All eyes are on Twickenham in the run up to the Rugby World Cup 2015 in September. Here’s everything you need to know about the world famous sports tournament
Words: Will Gore
The eyes of the sporting world will be trained on Twickenham on September 18 when England kick off the Rugby World Cup 2015 against Fiji. And, along with all the famous players, the legendary stadium will be one of the stars of the six-week show as it will host many of the tournament’s most important matches, including the majority of England’s games, key clashes in the knockout rounds and, of course, the big one; the final on October 31.
Ten games in total will be played at Twickenham and, thanks to the ground’s 82,000 capacity and the 10,000-capacity ‘fanzone’, complete with big screens, that will be open in Old Deer Park throughout the tournament, the borough of Richmond upon Thames will certainly be buzzing during the World Cup.
Twickenham Stadium is used to putting on match after match throughout the year, but as far as the borough is concerned a huge amount of preparation and planning has had to be undertaken to ensure everything runs smoothly, both for spectators and local residents. Councillor Pamela Fleming, Richmond Council’s cabinet member for environment, business and community, says that the council has done detailed work with Rugby World Cup 2015 organisers and other bodies to get everything in place. Issues such as transport, licensing and anti-social behaviour have all had to be considered, with numerous public meetings being held and the creation of a dedicated area on the council’s website to keep people informed.
‘It’s incredibly important that we communicate exactly what is happening to our residents and businesses, and that they know where to find out information,’ she says. ‘We know the tournament is coming and that it will be of great benefit to the borough and so the aim is that residents and businesses get plenty from it and enjoy it, as well as the people coming to watch.’
The plans for the duration of the tournament include road closures in close proximity to the stadium including a section of the A316 (affected residents will be given special access permits), the setting up of park and ride services and the laying on of extra trains and buses. There are also strategies to curb the kind of anti-social behaviour that can occur when people drink too much, the likes of which so upset local residents after the Rugby Sevens event at the stadium earlier this year.
‘On the whole local people are very positive about the World Cup coming here, but there are some concerns,’ says Councillor Fleming. ‘We must, though, discount the appalling behaviour after the Rugby Sevens because we will have a different kind of crowd to the one that came to that. There will be additional toilets and better stewarding so that will help and the situation will also be managed by a sensible licensing policy which has been discussed with local publicans.’
Some lucky residents in Twickenham and Richmond will have the opportunity to join the arriving hordes in sampling the heady atmosphere of World Cup matches at the home of English rugby thanks to special ticket arrangements, as a spokesperson for England Rugby 2015 explains. ‘There was an allocation of tickets made available in a ballot of local residents in line with most match days at Twickenham,’ the spokesperson says.
‘Tickets were also made available through the Engage programme that has given host cities
an allocation for community groups, grass roots rugby clubs and young people involved in sport, with the aim being to develop sport in the area and leave a legacy.’
And leaving a sporting legacy in the borough is something Councillor Fleming is quick to endorse. She is also delighted that Richmond upon Thames is being given a chance to shine. ‘I hope visitors see the best of the borough including some of the wonderful things that go on here when there isn’t a rugby match going on, such as Kew Gardens and our other fantastic attractions,’ she says. ‘People are proud of the borough of Richmond and want to show it off, and because the Rugby World Cup is being screened globally, we have the ability to showcase it to the world.’
And what about the rugby itself? The mighty All Blacks will surely end up playing quite a few matches at Twickenham as the tournament reaches its latter stages and few will bet against them keeping hold of the William Webb Ellis trophy, which they won on their own turf back in 2011. Looking to depose them will be the usual suspects of South Africa and Australia, while Wales and Ireland will be confident of making an impact on the tournament. An improving England side, with what could be a crucial home advantage, will also be dreaming of glory. And if the boys in white can win the Rugby World Cup at Twickenham it would mean Richmond upon Thames playing host to one of the country’s greatest ever sporting achievements.
For more details about the Rugby World Cup 2015, including fixtures, team news and tickets, visit rugbyworldcup.com. For a comprehensive guide to Richmond Council’s plans for the tournament, including information on road closures, visit richmond.gov.uk/rugby_world_cup