Rugby World Cup 2015
On 18th September 2015 the 8th Rugby World Cup kicked off here in England. It is the third time that this pinnacle of International Rugby Union will have been held on these shores and I was counting down to the start for months in advance. After 6 weeks and 48 games, New Zealand were crowned winners for the third time at Twickenham, the home of English Rugby.
Whilst not on the same level of World sporting events like the Olympics or Football World Cup in many eyes, it will still be a massive event. This hub will lead you through the tournament, the teams playing and, now the tournament has started, the results.
History Of The World Cup
The first Rugby World Cup was held in New Zealand and Australia in 1987. Prior to this tournament, whilst there were smaller scale regional tournaments, the only time nations tended to play each other was in one off test matches. This probably had something to do with the fact that at the time the sport was still amateur. There was some reluctance to a tournament taking part but eventually the members of the World governing body the IRB voted to have a tournament. Sixteen teams took part in this tournament with NZ being crowned the first ever World Champions.
Four years later and the tournament moved to the UK and France.Again there were 16 teams taking part, 15 of these who had also taken part in 1987. In a final held at Twickenham, hosts England lost out to Australia.
The 1995 World Cup lives in the memory for many reasons. This was the first tournament that South Africa competed at following the end of apartheid and they also found themselves the hosts. The early stages were marred by a horrific injury sustained by Ivory Coast player Max Brito who was paralysed during a group game. However the tournament sticks in most minds as the tournament that Nelson Mandela used to try to unite a nation. This has been immortalised in the film Invictus that I have reviewed here on Hubpages where South Africa won an emotional final.
1999 saw the RWC return back to the UK and France with the final taking place in the newly built Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Unlike previous World Cups, this tournament saw 20 participants rather than 16. Australia were crowned champions for the second time.
22nd November 2003 is a date that will always live in my mind and not because it is exactly one week before I met my now wife. This was the day that England became World Champions for the first and (so far only) time. The tournament took place in Australia with the final taking place against the hosts in Sydney. England had gone in to the tournament as favourites but it was a close encounter, the winning points coming from a dramatic drop goal in the last minute of extra time from the boot of Jonny Wilkinson. I still watch the DVD from time to time!
The next tournament, in 2007 did not start well for the defending champions as we were beaten heavily in their first game by South Africa. However we improved game by game and having knocked hosts France out in the Semi 'final, there was a hope that England could retain the William Webb Ellis trophy. However, the opponents were South Africa again and again they won through (by a closer margin this time) and they won for the second time.
The last tournament before the 2015 edition took place in New Zealand. The city of Christchurch was due to hold matches but having been hit by a devastating earthquake earlier that year it had to pull out. The country got behind their All Blacks to win it for Christchurch and they did so, their second championship having won the inaugural competition 24 years earlier.
What Are They Playing For?
The man pictured to the side may not look like someone who would be forever entwined with the Rugby World Cup and I doubt many rugby fans who would know who it was by the picture. However, his name will immediately ring bells as he is William Webb Ellis and it is the trophy in his name (and pictured at the start of the hub) that the teams will be playing for and hoping to win in October 2015.
The story goes that one day whilst at Rugby School in central England, Webb Ellis picked up the football that he and his friends were playing with and started running towards the goal line, hence inventing the game of Rugby. Whether or not the story is true, one nation will be celebrating lifting this man's namesake above their heads!
The 2015 tournament saw 20 teams fight for the honour of being World Champion. Of these 12 pre-qualified as a result of finishing in the top three of their group at the 2011 competition. This entailed the Northern Hemisphere 6 nations patricipants, the 4 southern hemisphere teams from The Rugby Championship and finally Tonga and Samoa. The remaining spots have been taken up by winners of regional qualifying competitions.
Fiji (Oceania 1)
Japan (Asia 1)
Georgia (Europe 1)
Canada (Americas 1)
Uruguay (Playoff Winner)
USA (Americas 2)
Namibia (Africa 1)
Romania (Europe 2)
Group Stage Overview
Following the conclusion of the group stages I have written my own thoughts and made some predictions.
