Rugby World Cup: Security tightens amid fears renewed rioting may ruin rugby showpiece in France

Fears are growing that riots will re-ignite in France during the Rugby World Cup, as frustrated citizens seize the opportunity to have their voices heard.

The country has been riddled with violent protests this year, as deep-seated frustrations with the government boil over in fiery fashion, but World Rugby is adamant safety and security is the top priority before kickoff this weekend. 

Where the All Blacks go, security now follows. Armed police - undercover and otherwise - are on the job to ensure the team can focus on the game and experience only the very best of France.

Rugby World Cup: Security tightens amid fears renewed rioting may ruin rugby showpiece in France

"It’s awesome arriving in Lyon and getting around the place here," said All Blacks loose forward Luke Jacobson. "It’s an awesome, awesome place and I'm looking forward to exploring it."

That's a glowing review for a country reeling from a year of bad PR, when France has been overrun with anger and anarchy. Violent protests against a rise in pension age dominated the start of 2023, but were dwarfed by riots over police racism in July. 

Looting and arson led to 4000 arrests and damage worth more than a billion dollars, including the country’s most famous shopping strand.

Miriam Zuzuki has worked for 20 years at this pharmacy on the Champs Elysees and says security has improved for the tournament. 

"Now is good, now is very good," she told Newshub.

A recent survey found 58 percent of French people didn't trust their government to ensure safety during the rugby or next year’s Olympic Games. 

French debt topped three trillion euro for the first time this year, and there are concerns public resentment over the amount of taxpayer money invested in the World Cup and the Olympics will reignite the riots.  

Last year, a football final at Stade de France ended in a near-fatal crowd crush, with thousands of ticketholders tear-gassed.  

All Blacks are greeted at Lyon.
All Blacks are greeted at Lyon. Photo credit: Photosport

World Rugby is adamant fan safety is a top priority and the stadium looks poised to transform into a fortress for the first game between the All Blacks and France on Saturday (NZ time), but there’s no sticky poster big enough to hide the simmering tensions in this country.

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