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Rugby World Cup

Eleven cities across England and Wales will host matches at this year’s Rugby World Cup. Some of the 13 stadiums are primarily used for football. We take a look at each venue and chart their rugby heritage

by Tom Walker, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management 2015 issue 2
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Elland Road, Leeds

Capacity: 37,914

Opened: 1897

Home stadium of: Leeds United AFC

Matches at 2015 World Cup: 2

Background: Rugby union has been played here before – in 1992 more than 14,000 turned up to watch a North of England XV play South Africa in an exhibition match. Home of Leeds United AFC, the stadium is England’s 12th largest and throughout its history has hosted a number of rugby league clubs.

Elland Road will host two games
Elland Road will host two games

Brighton Community Stadium

Capacity: 30,750

Opened: 2008

Home stadium of: Brighton and Hove Albion

Matches at 2015 World Cup: 2

Background: Constructed at a cost of £93m, the stadium’s architecture and atmosphere has won plaudits from both sports fans and architects. It has held one rugby union game – a under-20s Six Nations contest between England and France in March 2015.

The Brighton Community Stadium is one of eight football venues used for the 2015 Rugby World Cup
The Brighton Community Stadium is one of eight football venues used for the 2015 Rugby World Cup

Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester

Capacity: 16,500

Opened: 1891

Home stadium of: Gloucester Rugby

Matches at 2015 World Cup: 4

Background: After hosting its first Test match in 1900 (Wales beating England 13-3), Kingsholm had to wait 91 years and for the 1991 World Cup for its next international game, when 12,000 spectators witnessed an all-conquering New Zealand demolish USA 46-6. The stadium is home to Aviva Premiership side Gloucester – widely regarded as having the noisiest crowd in the country, due to the boisterous inhabitants of The Shed stand.

Kingsholm will be one of the oldest venues used during the tournament
Kingsholm will be one of the oldest venues used during the tournament
Gloucester’s Kingsholm stadium, which is famous for its noisy atmosphere, will host four World Cup games
Gloucester’s Kingsholm stadium, which is famous for its noisy atmosphere, will host four World Cup games

Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

Capacity: 74,154

Opened: 1999

Home stadium of: Welsh rugby and football national teams

Matches at 2015 World Cup: 8

Background: For a relatively new stadium, the Welsh national stadium has already sealed a place in rugby history – Wales secured Six Nations Grand Slam victories here in 2005 and 2012. Situated a stone’s throw from Cardiff Central Station, it is the second largest sports venue in the world with a fully retractable roof and hosted games during the Rugby World Cup 1999 – including the Australia - France final.

The Millennium Stadium has a rich rugby heritage –despite its young age
The Millennium Stadium has a rich rugby heritage –despite its young age

London Olympic Stadium

Capacity: 54,000

Opened: 2011

Home stadium of: West Ham United, UK Athletics (from 2016)

Matches at 2015 World Cup: 5

Background: The iconic centrepiece of the London 2012 Olympic Games is currently undergoing a redevelopment programme which will see it fully reopen in 2016. The works will be interrupted for the Rugby World Cup and to make sure it is ready for the tournament, the stadium will host a test event rugby match on 29 August 2015, when the Barbarians will face Samoa.

London Olympic Stadium
London Olympic Stadium

Sandy Park, Exeter

Capacity: 12,300

Opened: 2006

Home stadium of: Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club

Matches at 2015 World Cup: 3

Background: Built to replace the ageing County Ground, the Chiefs’ new home was expanded early from 8,000 to its current size of 10,744. A combination of Exeter’s establishment as a top-flight club and Rugby World Cup 2015 will see the capacity increase further, to 20,600, over the next two years – making it one of the biggest club rugby grounds in England.

Sandy Park, Exeter
Sandy Park, Exeter

City of Manchester Stadium

Capacity: 47,800

Opened: 2002

Home stadium of: Manchester City FC

Matches at 2015 World Cup: 1

Background: Manchester’s 2002 Commonwealth Games, the venue has witnessed athletics heroes Jonathan Edwards and Paula Radcliffe set Games records to win gold in the triple jump and 5,000m respectively. The stadium had rugby at its heart early on. In the Sevens final at the 2002 Games, New Zealand defeated Fiji to claim gold. It has also hosted international rugby league, and the super league’s Magic Weekend event in 2012.