Who Played Who And Won?
18Sep England v Fiji (Twickenham Stadium) 35-11
20Sep Wales v Uruguay (Millennium Stadium) 54-9
23Sep Australia v Fiji (Millennium Stadium) 28-13
26Sep England v Wales (Twickenham Stadium) 25-28
27Sep Australia v Uruguay (Villa Park) 65-3
01Oct Wales v Fiji (Millennium Stadium) 23-13
03Oct England v Australia (Twickenham Stadium) 13-33
06Oct Uruguay v Fiji (Stadium mk) 47-15
10Oct Australia v Wales (Twickenham Stadium) 15-6
10Oct England v Uruguay (City of Manchester Stadium) 60-3
19Sep South Africa v Japan (Brighton Community Stadium) 32-34
20Sep Samoa v United States (Brighton Community Stadium) 25-16
23Sep Scotland v Japan (Kingsholm) 45-10
26Sep South Africa v Samoa (Villa Park) 46-6
27Sep Scotland v United States (Elland Road) 39-16
03Oct Samoa v Japan (Stadium mk) 5-26
03Oct South Africa v Scotland (St. James' Park) 34-16
07Oct South Africa v United States (Olympic Stadium) 64-0
10Oct Samoa v Scotland (St. James' Park) 33-36
11Oct United States v Japan (Kingsholm) 18-28
19Sep Tonga v Georgia (Kingsholm) 10-17
20Sep New Zealand v Argentina (Wembley Stadium) 26-16
24Sep New Zealand v Namibia (Olympic Stadium) 58-14
25Sep Argentina v Georgia (Kingsholm) 54-9
29Sep Tonga v Namibia (Sandy Park) 35-21
02Oct New Zealand v Georgia (Millennium Stadium) 43-10
04Oct Argentina v Tonga (Leicester City Stadium) 45-16
07Oct Namibia v Georgia (Sandy Park) 16-17
09Oct New Zealand v Tonga (St. James' Park) 47-9
11Oct Argentina v Namibia (Leicester City Stadium) 64-19
19Sep Ireland v Canada (Millennium Stadium) 50-7
19Sep France v Italy (Twickenham Stadium) 32-10
23Sep France v Romania (Olympic Stadium) 38-11
26Sep Italy v Canada (Elland Road) 23-18
27Sep Ireland v Romania (Wembley Stadium) 44-10
01Oct France v Canada (Stadium mk) 41-18
04Oct Ireland v Italy (Olympic Stadium) 16-9
06Oct Canada v Romania (Leicester City Stadium) 15-17
11Oct Italy v Romania (Sandy Park) 32-22
11Oct France v Ireland (Millennium Stadium) 9-24
17Oct South Africa v Wales (Twickenham Stadium) 23-19
17Oct New Zealand v France (Millennium Stadium) 62-13
18Oct Ireland v Argentina (Millennium Stadium) 43-20
18Oct Australia v Scotland (Twickenham Stadium) 35-34
24Oct South Africa v New Zealand (Twickenham Stadium) 18-20
25Oct Argentina v Australia (Twickenham Stadium) 15-29
30Oct South Africa v Argentina (Olympic Stadium) 24-13
31Oct New Zealand v Australia (Twickenham Stadium) 34-17
*NEW ZEALAND ARE CROWNED CHAMPIONS*
The 2015 World Cup will be played across 12 stadiums in England and one, the Millennium Stadium, in Wales. Many of these grounds are usually home to football matches with a couple already ticked off on my list of Doing The 92 but during the competition they will be all about the Rugby!
Twickenham (Capacity 82,000) - Known by Rugby fans as Headquarters or Twickers, it is the home of English Rugby. It will host the opening game, 2 quarter finals, both semi finals and most importantly the final on 31st October.
Wembley (Capacity 90,000) - Home of English football the rest of the year, Wembley will host two pool matches. Unfortunately the games it has drawn aren't the biggest in the draw so we could have some empty seats but it will be great to see this stadia in use.
