England and Wales host the 2015 Rugby World Cup. With tickets becoming available over the next few months, James Day looks at what the tournament’s venues have to offer, whether your group is looking to attend or simply take a closer look at one of the stadiums.
While England’s bid for the 2018 FIFA World Cup may have fallen flat under what one might call suspicious circumstances, the country is hosting the Rugby World Cup in September and October 2015, another huge sporting event for which the country has a great deal of heritage.
Many famous venues are involved in the tournament and what follows is the lowdown on each and what they can offer groups. Many of these are football grounds, so unfortunately there is more on offer for football fans than rugby fans, but this is nonetheless a chance to see some of the country’s most attractive new stadiums.
GTW has listed which matches will be played at each venue, although some qualifying matches were still being played as the magazine went to press.
England vs Fiji: Sep 18, France vs Italy: Sep 19, England vs Wales: Sep 26, England vs Australia: Oct 3, Australia vs Wales: Oct 10, Quarter Final 1: Oct 17, Quarter Final 4: Oct 18, Semi Final 1: Oct 24, Semi Final 2: Oct 25, Final: Oct 31
Seating an impressive 82,000 spectators, London’s Twickenham is the largest dedicated rugby union venue in the world and as a result will host more World Cup matches than any other stadium. All but one of England’s progression matches are guaranteed to be played there, no matter what route they take through the tournament or when/if they are knocked out. Twickenham offers more than just top flight sport and has become a destination for fans around the world to experience the excitement of a match day. Sample the history of a stadium tour, visit the superb World Rugby Museum, take a trip to the Rugby Store or watch some of the biggest names in music perform.
A tour of Twickenham Stadium is a fantastic way to discover more about the iconic home of English rugby. Every corner of the venue holds a special piece of history and highly knowledgeable guides will take visitors into the hallowed England dressing room, Royal Box, hospitality suites, medical room and the players’ tunnel. The tour also includes a breathtaking view of the arena from the top of the stand. All guides are experts in their field, providing a truly personal experience, while offering an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the stadium. The price of the tour includes admission to the World Rugby Museum, where visitors can relive some of the greatest rugby moments on interactive screens. The museum claims to hold the finest collection of rugby memorabilia in the world. Groups of 15 or more get a 10% discount, free coach parking and flexible tour times.
Ireland vs Canada: Sep 19, Wales vs Play-off Winner: Sep 20, Australia vs Fiji: Sep 23, Wales vs Fiji: Oct 1, New Zealand vs Georgia: Oct 2, France vs Ireland: Oct 11, Quarter Final 2: Oct 17, Quarter Final 3: Oct 18
Although England is named as the host nation of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, a number of matches will be played at Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium, the home of the Welsh rugby team. Groups can join one of the venue’s experienced tour guides and visit the Press Conference Suite, where the worlds of rugby and journalism meet. They can experience the build up before the match in the Dragon’s Lair, Wales’ team dressing room, and hear the roar of 74,500 fans as they walk down the players’ tunnel towards the pitch. The tour covers the only palletised pitch system and fully retractable roof in the UK, which allows the entire playing surface to be removed to create one of the world’s largest indoor arenas. You can take in the view of the pitch from a VIP hospitality suite and visit the President’s Box, an area normally reserved for royalty. It’s important to note that the pitch is not always in situ for the purpose of viewing on the stadium tour, especially during the summer months when this area is used for other events. Stadium Tours start at the Cardiff Arms Store/Welsh Rugby Union Store, No.8 Westgate St. (situated between Gates 3 & 4). Tours run Monday to Saturday from 1000 to 1700hrs and from 1000 to1600hrs on Sunday. Like with most stadiums, tours do run on match days or around certain events. For group bookings of 30 people or more, contact email@example.com or call 02920 822228.
France vs Romania: Sept 23, New Zealand vs Africa 1: Sep 24, Ireland vs Italy: Oct 4, South Africa vs USA: Oct 7, Third place play-off: Oct 30
Hosting five games at the tournament, the Rugby World Cup matches are about as soon as anyone will be able to experience sport at the Olympic Stadium in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. It is currently closed for redevelopment into the new home of West Ham United, who are due to take over the stadium in 2016. If you’re looking to organise a group visit to experience one of the match days and are not fussy about who to watch, the Olympic Stadium might be a good bet. It has a high capacity of 54,000 and with many of the teams playing based outside of Western Europe, you have a fairly good chance of getting hold of tickets. A good bet might be the third place play- off, where you’ll get to see two of the top four teams, but ticket availability might still be high since it is not a progression match.
