Rugby World Cup 2015 by Derek Wyatt
The Rugby World Cup starts on 18th September 2015 with an opening ceremony at Twickenham followed by England v Fiji. It will end - again at HQ - with the final on 31st October. You may not follow rugby union but it will be hard to avoid it over the next six weeks.
The first World Cup was held in New Zealand and Australia in 1987. Most rugby supporters missed it. It was a low key affair won inevitably by the All Blacks. They only seem to win the event when it is played at home. So given they hosted it in 2011 of course they won it with the unflattering score line 8-7 against France. Both North and South islands almost capsized with tears of joy (and some relief).
Poor France have lost three finals in 1987 (v NZ), in 1999 (v Australia) and in 2011. They were the hosts in 2007 but were defeated by a resurgent English side in the semi-finals. Australia won in 1991 and 1997 and lost at home in that epic final against England in Sydney in extra time 17-14 in 2003.
South Africa was re-admitted to the world game only after the end of Apartheid and won on their first showing at home in 1995 against the All Blacks.This final has been brilliantly captured by John Carlin in his book Playing The Enemy and the subsequent film Invictus. Poor New Zealand....the night before the game they were out having a quiet curry but by the morning - and even during the game -many players were privileged to experience an action replay of their meal. Sadly, they had, it seems, been deliberately poisoned.
In 2007, in a surprisingly downbeat Rugby World Cup, both Australia (sent packing by England) and New Zealand failed to make it to the final. Instead, the Springboks took onEngland. This was a re-enaction of the opening game of the tournament which sawEngland lose 36-0.
I was in the official party of the UK Government and the RFU and the noises off that evening included firing Brian Ashton, the coach as well as sending some players home! So it must have come as some surprise to them to see England in the final. Alas, they lost again this time 15-6.
Host sides usually do pretty well. Apart from 2007, they have always made it throughto the final. This year England are the hosts. They have a tough set of openingmatches in the pool stage including v Australia and v Wales with only the toptwo going through to the Quarter Finals! Let's hope they find their form as their warm up games against France were lack lustre.
Twickenham promises lots of fireworks, plenty of entertainment before kick off and a new approach to a World Cup. Much of the history and development of the ground has been beautifully captured in Chris Jones's book The Secret Life of Twickenham which is just out in paperback and published by Aurum.
William "Billy" Williams and William Cail, the RFU's Treasurer bought the ground on its behalf in 1907 for £5572.12s and 6d (£5572.62 and a half penny in real money). It was an odd choice - no tube, no overground, and poor road links (nothing changes) and yetit is a shining beacon to the game today. In 1965,
Twickenham had four full time staff and three home fixtures. Two were from the then Five Nations tournament and the other was the Varsity match (then a sell out). It's income was a mere £100,000. As Chris Jones puts it, it would have been hard toanticipate today's annual income which is north of £150m.
My how the game has changed.
(Derek Wyatt played for England and has written three books onthe rugby world cups two co-authored with Colin Herridge).