Olympic Stadium (Capacity 54,000) - 2012 will be a year that will go down in British sporting folklore as the Olympic Games came to London. At the centre of this was the Olympic Stadium and it will find itself in the spotlight again in 2015 as it hosts four group games and the third/fourth playoff.
Stadium:mk (Capacity 32,000) - Moving north outside of London the Stadium:mk in Milton Keynes will host three group matches including France v Canada that I will be attending.
Leicester City Stadium (Capacity 32,262) - Leicester is home to one of the countries most successful club sides so there was no surprise that the city was awarded three group games. There was a bit of anger that the games will be at the football ground rather than Welford Road (home of the City's rugby team) but I am sure there will be good support.
Villa Park (Capacity 42,788) - Rugby isn't the first sport that you would think of when you think of Birmingham but it would be amiss if such a big tournament bypassed one of the countries biggest cities so Villa Park (another football ground) hosts two pool matches.
City of Manchester Stadium (Capacity 62,170) - Originally Manchester United's Old Trafford was penciled in to hold matches but after concerns were raised about what this would do to their pitch they pulled out. The organisers wanted games in the second city though so just one group game (England's only group game away from Twickenham) will be held at this ground that as well as hosting football, was the stadium for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
Elland Road (Capacity 37,900) - I have been to both Rugby and Football grounds in Leeds but it is the football ground that gets the nod to host matches with it's larger capacity. It will host two group games including Italy v Canada that I attended.
St James' Park (Capacity 52,387) - The furthest North stadium for the World Cup will be in Newcastle where three group games will take place.
Kingsholm (Capacity 16,500) - One of only two club rugby stadium being used, the home of Gloucester will host four group games.
Sandy Park (Capacity 12,500) - The second club rugby ground in use for the tournament. Exeter's home that has been grown for the tournament will host three group games.
Brighton Community Stadium (Capacity 30,750) - With the relative proximity of London and the lack of a professional rugby team in this part of the country I was a little surprised that Brighton got games for the tournament but they did and will host two group games.
Millennium Stadium (Capacity 74,500) - Whilst the World Cup is being hosted by England, the ground that will see the second most amount of matches, including two quarter finals is the Millennium stadium in Cardiff. Having been there it is an impressive ground and Wales will be hoping to take advantage as they play two of their group games in front of a home crowd. They did offer to host the key group game between England and Wales but the English decided they would rather play that game in front of their own fans. Surprising that!!!!
A Day Out At The Rugby
As soon as the Rugby World Cup was announced that it was going to be held in England, I knew I would have to get tickets. I applied for several games through the ballot process and was successful in getting tickets for two matches. The first of these was Italy v Canada to be held at Elland Road, Leeds on 26th September.
My wife had family in Canada so it was obvious who we would be supporting in the game and as the second game I have tickets for also involves Canada, I had purchased a Canada Rugby Jersey. When the Olympics were held in London we were able to take our son at just 12wks old and for this major event we were able to take our daughter while her brother stayed at home with his grandma.
We arrived at the ground and the atmosphere was growing quickly. I am a massive football fan but there is something about rugby crowds as there is no segregation so we were mingled with people in jersey's of both nations but I also saw of England, Scotland, Wales, South Africa and a host of other clubs and nations. Somewhat surprisingly, as they aren't a major rugby nation, the crowd definitely felt to me more partisan towards Canada, perhaps the British trait of always supporting the underdog?
Italy went in to the game favourites but surprisingly Canada quickly took a lead getting out to 10-0 before Italy quickly pegged back a try. With the last kick of the half Italy went in 13-10 leaders but it was too close to call. Canada were attacking the end we were sat and the crowd was willing them to score more.
I thought that 2nd half Italy would come out all guns blazing which is what often happens in these type of games but Canada actually scored again to take a narrow lead. At this point I was thinking that perhaps they could do it but unfortunately Italy managed to score another try and eventually ran out narrow 23-18 winners.
Overall the experience was extremely enjoyable. The atmosphere was electric and I loved seeing the live sport. My daughter was fascinated by the game all of the way through and whilst the memories may fade, I do look forward to showing her the images when she grows older.