Tonga vs Georgia: Sep 19, Scotland vs Japan: Sep 23, Argentina vs Georgia: Sep 25, USA vs Japan: Oct 11
Home of Gloucester Rugby, Kingsholm is one of the smaller venues to be used at the Rugby World Cup, with a capacity of 16,500. Nonetheless, it does provide a good match day experience. Visitors can dine in the Legends restaurant, enjoying a four course lunch before watching live rugby from some of the best seats in the stadium. During the season, there is an opportunity to meet former and current Gloucester Rugby players and potentially have a player sitting at the same table. Stadium tours are available as part of the package.
ST JAMES’ PARK
South Africa vs Scotland: Oct 3, New Zealand vs Tonga: Oct 9, Samoa vs Scotland: Oct 10
The sixth largest football stadium in the United Kingdom and located in the centre of Newcastle, the white cantilever roof of St James’ Park is visible across the city and is the largest cantilever in Europe. Besides club football, St. James Park has also been used for international football, as a venue for the 2012 Olympics, and will also be used as a rugby venue for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. In addition to professional football, the stadium has hosted charity football events and rock concerts and has been used as a set for film and reality television.
Newcastle United has launched a brand new stadium tour, looking behind-the- scenes at St James’ Park. Groups are taken to the highest point of the stadium where they will have a Magpie’s view of St James’ Park. The tour also includes a visit to the Home Dressing Room, Media Suite and the Dugouts, in addition to many other areas. The club claims to be the first UK football club to introduce a virtual assistant – cutting edge technology to enhance the tour experience. Many audio and visual effects are utilised throughout the tour.
For something a bit different, the stadium offers roof top tours, providing stunning views of the stadium and the city around it. Another option is the venue’s Ultimate Tour and Lunch Experience. This starts with a stadium tour, after which groups are taken to a private executive box overlooking the pitch to enjoy a sumptuous three- course meal and soak up the atmosphere within the stadium. On departure attendees are given a certfificate and special gift as a memento of the day. The Ultimate Tour and Lunch Experience costs £65 per person.
The venue operates daily for public tours and can meet specific requirements for private group tours, which are perfect for schools, groups and organisations. Packages are discounted depending on the size and time of your visit. For more information or to book call the Tour Guide Manager direct on 0844 372 1892 ext. 8704 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
LEICESTER CITY STADIUM
Argentina vs Tonga: Oct 4, Canada vs Romania: Oct 6, Argentina vs Africa 1: Oct 11
Home to Leicester City Football Club, which has just returned to the Premier League, the King Power Stadium can hold over 32,000 spectators, placing it within the 20 largest stadiums in England. Tours are offered at £8 per adult and £3 for under 18s, where a professional tour guide provides an hour’s tour through the history and evolution of the venue. The tour includes changing rooms, tunnel, executive areas, media suite, the referee’s room and the first team dugouts. The stadium is also ideal for conferences, meetings, banqueting and Christmas parties. Situated close to the heart of the city centre and offering free parking, free WiFi and nine conference and events suites, the venue offers exceptional facilities and service.
Tonga vs Africa 1: Sep 29, Africa 1 vs Georgia: Oct 7, Italy vs Romania: Oct 11
Home of the Exeter Chiefs Rugby Union team, Sandy Park is one of the smaller venues in use at the tournament, with a capacity of 10,744. However, major redevelopment work is taking place over the summer, which could see this capacity double.
The stadium’s grand reopening is due to take place on October 2, 2014. The venue has established itself as an award-winning conference and banqueting centre. It has the flexibility to host everything from large exhibition events to smaller, more intimate meetings, all within easy reach of the cathedral city of Exeter and the stunning countryside of East Devon and beyond. Sandy Park has a variety of versatile and dynamic spaces, including the impressive Exeter Suite, which has held host to a number of notable events. The top floor suites, the Chiefs and Estuary, offer striking and unrivalled views of the Sandy Park pitch and stadium and the stunning East Devon countryside. For the smaller more intimate meetings, Sandy Park’s seminar suites all have moveable walls and can enable various configurations and capacities as required.
Once the stadium has reopened, one of its first major events is the Autumn Wedding Fair on Sunday, October 19 between 1100 and 1500hrs, showcasing an extensive range of local wedding suppliers. Entry is free to all with a complimentary goody bag for all brides on arrival.
France vs Canada: Oct 1, Samoa vs Japan: Oct 3, Fiji vs Play-Off Winner: Oct 6
Home to the Milton Keynes Dons football team, Stadium MK is a sizable venue with a capacity for 30,500 fans. The stadium was completed in 2007, but since then it is widely accepted to have been somewhat overambitious. The MK Dons reside in Football League One currently and the stadium hasn’t got close to filling its capacity, despite room for an expansion capacity of 45,000. With this in mind, the stadium is a pretty safe bet if you’re looking to take a group to see a Rugby World Cup match. France vs Canada on October 1, 2015 is the standout choice here, since France will likely be one of the tournament favourites.
