Rugby World Cup 2015
RFU determined to connect with the nation
September 17, 2013
The Rugby Football Union has launched the Posts in the Park initiative to raise awareness of the 2015 Rugby World Cup © Seconds Left Images
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has launched its latest attempt to connect with rugby fans old and new ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015 in the form of the Posts in the Park initiative.
Single rugby posts are being installed in parks in the 10 host cities in England as 'visible symbols of the RFU's commitment to broadening the appeal of rugby' in a bid to reach out to new audiences and new areas.
It is hoped the specially-designed posts from Newcastle to Exeter and from Birmingham to London will raise people's awareness of not only the World Cup but the sport in general and chief executive Ian Ritchie believes that 'connection' is key to the success of the tournament and their legacy plans.
"When we launched our legacy vision last year, we talked about inspiring people and bringing rugby to more people across the country. Today marks an important step on that journey to get people thinking about the game and to make the most of the opportunities that hosting the Rugby World Cup brings.
"Over the past year we have put in place realistic plans and additional investment to ensure that we build a lasting legacy for the game. We want more people playing, coaching, refereeing and volunteering, watching and talking about rugby - and we are on our way to delivering that vision."
Speaking at an event to mark two years until the start of the World Cup, Ritchie reiterated his belief that the tournament is "an opportunity of a lifetime" to inspire growth in the sport with initiatives like Posts in the Park following the RFU's efforts to improve facilities, train coaches, to encourage new schools to offer the sport, to entice former players back to the game and introduce newcomers to the sport.
But will their efforts to 'connect' with the nation ensure they rival the impact of the 2011 World Cup had in New Zealand where the tournament earned a 100% awareness rating among the country's 4.5m population.
"We've certainly go to strive to get to that point," said an enthusiastic Ritchie. "We want people to be aware that we are hosting a Rugby World Cup in 2015 - that is what we should be doing. Will we get to 100%? I would certainly hope that with the help of this and with two years to go that we do.
"We want everyone at least to know it is going on, what it means, what the noise around it is and the excitement around it. I would hope that we get very close to that. I don't think we will get to 100% - it is a different challenge in different countries and parts of the world. The thing for us is, of course we want to take advantage of those who are involved and committed to rugby now but we want to bring some new people into it and if we get to that level of awareness and interest that would be fantastic."
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.