Rugby World Cup 2015
By the time you read this, your chosen team may be already eliminated from the eighth Rugby World Cup – unless you’re supporting the host country, of course, as Stuart Lancaster’s side are going to win! (Fingers crossed).
The competition is being held in England (and Cardiff) from September 18 to October 31, with 20 nations battling it out to win the coveted Webb Ellis trophy, currently held by the New Zealand All Blacks. The current champions are favourites to retain the trophy with odds as short as 6/5 going into the tournament.
Lancaster’s Lions are second favourites, just ahead of those other Southern Hemisphere giants, South Africa and Australia.
This tournament is set to be the biggest yet, with the commercial revenue expected to exceed £250m, as broadcast contracts show a huge increase from the last tournament in New Zealand in 2011.
The increasing appeal of the event is highlighted by the venues chosen to stage the matches, with only three specialist rugby grounds among the 13 stadia: Twickenham, Gloucester’s Kingsholm Stadium, and Exeter Chiefs’ Sandy Park.
On the other hand the majority are football grounds, with seven clubs hosting matches: Brighton & Hove Albion; Leeds United; Manchester City; Leicester City; Newcastle United; Aston Villa; and MK (Milton Keynes) Dons.
To complete the roster there are three multi-purpose stadia: the Millennium Stadium, in Cardiff – the only time games will be played beyond the English border; Wembley; and the Stadium, in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, better known to us as the Olympic Stadium. Such stadia mean big crowds and ticket sales have soared.
England, of course, famously won the trophy in 2003, with the competition’s record points scorer, Jonny Wilkinson, kicking a drop goal in extra-time to defeat big rivals Australia. England were beaten in the following final, in 2007, by South Africa, and will be looking to maximise their home advantage this time around.
The final will take place at Twickenham on October 31, and if England succeed they will join the other three major rugby union nations – Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – on two victories each. And what more of an incentive could they possibly need?