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Top 20 rugby stadiums countdown: 10-6

Queenstown

The Rugby Paper’s features writer BRENDAN GALLAGHER continues his Top 20 series by assessing the rugby grounds which make for the perfect fan experience.

Read Part One: 20-16

Read Part Two: 15-11

10 John Davies Oval – Queenstown Events centre, New Zealand

Very few would argue this is the world’s most beautiful or scenic rugby ground set amid the southern Alps. A centre for the local clubs but best known as a training centre for touring teams not least England and Ireland at RWC2011. Also an occasional ODI cricket venue for New Zealand.

9 Stade Michelin – Clermont

Yellow and Blue: Clermont Auvergne’s home, Stade Marcel Michelin. David Rogers/Getty Images

Even the old Michelin stadium was special with its grand, creaking, wooden stands and long low marquee at one end of the ground where the players served beer for an hour to fans after every home game. But as we started to return, year after year, in the Heineken Cup, every time there would be a new stand in place and then one year it was complete, it suddenly made sense.

A wonderfully compact, beautifully designed purpose-built rugby stadium housing 19,000 of the most partisan supporters on the planet.

Health and safely is banished – you are allowed huge club flags, flares and claxons. It usually kicks off and Clermont rarely lose.

8 Newlands – Cape Town

Cape Town classic: The Stormers go through their pre-match preparations before playing in the Super Rugby earlier this year. Carl Fourie/Gallo Images/Getty Images

A magnificent, beautiful, historic ground set in a sumptuous part of Cape Town with the setting sun a blazing terracotta red on the mountains behind as you settle in for a big game. Close and intimate, like a football ground but a purpose-built rugby arena. Has staged countless memorable Lions encounters, Currie Cup epics, kicked off the 1995 World Cup with a superb Boks win over Australia and was the scene of Jonah Lomu’s greatest personal triumph when he scored four tries against England later in that tournament.

7 Thomond Park – Limerick

Stand up and fight: Munster’s battleground Thomond Park. Getty Images

The old ground was scruffy but atmospheric, historic and beloved – but the new ground is even better. Of course the crowd and the team made old Thomond the citadel it was and contributed so brilliantly to that famous win over the All Blacks and numerous important Heineken Cup victories not least the miracle win over Gloucester. Then came the rebuild and we held our breath to see if the same ambience prevailed. It did, if anything it was even better, right from the off. There have been few more electrify rugby moments that at the official opening v New Zealand in 2008 when the four Kiwis or Islanders in the Munster side stepped forward to offer their own haka challenge to the All Blacks.

6 Ellis Park – Johannesburg

Ellis Park
History: Ellis Park was the venue for one of post-Apartheid South Africa’s most iconic moments when the Springboks lifted the World Cup trophy there in 1995. David Rogers/ALLSPORT

Way ahead of its time when it was rebuilt in 1981. In another era the historic home of Transvaal rugby housed a 90,000+ crowd for a Boks v Lions Test in 1955.

Has invariably featured in almost all incoming Lions and All Blacks tours and has often been saved for the last, potentially series-deciding match.

And of course the venue for the 1995 World Cup final, that Mandela moment, and the fly-past by the SA Jumbo Jet.

The stands are high and steep and the capacity seems much more than the officially listed 63,000. Famously has Gents with windows at eye level so you can keep watching matches while completing your call of nature.

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