England’s team crashed out of the Rugby World Cup 2015 before the knock-out stages commenced. Nonetheless, the country’s rugby union fans continued to stream to games throughout the sport’s most prestigious tournament.
Thirteen cities around England and Wales hosted matches involving 20 of the planet’s leading international teams. The tournament kicked off on 18 September with a match between England and Fiji at Twickenham Stadium, a sporting venue that can often be seen on the flightpath into London’s Heathrow Airport. The Rugby World Cup 2015 reached its climax on 31 October, also at Twickenham, when the Webb Ellis Cup was awarded to New Zealand, who retained their mantle of World Champions after a 34 – 17 victory over Australia.
A tour through England and Wales
For 100 days over the summer, the 38 centimetre tall golden trophy toured cities around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. The tour included Cardiff in Wales, whose Millennium Stadium was the only venue outside of England to host matches during the 48 game tournament.
The cup weighs 4.5 kilograms and is named after William Webb Ellis, who, as a schoolboy, attended Rugby School in Warwickshire. Webb Ellis lived from 1806 until 1872 and is popularly credited with inventing the game of rugby. According to a story with hazy origins, Webb Ellis caught the ball and ran forwards with it in his hands during a football game played in 1823. His is buried in Menton, France, a nation that has reached the final of the world cup three times but whose team is yet to take the Webb Ellis Cup back to Paris.
Rugby School and the game in England
Within the United Kingdom many people continue to associate the sport with elite schools. Rugby School’s influence on the sport includes the tradition of presenting caps to the players of after they represent their country in international test matches. ‘Following up’ caps were originally awarded to the schoolboys who played for the school.
The fact England play in white shirts is also down to the influence of the schools former pupils, known as Old Rugbeians, who dominated the Rugby Football Union, the governing body of the sport in England, during its formative years. A number of the terms associated with the laws of the game – such as ‘knock on’, ‘offside’ and ‘try’ – also originated at the school.
England hosted the eighth Rugby World Cup
In terms of global sporting events the Rugby World Cup is still relatively young. The 2015 tournament was only the eighth. The inaugural tournament was jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 1987, a competition that the New Zealanders went on to win by beating France in the final 29-9.
Those same two teams contested the 2011 final – at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand – with the hosts edging France 8-7 to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy.
New Zealand were the 2015 favourites
The powerful New Zealand team, popularly known as the All Blacks due to the colour of their famous strip, went into this year’s tournament as one of the favourites. England, Australia and South Africa are also among the teams fancied by bookmakers to win the Webb Ellis Cup.
A total of 2,439 points and 271 tries were scored during the tournament. Eight of those tries were scored by New Zealand’s Julian Savea who finished as the Rugby World Cup 2015’s top try scorer, two ahead of team mate Nehe Milner-Scudder. Nicholas Sanchez, of Argentina, finished as the top points scorer, on 97, as his team, nicknamed ‘Los Pumas’, finished fourth.
Rugby’s around the world
Several of the participants in the Rugby World Cup 2015 were members of the Commonwealth of Nations. During the 19th century the sport spread to outposts of the British Empire, in which team sports were encouraged because they helped build discipline, character and camaraderie.
British emigrants introduced the game to Argentina and Uruguay, both of which competed in the 2015 finals. Trading links and the movement of students are credited as reasons that helped establish the sport elsewhere in the world. Georgia, Namibia and Romania were among the teams appearing in the tournament. Japan, which has in excess of 100,000 registered players, came to England knowing the Asian nation will host the next Rugby World Cup tournament, in 2019.
Football stadiums hosted rugby matches
Several matches were played at stadiums more accustomed to hosting football. St James’ Park in Newcastle, Elland Road in Leeds and Villa Park in Birmingham are among the venues that normally see round rather than oval balls being kicked. Kingsholm in Gloucester, Sandy Park in Exeter and Twickenham – traditional rugby venues – were also used.
Five matches were played in the 54,000-capacity former Olympic Stadium, within London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Many see that as fitting given this is the biggest sporting event to be held in England since the London Olympics of 2012.
Tickets for the Rugby World Cup 2015
The clamour for tickets was strong. Even before a ball was kicked 2.25 million tickets had been sold. In total 2,477,085 seats were filled, making it the most popular tournament in the history of the Rugby World Cup. Many were purchased by the 400,000 international fans who visited the United Kingdom during the tournament. The matches were broadcast in 209 countries, a broad reach that may inspire youngsters around the globe to take up the sport.
Fan Zones were established at 15 locations around the country, including on the Old Market Place in Rugby. A million international and domestic rugby enthusiasts mingled in the Fan Zones. In addition to having big screens for viewing matches, the zones hosted bars and had interactive areas where people could play touch rugby (a form of the game without full contact tackling) and test their passing skills.
The tournament generated more than £250 in revenue, including a surplus of £80 million for World Rugby and £15 million for the Rugby Football Union to invest in the development of the sport. England rugby fans will be hoping that means an improved performance by their team in Japan and beyond.
Find out more about the tournament, including all results and the locations of Fans Zones and match venues, click onto the Rugby World Cup 2015 website.
Learn more about rugby in England on the Rugby Football Union’s website.
See the Visit England website for information about things to do and places to visit.
Photos illustrating this post are by Stuart Forster.
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