BRIGHTON COMMUNITY STADIUMS
South Africa vs Japan: Sep 19, Samoa vs USA: Sep 20
Most commonly known as the Amex Stadium, the attractive home of Brighton & Hove Albion FC is one of the newest venues to host Rugby World Cup games, having been completed in May 2011 at the cost of £93m. The stadium boasts 10 lounges, five concourses and outside space for team building activities. All lounges have state of the art equipment including plasma screens, built-in PA systems and WiFi. These are perfect for a variety of events including conferences, team building days, dinners, graduation ceremonies, corporate receptions, private parties, civil ceremonies and wedding receptions. Also available are 21 executive boxes which seat up to 10 guests and are ideal for board meetings. All facilities are air- conditioned, have natural daylight and overlook either the pitch or the South Downs. Stadium tours are also available throughout the year.
Italy vs Canada: Sep 26, Scotland vs USA: Sep 27
The home ground of Leeds United has a sizable capacity of almost 40,000 and is no stranger to rugby, having once housed to Holbeck Rugby Club and Hunslet Hawks. Elland Road is one of only a few stadiums which allow fans behind-the-scenes access on the day of a home game. The Elland Road Stadium Tour takes in all the main places of interest, including the dressing rooms where visitors may even get to see the kit being laid out in readiness for the game ahead. There’s an opportunity to walk up the player’s tunnel and take the managers seat in the dugout too! Matchday Stadium Tours start at 1000hrs prior to a 1500hrs kick off and 1400hrs prior to an evening kick off. Each tour lasts for approximately an hour and a half. Non-Matchday Tours run every Saturday at 1100hrs and Sunday at 1400hrs. An additional tour is also available on Friday afternoons at 1500hrs when there is a weekend fixture.
South Africa vs Samoa: Sep 26, Australia vs Play-Off Winner: Sep 27
Another football Premier League venue offering itself to the tournament is Villa Park, the home of Birmingham-based Aston Villa. One of the oldest stadiums in the country, its behind-the-scenes tours combine traditional heritage with state-of- the-art facilities. Tours take place on selected Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays within the month. While it is a case of ‘tour-only’ during the week, on Sundays visitors can also enjoy a three-course lunch. Tours also run throughout the week during the summer. Group booking discounts and student tours are available and interested parties should call 0800 612 0950 for more details.
New Zealand vs Argentina: Sep 20, Ireland vs Romania: Sep 27
The ever impressive Wembley Stadium is the host venue of just two games at the tournament, which is a bit of a shame. It remains to be seen whether the two games have sufficient clout to fill its 90,000 seats. GTW covered Wembley’s stadium tours in our May edition – briefly, they offer 15% discounted rates for groups of 25 or more, with plenty of footballing artefacts to see and behind-the-scenes access. Wembley also offers some very high- capacity rooms for conferences and banqueting. The Bobby Moore Room is Wembley’s grandest space, a room which is 3,480m2 in size and big enough for just about anything. The Great Hall is smaller, but still large enough for any large scale event. The Atrium is an inspiring and versatile space, which allows for flexible configurations of tables and seating in an area that is easily transformed, to allow anything from a theatre style meeting, an exhibition or classroom set up, to a workshop.
The Wembley Suite is also available, which has access to a seating area directly outside the suite, right above the player’s tunnel, with stunning views overlooking the pitch.
MANCHESTER CITY STADIUM
England vs Play-Off Winner: Oct 10
While it is only hosting a single game, this stadium is the only venue other than Twickenham which is guaranteed to host England, making tickets for the match in high demand. By the time the match takes place, a third tier will have been added to the South Stand, improving the total capacity to an impressive 54,000. A second phase of development will follow this, further increasing the capacity to 62,170 after the Rugby World Cup. The venue offers educational tours for schools and groups – a 60 minute journey through the past, present and future of Manchester City, including all the usual behind-the-scenes areas covered by your typical stadium tour, at a 50% reduction from regular tour prices, with one member of staff free for every 10 pupils/students. A number of additional presentations are also offered to groups of up to 30 at a cost of £40, suitable for educational groups of various ages.
LOOKING TO ATTEND?
If you’re after tickets for the tournament itself, general sale tickets become available on September 12, 2014, running until September 29. Those familiar with football prices should be pleasantly surprised, with tickets starting at £7 for children and £15 for adults. The issue is demand. Since the tickets, particularly for UK-based teams, are likely to be in high demand, there is no guarantee you will get the tickets you apply for. If more people apply for tickets than there are tickets available, they will be allocated via ballot. This makes it somewhat tricky to get a group to one of the matches. It might be worth instead travelling to the area where the game takes place and soaking up the atmosphere. Should any tickets remain after this stage, they will become available for real- time general sale in November/December 2014, sold on a first come, first served basis.