Is RWC'15 coming to a town near you?
May 7, 2009
Will the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final be played at England's HQ? © Getty Images
England's confirmation that they will be bidding to host Rugby World Cup 2015 will have set the pulses racing amongst fans in England - not to mention the Rugby Football Union's accountants.
The prospect of England playing host to the Rugby World Cup for the first time since 1991 is certainly a cause for excitement because the sport's showpiece event is a completely different animal to the one that attracted the world's best to these shores 18-years ago.
That tournament was only the second contest for the Webb Ellis Cup and since then the Rugby World Cup has grown into the third biggest sporting event on the planet - behind the Olympics and the Fifa World Cup - that generates an estimated £2.1billion-worth of economic benefits for the hosts.
OK, the tournament paid a visit in 1999 with several grounds in England featuring - most notably Twickenham where the epic semi-final between France and New Zealand played out. Welford Road, Ashton Gate and the McAlpine Stadium also hosted matches but are they part of the RFU's latest bid? Unlikely.
The full details of the bid will stay under wraps until next week but we are promised the 'best stadia in England and Wales'. France did not use a stadium with a capacity less than 33,000 in 2007 and we can expect the tournament to be bigger and better by the time if rolls into Europe again. This means a lot of England's traditional grounds will surely be too small to offer the kind of revenue required to cover the £80m guarantee paid to the International Rugby Board.
So where can you expect to see some Rugby World Cup 2015 action if England beat rivals Italy, Japan and South Africa to the nod? Check out our latest Scrum Seven:
The home of English rugby is the centre piece of the RFU's bid and rightly so. The most recent improvements have seen the capacity climb to 82,000 and cement the stadium's place as one of the best rugby arenas in the world. The Twickenham complex now includes a hotel and if you're feeling flush then why not book one of the six 'pitch view' suites that offer an unprecedented Twickenham experience!
The stadium will no doubt host all England's games should they win the race to host the tournament and in addition will be pencilled in for the semi-finals and the final. Just don't plan on getting away from the 'Cabbage Patch' promptly after the game - better to stick around and celebrate or commiserate - such are the infamous logistical issues associated with the ground.
There is surely not another stadium in the world that can rival the atmosphere generated on match day at the Millennium Stadium - and you don't always need Wales to be playing, just ask New Zealand and France.
Arguably the best stadium in the land, Wales' home will surely play host to all their home games as reward for backing England's bid. In addition, the RFU's desire to squeeze as much revenue as possible from ticket sales the 74,500 capacity ground in central Cardiff will also see the stadium stage a quarter-final.
Rugby returned to the traditional home of football last year when the Barbarians took on the touring Wallabies in a match to commemorate the Olympic centenary and it will likely return in 2015 as long as they sort the turf out. The dodgy surface was fingered for serious injuries to Australia's Matt Dunning and Sekope Kepu and football's leading lights have since waded in.
However, 90,000 seats equal a whole lot of cash for the RFU's kitty as they look to justify the £80m guarantee demanded by Rugby World Cup Limited. A quarter-final match is assured and maybe even a semi-final - but perhaps that would be too much like the RFU admitting that the Football Association's stadium was better than theirs?
Old Trafford, or the Theatre of Dreams as it has been nicknamed, has been the home of Manchester United since 1910 and currently has a capacity of just over 76,000. It is no stranger to rugby - although the 13-man league code is a more frequent visitor. The stadium played host to its first international in 1997 when England took on the All Blacks and will once again welcome the national side later this year when they take on Argentina.
Its north-west location and size make it a shoe-in for the bid and is set to be granted at least a quarter-final clash and may well host one of the top nations.
The Madejski Stadium in Reading has been the home of Reading Football Club since it opened in 1998 but has also played host to London Irish since 2000. One of a host of modern football stadiums to rise up in the last ten years, the ground has a capacity of 25,000 with plans for that to be expanded to at least 30,000 and it will need all those and more.
Ideally placed geographically to be the focal point of one Rugby World Cup pool, it will take some negotiation to appease the football club's owner John Madejski but the existing relationship with the Exiles should enable that. The stadium also knows how to throw a party as anyone who has attended a St Patrick's Day game will testify.
The Walkers Stadium in Leicester, primarily the home of Championship-to-be side Leicester City, is one of those grounds likely to benefit from a lack of suitable rugby grounds in England's top flight.
The 32,500 capacity stadium is no stranger to the oval ball game having played host to Heineken Cup and Guinness Premiership matches involving their near-neighbours Leicester Tigers. Its location also allows the RFU to tap into the sport's popularity in the area with the Tigers being the most well-supported club in the country. But as with the Madejski Stadium, they will have to appease the football club's owners.
The Ricoh Arena is another relatively new football stadium, built in 2005, that has previously been utilised for rugby. The compact but impressive ground, that has a capacity of 32,600, has played host to both Heineken Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup action. London Wasps switched their pool stage clash with Munster to the ground in 2007 and the Irish province's red army of supporters were back to see their side beat Saracens in their semi-final clash the following year.
More recently, the RFU and their Welsh Rugby Union counterparts chose the stadium to successfully host this season's Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final double-header - a sure sign that their relationship will break new ground should RWC'15 be awarded to England.
Tournament organisers at RWC'07 in France used a total of 12 stadiums, including Wales' Millennium Stadium and Scotland's Murrayfield, so there are still some spots still to fill on our imaginary match schedule if RWC'15 matches that number.
The RFU would dearly love to use some of the larger football stadiums in England in the hope of cashing in and they are not short of potential options. Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, Liverpool's Anfield and Newcastle's St James' Park could all get the pound signs revolving in RFU chief Francis Baron's eyes. But a massive marketing effort and a sensible pricing strategy is also required to ensure full stadiums. Watch this space.