Midlands passion set to lift RWC 2015
Very few regions can point to a rugby history as rich and diverse as the Midlands. Its clubs are proud, their supporters passionate. At Rugby World Cup 2015, Leicester will throw down the welcome mat for a trio of matches at the Leicester City Stadium, all of which should showcase the raucous atmospheres expected in the city.
Argentina will play a brace of pool matches at the stadium, against Tonga and the Africa 1 qualifier, while it will also stage a contest between the Americas 1 and Europe 2 qualifiers in Pool D.
Leicester Tigers’ rugby history dates back to 1880, with the amalgamation of the Leicester Societies AFC, Leicester Amateur FC and Leicester Alert clubs, and they stand as the English game’s greatest achievers. The first English team to win the Heineken Cup, and to retain it, the Tigers have utilised the Leicester City Stadium for knockout matches on a number of occasions.
The stadium has staged two semi-finals – a 27-19 loss to Toulouse in 2005 and 33-17 victory over the Scarlets in 2007 – and a clutch of quarter-finals in the tournament, while the Tigers have also held two Premiership matches away from their famous Welford Road fortress. In 2006, the Tigers’ Heineken Cup quarter-final loss to Bath drew just under 32,500 fans to the stadium in what remains its record attendance.
Also in 2006 the stadium was called upon to provide a small slice of South African rugby history, when a World XV was assembled to play the Springboks in honour of their centenary as a touring team.
England Rugby 2015 Ambassador Lawrence Dallaglio captained the World XV but was unable to stop South Africa - one year out from their victory at Rugby World Cup 2007 - from racking up a comfortable 32-7 victory.
The stadium is home to Leicester City Football Club, who currently play in the English Championship. Since moving to the new ground from their long-time home at Filbert Street, the Foxes have seen a number of high-profile matches staged at the ground.
Opened by former England striker Gary Lineker in 2002, the stadium has hosted both Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao for friendlies, while England played a one-off international against Serbia and Montenegro in Leicester during the redevelopment of Wembley. On that occasion, Steven Gerrard and Joe Cole scored goals for the hosts in a 2-1 victory, which prefaced an international double for Jamaica. The Reggae Boys lost 1-0 to Brazil and 4-1 to Ghana in 2003 and 2006 respectively.
In the decade since its opening, the Leicester City Stadium has shown that it’s a friend to rugby and to major international events. With the city and region’s passionate rugby support behind it, Rugby World Cup 2015 will be a very special time in Leicester.