Rugby World Cup 2015 to engage a nation
You would be forgiven for believing that following the London Olympic Games would be a daunting task for the Rugby World Cup 2015 organisers, but England 2015 is on track to be something special for teams, fans and the people of the United Kingdom and beyond.
A truly nationwide festival of rugby, culture and sport will ensure that Rugby World Cup 2015 does not simply follow the Olympic Games, but will engage a nation from the north east to the south west, deliver new participants in England and Europe, ensure the most competitive tournament to date and cement the event as a must-see experience and one of the world’s largest and commercially attractive major sports events.
Planning is well underway and the building blocks for a successful event are well and truly embedded. In May 2013, after much anticipation and a detailed process, the 13 match venues and schedule were unveiled to the world in a truly nationwide package that would ensure England 2015 would be the most accessible tournament to date.
It was good reading. Not only would the tournament feature some of the most iconic venues in sport in the shape of the City of Manchester Stadium, Wembley and the Olympic Stadium, but rugby would remain at the heart of the event with mouth-watering fixtures pencilled in for Exeter and Gloucester, heartlands of rugby in England's south west.
More than 75 per cent of the population will live within 30 minutes drive of a RWC 2015 venue, while the largest capacity venues and public ticketing starting at just £7 mean that the public would have great access to rugby’s showcase event.
In November, organisers England 2015 and the International Rugby Board announced that at least 2.3 million tickets would be available across the tournament’s 48 matches, with tickets to go on sale in 2014 in a 'staged process aimed at giving loyal Rugby fans a fair chance of getting tickets, while also welcoming new fans into the Game'.
With more than 400,000 overseas visitors anticipated to visit the British Isles during the seven-week festival, plans are well and truly in place to ensure that the world is made very welcome indeed.
Schedule best and fairest ever
On the field, there was an exciting development too. Amid all the discussions regarding venues and reach, perhaps the most significant announcement was that the schedule would be the best and fairest for the ‘smaller’ rugby nations.
True to its word at RWC 2015, the International Rugby Board has ensured that the likes of Canada, Georgia, Samoa and the qualified teams will have equal preparation time in comparison with their opponents for the big matches against the tournament favourites, springing hope of yet more upsets and perhaps the likes of Samoa, Japan or Canada reaching the quarter-finals.
Of course the schedule alone will not deliver quarter-final glory and that is why the IRB continues to invest heavily in Test programmes, high performance programmes and tournaments to ensure that the Pacific Island nations, Georgia, Romania et al can perform to their peak and demonstrate the true depth, competitiveness and global spread of rugby.
With Rugby World Cup continuing to provide the financial engine to grow the sport around the world, the IRB announced in 2013 an unprecedented global funding programme of more than £180 million between 2013 and 2016 in high performance, competitions, education, training, player welfare and anti-doping to ensure that these unions have the platform to springboard onto the 2015 stage and beyond in 2019.
The signs, of course, are good. Samoa continues to record impressive results on the world stage with wins against Wales, Scotland and Italy in the past year, while Japan recorded a first-ever win against Tier One opposition when they beat Wales in front of a capacity Tokyo crowd in June, which bodes well for RWC 2019 in Japan on and off the field.
RWC 2015 is also on track to be the most commercially successful tournament to date, which is good news for the continued growth of the sport. Heineken, Société Générale, LandRover and DHL have all put pen to paper to renew as tournament Worldwide Partners and, with interest high, the commercial programme looks set to be locked down in record time and with significant financial uplift.
Innovation will also be at the heart of the broadcast and digital experience, meaning that from the stadium to the armchair, fans new and old will be able to engage, participate and enjoy all that the tournament has to offer on and off the field.
While the Olympics showcased London as a host city and the British love of sport, RWC 2015 will engage the nation, spreading rugby’s character-building values throughout new audiences within the British Isles and beyond.
This review is abridged from the IRB World Rugby Yearbook 2014. Click here to buy your copy >>