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Volume 6 No. 216
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Organizers Reveal Venues, Schedule For 2015 Rugby World Cup In England

Rugby World Cup organizers said that London's Olympic Stadium "will host four pool matches and the third-place playoff in the 2015 rugby World Cup," while England "will briefly leave their Twickenham base" to play at Man City's Etihad Stadium, according to Mitch Phillips of REUTERS. The final list of venues revealed at a news conference at Twickenham also includes Wembley, for two games, and Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, though Wales' only two pool games there are against a playoff winner and the top Oceania team. The tournament "will consist of 48 matches" -- 40 group games played by four pools each of five countries, four quarterfinals, two semifinals, a third-place playoff and the final (REUTERS, 5/2).

SPREADING THE WEALTH: In London, Ben Rumsby reported almost half of the 48 matches were awarded to the southeast, "with 17 given to London venues and five more shared between Milton Keynes and Brighton." In contrast, the north "was handed just six games." But England 2015 CEO Debbie Jevans, who was in charge of compiling the match schedule, said, "We have taken the game to the whole country." The "embarrassing withdrawal of Old Trafford from the bidding process forced Jevans to lean more heavily on larger venues in the south" in order to meet an IRB revenue target of £80M ($124M). The Etihad Stadium "also stepped into the breach but only for one fixture, which Jevans denied had left 'a hole'" (TELEGRAPH, 5/2). In London, Josh Burrows reported Scotland "will play two matches at Newcastle's St. James' Park, including eye-catching fixtures against South Africa and Samoa, with New Zealand, the world champion, facing Tonga on Tyneside." Newcastle Falcons Rugby Dir Dean Richards said the city and the North East, renowened for its footballing passion, "couldn't ask for three better games" (LONDON TIMES, 5/2).

HOME COOKING? Also in London, Robert Kitson opined "the not-so-subtle art of making home advantage count has already started." How else "to interpret a carefully massaged tournament fixture schedule" which will see England play all but one of its games in the familiar surroundings of Twickenham while its rivals dash up and down the country like harassed sales reps? There are "other cunning little details, too, which suggest a fixture computer deliberately programmed to favour the local lads." England "will have a handy eight-day cushion to ready themselves for the crunch pool game against Wales, while their opponents have two days fewer" (GUARDIAN, 5/2).

LATE ADDITIONS: The BBC reported "Sandy Park and the Etihad Stadium were added to the list" after ManU's Old Trafford stadium "was withdrawn." Five other football stadiums "were also omitted -- Sunderland's Stadium of Light, St. Mary's in Southampton, Bristol City's Ashton Gate, Derby's Pride Park and the Ricoh Arena in Coventry" (BBC, 5/2). In London, Robin Scott-Elliot reported "only four rugby grounds have been included in the list of 13 stadiums." Gloucester's Kingsholm and Exeter's Sandy Park "are the only club grounds included with the organisers commitment to selling 2.9 million tickets," along with a guaranteed £80M return to the IRB, necessitating the selection of eight football grounds (INDEPENDENT, 5/2).

TICKET TIME: Also in London, Owen Gibson reported Rugby World Cup organizers "face having to raise ticket prices after complications surrounding the schedule led to a reduction of around 300,000 in the total available." They promised to honor minimum-price guarantees of £7 ($10) but "refused to rule out an increase in the average price as a result of the lower overall capacity." Jevans said that organizers would honor "he commitment to minimum prices of £7 that was made during the bidding process." When it launched its bid to host the competition in '09, the Rugby Football Union "promised minimum prices for the pool games," rising to £40 ($62) for the quarterfinals and £75 ($116) for the semifinals. It also pledged average ticket prices of £71 ($110), based on average attendances of 50,000 (GUARDIAN, 5/2).

Rugby World Cup 2015 Venues
Stadium City
Brighton Community Stadium
Brighton & Hove
Manchester City Stadium
Elland Road
Kingsholm Stadium
Gloucester 16,115
Leicester City Stadium
Millennium Stadium
Olympic Stadium
Sandy Park
Milton Keynes
St. James' Park
Newcastle upon Tyne
Villa Park
Wembley Stadium
Source: IRB

FAIR SCHEDULE: EUROSPORT reported organizers "came up with a schedule that gives the sport's lesser lights a fighting chance." It "had long been a running sore that the tier two nations have been forced to operate on minimal rest." Everyone involved in the game recognized "the unfair nature of the schedule," and the organizers "have finally produced a fairer programme." IRB CEO Brett Gosper said, "We just wanted to make sure there was no disparity in the rest-day balance between tier one and tier two nations" (EUROSPORT, 5/2).

Rugby World Cup 2015 fixtures.