Rugby World Cup: Greenpeace attacks oil sponsorship, as World Rugby targets climate change

The All Blacks will make the journey to Paris from their World Cup base in Lyon by train - not plane - for their opening match against France.  

In a deliberate effort to reduce the event's carbon footprint, World Rugby is on a mission to create a more sustainable sport, but there's a big blemish on their scorecard and Greenpeace haven't just called it out - they're shouting about it.    

Players are heading for the capital - the fans are too, but the team on the ground are still frantically setting the stage. Smoko breaks are now working ones on site at the monster fanzone slowly emerging, as time ticks down to kick off.  

Ardie Savea battles the heat in France.
Ardie Savea battles the heat in France. Photo credit: Getty Images

"We have three days more of work," said Paris Deputy Mayor Pierre Rabadan.  

There are some looming deadlines that tournament organisers can’t brush off so easily. Greenpeace has accused World Rugby of being sustainability sellouts, with an ad attacking the tournament for accepting sponsorship from a French oil giant.  

The sport has been increasingly concerned by climate change. At the start of Japan's World Cup in 2019, a typhoon caused match cancellations for the first time ever and France is currently sweltering in a recordbreaking heatwave.

"You can feel it actually," said Rabadan. "Its really hot, climate is changing."

World Rugby doesn’t want events like these to add to the problem, so it has set the ambitious target of ensuring the Rugby World Cup is climate positive by 2030.

This year, they're tackling transport.

"More than 80 percent of the team movements being high-speed rail and therefore hugely reduced air travel, which will always be a huge impact, has been really important," said World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin.

Pre-tournament estimates put the carbon footprint 10 times lower than FIFA’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar, so that is hugely encouraging already. 

The British royal family - namely Prince William - chose not to fly to Australia to attend the women’s football final, featuring England, last month, due to the carbon footprint. He and the Princess of Wales will both be in Paris for the rugby.

Obviously, the trip from London is much shorter, but this has now raised further criticism that he will make a pool game for the rugby men and not a historic women's football final. 

Meanwhile, venues will also sell locally sourced food, limit single-use plastic and use advanced waste management systems, including at the famous Place de le Concord, where 40,000 people are expected. 

"We're just waiting for everyone, especially New Zealand supporters coming," said Rabadan.

Fanzone construction at Place de la Concorde.
Fanzone construction at Place de la Concorde. Photo credit: Getty Images

The square is steeped in history - a place where royals were excuted in the 1700s, now playing host to the biggest party in town.

Rabadan used to play No.8 for the French rugby team, but now he’s in charge of the city’s sports events.

What plans are in place for celebrations, when the All Blacks win the World Cup? 

"I don't know," he laughed. "We really don’t imagine that case." 

Surely he has?

"Yes, for sure I have imagined it," admitted Rabadan. 

Whether backing All Black or Le Bleu, this World Cup’s legacy will be green.

Join Newshub at 7am Saturday for live updates of the All Blacks v France World Cup opener