A Surrey guide to the Rugby World Cup 2015
PUBLISHED: 16:53 20 September 2015 | UPDATED: 12:04 05 October 2015
As Rugby World Cup fever hits the nation this month, Matthew Williams brings us a handy bluffer's guide to this international event on our doorstep - from the best alternative places to watch the games to the local heroes we'll be cheering on...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine September 2015
Unusual places to watch the action
With stadium tickets at a premium for the top games, fear not as Surrey is set to be awash with Rugby World Cup fever.
At Richmond’s official Fanzone, which will give fans an opportunity to soak up the atmosphere from a big screen, Martin Johnson, Sean Fitzpatrick and Jonah Lomu are just three of the legends of the game who will be taking to the stage there during the course of the tournament. The Old Deer Park will provide the location, with an overall capacity of 10,000 people, while on ‘non-rugby’ screening days, The Big Hullabaloo will be a series of ticketed events providing live entertainment.
Then there’s the special events being put on at proactive hotels, restaurants and pubs around the area, with the uber-chic Bingham in Richmond taking advantage of the town’s rugby associations with a series of barbecue screenings. These will feature creative menus themed around the opponents.
Away from our northern border, the Radisson Blu Edwardian in Guildford is making the most of their brand-new terrace, offering VIP packages with four giant screens providing the focal point. Over at the nearby Surrey Sports Park, which is also hosting the Italy and Ireland teams, they will be showing every match in their Rugby World Cup- themed Bench Sports Bar, with barbecues for England’s Saturday night games.
Of course, beer and watching rugby go hand-in-hand, but some are taking that knowledge a little more seriously than others... you’ll even be able to watch games at some of our local breweries. Both Twickenham and Dorking breweries are planning to open their doors for some of the battles; anticipation is high with taxi firms.
Finally, why not head back to the grass roots of the game and check out what your local rugby club is up to? Many of them will be throwing open their arms to the public, as well as members, and who better to watch the games with than a dedicated expert crowd who can help to explain the intricacies of the sport?
Did you know?
The 82,000 capacity Twickenham Stadium is also home to the World Rugby Museum.
Carry local heroes home
Leading the impressive Surrey pack at the World Cup is England captain Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), who spent his formulative years at Warlingham RFC.
Chris played at the club from the age of seven to 13, before heading off to boarding school and, in turn, on to Harlequins and his central role in the England team, but has never forgotten his roots.
“He has always been very supportive and returns to the club whenever he can to inspire our mini and junior players, help with fund-raisers and catch up with his old teammates, some of whom went on to Warlingham seniors,” says Warlingham RFC youth chairman, Frank Wright.
Robshaw is joined by fellow Quins, Mike Brown, Danny Care, Nick Easter and Joe Marler, who, when not on England duty, train at Surrey Sports Park in Guildford with the English Premiership team.
Meanwhile, mercurial fly-half Danny Cipriani is a former pupil of Whitgift School in Croydon – and was also joined in the original 50-man training squad by fellow Old Whitgiftians, Marland Yarde and Elliot Daly.
“It’s a rare achievement for any one school to have three former students named in the England squad, and a great source of pride,” says Whitgift’s director of rugby, Chris Wilkins, a former London Wasps player. “Although Danny left before I started, I coached Marland and Elliot, so it is brilliant to see them continue to develop.”
Another player on the team with Surrey roots is Anthony Watson, who received his first England squad call-up only two years after leaving St George’s College in Weybridge – making his league debut for London Irish at the tender age of 17 in 2011.
And, last but certainly not least, there’s also American-born Alex Corbisiero (Northampton Saints) who was first spotted as a 15-year-old at Cobham RFC and now has 19 caps for England.
Did you know?
Folklore has it that William Webb Ellis invented rugby when he picked the ball up during a football match at Rugby School in 1823.
At the base of the scrum
With Twickenham just on the borders of our county, Pennyhill Park in Bagshot has long been the official England training base, with folk who stay at the luxury hotel occasionally bumping into players at breakfast.
“It feels like only yesterday that we were congratulating England on winning the 2003 Rugby World Cup when the squad were staying here with us,” says Pennyhill Park general manager, Julian Tomlin.
“Since that exciting time, we have not only been the official England training base but have also made great strides in the quality of the pitch and have added new training facilities.”
Elsewhere in Surrey, a number of other venues have been confirmed as bases for the visiting teams too, including Surrey Sports Park in Guildford (Italy and Ireland); Cobham RFC (Italy and Namibia); and Trinity School in Croydon (France).
“Surrey Sports Park already has a proud history of hosting elite teams and athletes, including English Premiership’s Harlequins and 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup champions, England,” says chief executive, Paul Blanchard.
Basically, you’ll be quite hard-pressed not to bump into a rugby star at our hotels and sports venues!
Did you know?
The first Rugby World Cup took place in 1987 with Australia and New Zealand joint hosts. The All Blacks won it.
What is a hooker?
Rugby terminology that will help ease water cooler chats for the previously uninitiated…
Conversion: A two-point (if successful) kick at the posts after a try is scored.
Drop goal: A kick at the posts from the hands, taken at any time. The most famous example is Jonny Wilkinson’s World Cup winning kick in Australia.
Haka: An intimidating cultural performance by many Southern Pacific teams as a challenge before a match. The All Blacks (New Zealand) set the bar.
Hooker: Stop the giggling at the back. A front row forward, the hooker will normally also take the line-out throws.
Line-out: The set piece that re-starts play after the ball has gone into touch (off at the sides). Both sets of forwards line up opposite each other and compete for a ball thrown down the middle.
Maul: This refers to when a player is tackled but manages to keep on his feet long enough for his own players to provide support and attempt to push him and the ball further up the pitch.
Offsides: During rucks, scrums, line-outs, and mauls, players must remain behind an imaginary line. Much like with football, the awarding (or not) of penalties for offsides can cause confused discussion – and complaints about the officiating.
Ruck: This is what’s happening when the players all appear to be lying on the ground scrapping for the ball…
Scrum: When rugby fans attempt to get a beer at half-time. And the formation used to re-start play after a knock-on or forward pass. Opposing players gather, crouch and drive at each other attempting to push the other side back. Crouch, touch, pause, engage… or crouch, bind, set... or...
Sin-bin: What happens to rugby fans who enjoy their match pints a little too freely. And a temporary punishment for players who get a little carried away with their aggression and need to cool down.
Try: When a player leaps (or falls) over the other team’s try line (the bit at the end of the pitch by the posts) for a score of five points.
Webb Ellis Trophy: The bit of metal that all the competitors are hoping to win…
Dates for your diary
Friday September 18, 8pm
England v Fiji
Saturday September 26, 8pm
England v Wales
Saturday October 3, 8pm
England v Australia
Quarter-finals: Saturday October 17 and Sunday October 18
Semi-finals: Saturday October 24 and Sunday October 25
Final: Saturday October 31