The City of Manchester Stadium has a rich tradition of hosting rugby games over the years
The City of Manchester Stadium has a rich tradition of hosting rugby games over the years

Leicester City Stadium

Capacity: 32,312

Opened: 3

Home stadium of: Leicester City Football Club

Matches at 2015 World Cup: 3

Background: While the decision not to use Leicester Tigers’ Welford Park during the World Cup was seen as a controversial move, Leicester City FC’s home stadium has hosted a number of rugby games before. Leicester Tigers have played six matches here, including a 2005 Heineken Cup semi-final. In 2006, to celebrate the centenary of Springbok overseas tours, the stadium hosted a World XV v South Africa match.

The stadium was chosen ahead of Welford Road partly due to its superior facilities
The stadium was chosen ahead of Welford Road partly due to its superior facilities

Twickenham Stadium, London

Capacity: 81,605

Opened: 1909

Home stadium of: England rugby (RFU)

Matches at 2015 World Cup: 10

Background: The home of English rugby, Twickenham is etched into rugby’s DNA. The biggest dedicated rugby ground in the world, it staged its first game between two local sides, Harlequins and Richmond in 1909. It has played host to some of rugby’s most unforgettable moments – from England captain Bill Beaumont being lifted off the field after the 1980 Grand Slam, to Phillippe Saint-Andre’s incredible try for France in 1991. This year, it will host its second World Cup final.

The home of rugby will host the final, both semi-finals and two of the quarter finals during the World Cup
The home of rugby will host the final, both semi-finals and two of the quarter finals during the World Cup

Stadium MK, Milton Keynes

Capacity: 30,717

Opened: 2007

Home Stadium of: MK Dons

Matches at 2015 World Cup: 3

Background: The ground has already staged a handful of rugby union games. In 2008, Saracens played Bristol here in a Premiership game and during the 2010-11 season, Northampton Saints used Stadium MK as a base for their assault on the Heineken Cup knockout stages. Saints have since returned to face Saracens, and both sides may play future games at the stadium, too. The arena has expanded this year, with a new tier adding 10,000 more seats.

Stadium MK will host three games
Stadium MK will host three games

St. James’ Park, Newcastle

Capacity: 52,409

Opened: 1880

Home stadium of: Newcastle United FC

Matches at 2015 World Cup: 3

Background: Outside London, St James’ is the second biggest sports ground in England. Built on the site of the city’s execution gallows, the infamous location lends its name to one of the stands – the Gallowgate End. The stadium has hosted international football – including games at the London 2012 Olympic Games – but the World Cup will mark the first ever official rugby games for the stadium.

The World Cup will see the first ever official rugby union games played at St. James’ Park
The World Cup will see the first ever official rugby union games played at St. James’ Park

Villa Park, Birmingham

Capacity: 42,785

Opened: 1897

Home stadium for: Aston Villa Football Club

Matches at 2015 World Cup: 2

Background: Originally built in a Victorian amusement park on the site of a Jacobean stately home, the distinctive brick façade of the Holte End is unmistakable, setting Villa apart from generic grounds. The stadium has hosted everything from athletics, cycling and boxing to rugby league. It has also seen two rugby union touring sides play – in 1924, a North Midlands select side were thumped 40-3 by New Zealand, and in 1953, a Midlands County XV were also dismantled, this time 18-3, by a Kiwi outfit including legendary All Blacks Bob Stuart, Richard White and Peter Jones.

Villa Park will host the Australians and the Springboks during the World Cup
Villa Park will host the Australians and the Springboks during the World Cup

Wembley Stadium, London

Capacity: 90,000

Opened: 2007

Home stadium for: The England football national team

Matches at 2015 World Cup: 2

Background: The original Wembley Stadium hosted five of football’s European cup finals, the 1966 World Cup Final and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1948 Olympic Games. The symbolic twin towers were demolished in 2003 and re-emerged as an equally iconic Norman Foster-designed masterpiece, complete with distinctive arch. The venue has rugby pedigree, too. Wembley hosted its first rugby international in 1992, when England defeated a touring Canada side 26-13 while Twickenham underwent redevelopment, but Wales have played the most games here: contesting seven internationals while the Millennium Stadium was being built in the late 1990s.

The home of football was home to Welsh rugby when the Millennium Stadium was being built
The home of football was home to Welsh rugby when the Millennium Stadium was being built
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