Oval Talk

RWC2015 missing a trick?

Oval Talk

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The release this Monday morning of the shortlist of potential venues for the Rugby World Cup in 2015 has sent the rugby sphere into fevered debate.

The omission of Leicester Tigers' Welford Road ground from the 17-strong roll leaves Gloucester's Kingsholm as the only traditional club rugby venue to be included.

Twickenham is on there, with Leicester City FC's ground preferred to the iconic Welford Road by organisers England Rugby 2015 (ER 2015) and five Premier League football stadia also named despite continued uncertainty about their availability due to potential clashes with the start of the football season.

The list has been published after a thorough evaluation of the venues on offer by ER2015, who undertook their assessment in cooperation with Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) and ITV, who will be the host broadcaster for the 2015 tournament.

A good geographical spread as well as the necessary logistical and facility requirement were all obviously taken into great consideration, as is needed for a competition of this scale, but surely the decision to omit a ground as historically embedded in the English game as Welford Road is a severance that could have been done without? It is hard to believe that a stadium that has been extensively redeveloped in recent years cannot be incorporated into plans.

"Our vision for Rugby World Cup 2015 is to ensure that we take this prestigious tournament to as many parts of the country as possible," said ER2015 chairman Andy Cosslett upon the release of the list on Monday.

"We are confident that with the venues selected we will be able to reach our target of having up to 2.9 million tickets available, opening up the tournament to more people than ever before and in turn delivering the biggest and best Rugby World Cup that there has ever been".

A logical and expansive sentiment in keeping with the idea of continually pushing the game into the wider public consciousness, but one that at the same time failed to even acknowledge the omission of more traditional club grounds in favour of larger, football stadia.

Nobody disputes the fact that many club rugby grounds in England would not be up to the job of hosting a World Cup game. Rugby romanticists would love to see a match hosted at Bath's Rec for example, but the reality is that many club grounds — such as the Rec — continue to live in a state of constant repair, uncertainty or sub-standard facilities.

But the non-inclusion of a ground (Welford Road) that could host one of the less in-demand pool stage games, and one which would help to retain some sense of history before the tournament progresses to the knockout stages and the obvious need for 80,000-plus capacity venues would have done little harm to the planning of the competition, and would have satisfied an urge to link the past with the future.

As it stands the list will be whittled down to a final version of 12 venues early next year, at which stage Kingsholm could well get the chop too.

Yes RWC2015 needs big-scale venues to accommodate those 2.9 million tickets that will be sold, but it could also do with a small dose of rugby tradition along the way as well.

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