Stuart Forster provides an overview of the Rugby World Cup 2015 tournament hosted by England and won by New Zealand.
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 the match between England and Fiji at Twickenham Stadium. That sporting venue can often be seen from the windows of aircraft approaching 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.
The Webb Ellis Cup
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.
Ellis is buried in Menton, France, a nation which 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 traditions 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.
the Rugby World Cup
In terms of global sporting events the Rugby World Cup is still relatively young. The 2015 tournament was the eighth edition of the sporting event. 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. The hosts edged France 8-7 to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
New Zealand 2015 Winners
The powerful New Zealand team, popularly known as the All Blacks due to the colour of their famous strip, went into the 2015 tournament as one of the favourites. England, Australia and South Africa were 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 2015 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 tournament’s top points scorer, on 97. His team, nicknamed Los Pumas, finished fourth.
Rugby as a global sport
Several 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. 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 has in excess of 100,000 registered players. The Japanese team came to England knowing their nation would be the host the Rugby World Cup tournament in 2019, from 20 September until 2 November.
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.
Traditional rugby venues such as Kingsholm in Gloucester, Sandy Park in Exeter and Twickenham were also used.
Five matches were played in the 54,000-capacity former Olympic Stadium in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The Rugby World Cup was the biggest sporting event held in England since the London Olympics of 2012.
Rugby World Cup tickets
The clamour for tickets for the Rugby World Cup 2015 was strong. Before a ball had been kicked, 2.25 million tickets were sold. In total 2,477,085 seats were filled, making it the most popular tournament in the history of the Rugby World Cup to date. 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 visit the Rugby World Cup website.
Stuart Forster, the author of this post, is a travel writer based in the north-east of England. A former player of the game, Stuart has written about the sport for several publications.
See the Visit England website for information about things to do and places to visit across the host nation of the World Rugby Cup 2015.
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography, based in the north-east of England.
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