Sunday 18 March 2018

Rugby World Cup 2015 spectators to receive idiot’s guide to help understand rules

The Webb Ellis Cup pitchside at Twickenham Stadium
The Webb Ellis Cup pitchside at Twickenham Stadium

Gavin Mairs

Novices to rugby union who have bought tickets for the World Cup this year are to be given a helping hand to understand the sport’s complicated laws, under an initiative by the tournament organisers.

The interpretation of rugby’s laws can at times baffle even the experts, so England Rugby 2015, the company organising the tournament, hopes the move will ensure that the uninitiated are able to have a greater understanding of the action.

The World Cup, which is being staged in England in September and October, differs from Six Nations Championship matches as a large portion of the 2.8  million tickets are being sold directly to the public, including a new batch of 25,000 that went on sale this week.

Tickets for Six Nations games and QBE Series matches each autumn are allocated to members of rugby clubs. To ensure that those people who may be attending their first match are not left bewildered by the laws, ER2015 has appointed a “sports presentation” company to draw up ways of explaining them to newcomers.

A major plank of the Rugby Football Union’s decision to host the tournament was to increase participation in the grass-roots game by exposing the sport to new audiences but ER2015 is also conscious that the laws initiative does not “patronise” experienced supporters. A similar programme was employed during the London Olympic Games in 2012.

Ideas thought to be under con­sideration include providing pamphlets explaining some of the laws to the uninitiated when the tickets are sent out, as well as graphics and video clips shown on big screens before and during matches and at official fan zones across the country.

Paul O’Connell celebrates with his team-mates after lifting the Six Nations trophy, but will the success come at a price for the country’s provincial sides?
Paul O’Connell celebrates with his team-mates after lifting the Six Nations trophy, but will the success come at a price for the country’s provincial sides?

“The challenge is doing our best to help explain the laws of the game to people who are new to rugby while also not patronising or annoying fans who really do understand it,” an ER2012 spokesman said. “We have appointed a company to do it and are still finalising our plans.

“It is about taking the core principles of things like ref-link [which allows supporters to listen to the comments of the match referee via an earphone], which works really well and how we can extend that to the big screens in the stadiums.

“It involves everything around how we present the sport to the spectators in the venue and there will be an explanatory element to it, but we need to make sure we do it in a way that works for people who already know rugby very well.”

A new tranche of tickets that went on sale this week included a mixture of seats released from ongoing venue planning and configuration, handbacks from the tournament’s commercial programme and unions, and tickets that have been registered for official resale by fans who can no longer attend matches. They included an additional 12 matches at Sandy Park, Kingsholm, Brighton Community Stadium, Elland Road and Villa Park. This is in addition to the 16 games which are already on sale.

England’s matches against Australia and Wales are sold out, as are both semi-finals and the final at Twickenham, but tickets may become available for all other matches, even those that are currently not showing availability on the ticketing website.

“Anyone can buy the tickets, whether you have been to rugby all your life or whether you have never been to a rugby match before,” the ER2015 spokesman said. “So, obviously, there is a view that we will be bringing more people into the game, which is one of the reasons why the RFU bid to host the tournament, to grow participation.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle have confirmed that they will help Georgia’s World Cup preparations by playing them at Kingston Park on Aug 28.

Read more: Paul O'Connell: We're outsiders for the World Cup; in 2007 we were engulfed by expectation

Read more: Munster's CJ Stander honoured to pick up top award

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