provides (a pilgrimage every rugby fan should experience once in their life) the design and architectural brilliance is what scores the Cardiff based staduim bonus points. All things considered, the Millennium Stadium proves to be an arena truly deserving of the ultimate rugby venue.
Honourable Mentions: Newlands – Cape Town (South Africa), Kings Park – Durban (South Africa), The ‘Cake Tin’ – Wellington (New Zealand), Allianz Stadium – Sydney (Australia), ANZ Stadium – Sydney (Australia), Stade Felix Mayol – Toulon (France), Forsyth Barr Stadium – Dunedin (New Zealand)
Do you agree with our list, did we miss a certain staduim or do you think a different venue should take the number one spot? As always drop us a comment below.