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Rugby World Cup Kicks Off in Paris

SCOTT SIMON, Host:

As Eleanor Beardsley reports, the country has plunged into a kind of collective rugby hysteria.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)

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ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Parisian Louis Longbua(ph) says there's no way they can lose.

SIMON: (Through translator) Popular fervor is with us. The whole country is behind the French team, and I predict we're going to win against New Zealand in the final match. And thanks to this World Cup, rugby will become more popular than ever.

(SOUNDBITE OF NOISY CROWD)

BEARDSLEY: Never mind that Les Bleus did lose to dark horse Argentina, sports announcers were quick to point out that France still had a chance at the title. For weeks, the only thing that has seemed to matter in France is rugby. The French players and coaches have graced the covers of nearly every newspaper and magazine, and the sport has been analyzed and parsed ad nauseam on television talk shows.

(SOUNDBITE OF FRENCH TELEVISION SHOW)

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BEARDSLEY: Still, fan Laurice Martin(ph) believes rugby's qualities will eventually make it more popular than soccer.

SIMON: Because rugby have nice philosophy about community, courage and friendship. And it's really great. Better than soccer.

BEARDSLEY: Colin Kent(ph), who traveled here with his family from South Africa, says they haven't learned much French but their rugby's okay.

SIMON: We know the rugby terms sufficiently well enough to communicate with them. Rugby is a universal language. Everybody knows more or less how to communicate with one another.

BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

SIMON: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.