Sport wouldn’t be quite the same without its stadia, its theatres, its fields of dreams. Lords, the Maracana, the Yankee Stadium: cricket, football and baseball have their hallowed grounds, rugby union is no exception.
Here are seven of the world’s top stadia in which to experience rugby at its best:
1. Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand (capacity 50,000)
This Kiwi corker is New Zealand’s largest stadium and, although it can suffer from some pretty changeable weather, that’s a small quibble. It’s bang in the centre of the country’s largest city for some serious big match build up. In use since 1900, it was the first stadium in the world to host two Rugby World Cup finals (the inaugural tournament in 1987 and again in 2011). History will live on: plans to build a replacement for 2011 on the Auckland waterfront were shelved at the last minute.
2. Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia (capacity 52,500)
Built on top of a graveyard (don’t let that bother you), this Queensland icon was actually the first major Australian stadium to begin life as a rugby league venue. Lang Park and Suncorp-Metway Stadium, as it has also been known, is a triple-tiered monster, a European-style stadium with stands creeping right up to the pitch, enhancing the famously raucous atmosphere.
Read more: Top 10 things to do in Brisbane
3. Newlands Stadium, Cape Town, South Africa (capacity 51,900)
Ok, so Cape Town had a shiny new Cape Town Stadium built for the 2010 football World Cup, and there’s Johannesburg’s Ellis Park, but you can’t beat Newlands, South Africa’s oldest rugby union ground. If the action on the pitch fails to grip your attention, the backdrop of Table Mountain looming seemingly out of the top of the stands provides no little interest.
4. José Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina (capacity 50,000)
Also known as Velez Sarsfield, the not-so-salubrious area around the José is known tellingly as ‘The Fort’. Although games rotate around the country, this has been the venue for many memorable test matches for Los Pumas, though the French would rather forget its very existence as Les Bleus have not won here since the late 1990s with Argentina clocking up four wins on the trot. The original wooden incarnation predates World War Two with the stadium only really coming up to scratch for the 1978 football World Cup.
Read more: Top 9 things to do in Buenos Aires
5. Twickenham, London, England (capacity 82,000)
One hundred years old in 2010, Twickers is the largest ground in the world solely devoted to rugby union. Ok, the atmosphere can go a bit flat when things are not going England’s way but, as the Six Nations finale against France showed, the place can seriously rock. Although it’s perhaps best not to dwell on the fact that they let Bryan Adams play a gig here.
6. Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales (capacity 74,500)
Many Welsh fans modestly proclaim this to be the greatest stadium in world rugby and it is hard to argue with that when the game is in full flow. When the roof is closed, the noise generated by fans is pretty impressive. The steep stands also allow an excellent view wherever you are. The location is spot on too, right in the centre of Cardiff’s lively nightlife district.
7. Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland (capacity 51,700)
Readers of a certain age will remember the Aviva as good old Lansdowne Road (which dated back to 1872) or bad old Lansdowne if you’d suffered through a low-scoring game in the wind and rain. Reinventing an icon is not easy, but the Aviva’s innovative undulating design has won architectural awards and, after a few teething problems upon opening in 2010, is now a favourite with fans too.
Going to any of the games this Rugby World Cup? Check out our handy guides to some of the host cities:
Check out our Top 10 pick of places to eat and drink in the city of Oasis and Manchester United – ideal for 2015 Rugby World Cup visitors.
Our tips for 10 best places to eat and drink in London post-World Cup match.
Travelling to Cardiff for the 2015 Rugby World Cup? Take note of our top tips on where to eat and drink in the Welsh capital.