Rugby: All Blacks to open Rugby World Cup 2023 against hosts France

The All Blacks will play the opening game of Rugby World Cup 2023 against hosts and traditional foes France, with the match schedule for the global tournament announced early Saturday morning (NZ time).

The game will be played at Stade de France in Paris on Friday, September 8, 2023, where the All Blacks will look to keep their record of having never lost a pool match alive.

"The Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle of a player's career and the 2023 tournament looks set to be as memorable as ever," says All Blacks captain Sam Cane. 

"Even though it's still a few years away, and we don't yet know who two of the teams in our pool are, it's exciting to have the match schedule confirmed."

Also in New Zealand's pool are Italy and two yet-to-be-determined qualifiers - Africa 1 and Americas 1.

After taking on France, the All Blacks will then head south to Toulouse to play Africa 1 a week later at Stadium de Toulouse on Friday, September 15.

The team's last two pool games will be played at Parc OL in Lyon against Italy on Friday, September 29, and Americas 1 on Thursday, October 5.  

The All Blacks have played France seven times at the tournament, forming an age-old rivalry that stretches from the glory of their two finals wins at Eden Park in 1987 and 2011, to the heartbreak of their quarter-final defeat in Cardiff in 2007.

In 2015, they squared of at the quarter-final stage, with the All Blacks prevailing in a resounding 62-13 win.

"It's going to be a massive occasion playing France in the opening match of the tournament," says Cane.

"Matches between our two sides have been some of the most celebrated games in our history, so it'll be fantastic to meet them once again."

Italy are the second most common World Cup opponents for the All Blacks, having met on five occasions.

"Italy have also been a regular opponent at Rugby World Cups for us and it was a shame our match in 2019 was cancelled (due to Typhoon Hagibis), so it'll be great to play them again."

Games will be played in nine cities across France, with each city hosting a minimum of four games. 

All will take place between Wednesday and Sunday to maximise fan attendance. Ticket details will be announced next Thursday.

The tournament has been expanded to eight weeks as part of a new player welfare package announced last week, which also ensures teams have at least five days between games. 

Defending champions South Africa will kick-off their title defence against Scotland in Marseille on September 10, while England take on Argentina at the same venue a day earlier. 

The quarter-finals will take place at Stade Velodrome in Marseille and Stade de France on Saturday, October 7 and 8, the semi-finals will be at Stade de France on Friday, October 20 and Saturday, October 21, with the final at the same venue on Saturday, October 28.

All Blacks' Rugby World Cup 2023 schedule:

France, Friday, September 8, Stade de France, Saint Denis, Paris

Africa 1, Friday, September 15, Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse

Italy, Friday, September 29, Parc OL, Lyon

Americas 1, Thursday, October 5, Parc OL, Lyon