International Rugby
If you build it, they will come
Graham Jenkins
July 15, 2013
A statue of William Webb Ellis, the schoolboy credited with inventing rugby union, Rugby School, Rugby, Warwickshire, June 4, 2007
A statue of William Webb Ellis at Rugby School - should it also play host to a Hall of Fame? © Getty Images

Cooperstown, Canton and Canastota - three places synonymous with the greatest athletes to have graced baseball, American football and boxing respectively - but where is rugby union's Hall of Fame?

Don't fret too much as this is a trick question. Those players acknowledged as the best to have played the game do not currently have a home and have existed solely in an intangible rugby heaven with no fixed abode since the Hall of Fame was launched in 2006. But could this be about to change?

International Rugby Board chief executive Brett Gosper has hinted at a possible permanent shrine to showcase the players, teams, administrators, coaches, referees and members of the media who have 'enhanced the Game through their exceptional achievements'.

It may surprise some that a governing body dedicated to growing the game has taken so long to harness their Hall of Fame given the power of such a focal point to engage fans old and new and also its significant commercial and marketing potential.

The existence of a rival - the New Zealand-based International Hall of Fame - may have clouded the commercial waters but with that establishment having gone a little quiet in recent years, it appears the IRB may be ready to inject new life into their own.

But where would be a suitable long-term venue for it? Should historical significance be the most important factor? Or perhaps it should be based where the most people will have relatively easy access to it? Should it be in one of the sport's strongholds? Or should the IRB break new ground?

Here we list some of the possible options - and be sure to let us know your thoughts below.

Rugby, England

The Warwickshire town of Rugby certainly has strong claims. William Webb Ellis is credited with inventing the game at Rugby School in 1823 when he disregarded the rules of a football match by running forward with the ball in hand. Although some question the authenticity of this, the IRB do not as his name also adorns the biggest prize in the game - the Rugby World Cup.

World Cup hosts?

The Hall of Fame could be best used to aid the promotion and marketing of the sport's most important commodity - the World Cup. If a semi-permanent construction was based in the host country/city for the four years building up to each tournament it could stimulate interest while educating new fans about the history of the game.

Edinburgh, Scotland

The first ever game of international rugby between Scotland and England was played at Raeburn Place in the Stockbridge area of Edinburgh back in 1871. International rugby in Scotland has since moved on to Murrayfield but the significance of that first game will never fade.

Twickenham, England

The largest purpose-built rugby stadium in the world, the iconic Twickenham ground is home to the Rugby Football Union, the sport's original governing body, the first national union and the authors of the first Laws of the game. It also plays host to the England rugby team and the World Rugby Museum. It has played host to over a century's worth of international rugby and the 1991 World Cup final. It will also take a central role at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Tourism New Zealand's Giant Rugby Ball, Circular Quay, Sydney, September 1, 2010
Could a globe-trotting giant rugby ball house rugby's Hall of Fame? © Getty Images

Dublin, Ireland

Not only the administrative headquarters of the International Rugby Board, the Six Nations Committee, the British & Irish Lions and European Rugby Cup Ltd, the organisers of both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup, the Irish capital is also home to Dublin University Football Club, part of the University of Dublin, Trinity College and one of the oldest clubs in the world.

Auckland, New Zealand

Eden Park in Auckland played host to the first Rugby World Cup Final in 1987 - won by the hosts, and the venue was also the scene of the All Blacks' triumph in the 2011 showpiece. The stadium celebrates 100 years of rugby this year.

A new frontier?

The IRB is understandably determined to develop the game and take it into new territories and what better way to underline that commitment by building the Hall of Fame within a new or emerging market. Would situating it somewhere like the USA or Japan propel the game to new heights in those regions?

Cape Town, South Africa

The home of the South African Rugby Union, Cape Town is also where the game took root in the country in the latter part of the 19th Century with the support of local clubs such as Hamilton, Western Province, Villagers and Stellenbosch.

Paris, France

France, the home of arguably the most powerful club competition in the world - the Top 14, is the final resting place of a certain William Webb Ellis in Menton, but Paris has stronger claims. Racing Club and Stade Francais, both based in the French capital, were the sport's pioneers in the country and contested the first French championship final - that was refereed by Pierre de Coubertin - the founder of the Olympic movement that rugby will return to in 2016.

Palmerston North, New Zealand

The North Island city of Palmerston North is already the home of the New Zealand Rugby Museum that is recognised globally as one of the most important resources for rugby historians. It was also the home of Charles Monro, the man who organised New Zealand's first rugby game in Nelson in 1870.

A travelling show?

New Zealand did a superb job of marketing the 2011 Rugby World Cup with giant ball housing a fully mobile, audio-visual technological feast that showcased the country and the sport. Thousands of visitors in Paris, London, Tokyo, Sydney and then Auckland were entertained and educated and similar approach to the Hall of Fame could reap equally positive results.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.

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