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William and Kate to travel to France for men’s Rugby World Cup

The Prince and Princess of Wales are to travel to France to cheer on England and Wales in the men’s Rugby World Cup, just weeks after William faced a backlash for missing the Lionesses’ historic final.

William and Kate’s brief sporting trip also clashes with the start of the Duke of Sussex’s Invictus Games in Germany.

Kate, who is patron of the Rugby Football Union, will attend a group stage match between England and Argentina at the Stade de Marseille on Saturday – the first weekend of the tournament.

William, patron of the Welsh Rugby Union, will watch Wales compete against Fiji in another opening round match at the Stade de Bordeaux on Sunday.

Wales v Ireland – Guinness Six Nations – Principality Stadium
Wales’ Alun Wyn Jones is presented with the Six Nations trophy by William at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff in 2019 (David Davies/PA)

Harry is travelling from the US, with the Duchess of Sussex joining him later in the week, for the duration of the Invictus tournament – his pride and joy which he founded as a Paralympic-style competition to help wounded and sick ex-military personnel.

He will take to the stage in Dusseldorf at a grand opening ceremony on Saturday to kick off the eight-day event.

Later the same evening, Kate will also be in continental Europe, at the rugby in neighbouring France, while William’s appearance on Sunday falls on the first day of Invictus’ competitive events.

Invictus Games opening ceremony – The Hague
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex at the Invictus Games in The Hague in 2022 (Aaron Chown/PA)

Kensington Palace said no further appearances are planned for the prince and princess while they are in France.

The prince and Harry appear to remain estranged, with their separate trips to Europe taking place following the first anniversary on Friday of the death of their grandmother Queen Elizabeth II.

William and Kate’s royal excursion to support the two men’s sides in the first stage comes after William was criticised for deciding not to attend the women’s England team’s World Cup football final against Spain in Sydney last month.

Spain v England – FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 – Final – Stadium Australia
England manager Sarina Wiegman comforts Lauren James following their defeat in the final (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Veteran broadcaster Jon Sopel had suggested it was “inconceivable” that William and the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would not have travelled to Australia if the men’s team had been playing, while former England goalkeeper Pauline Cope branded it a “shame” the prince was not there in person.

It was the first time the Lionesses had reached the final of a World Cup, and the first time an England football team had competed in a World Cup final since the men’s side beat West Germany in 1966.

The prince, who is president of the FA, sent personal messages to the Lionesses after their heartbreaking 1-0 defeat, but stayed at home to watch the match in Norfolk.

No senior member of the British royal family attended the game, but Queen Letizia of Spain – dressed in a patriotic red trouser suit, was there with her 16-year-old daughter Infanta Sofia.