Sunday 21 January 2018

'The biggest Rugby World Cup ever' - If you haven't got a ticket, you better get one soon

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

Ticket sale targets for this year's Rugby World Cup are set to be hit before the competition kicks off in September, tournament chief Stephen Brown has said.

England and Fiji will play the opening 2015 World Cup game at Twickenham in just over nine weeks' time, and Brown delivered an upbeat message on a visit to Gloucester's Kingsholm stadium, which will host four pool fixtures.

"Ticket sales have been fantastic - the demand has been unbelievable," England Rugby 2015 managing director Brown told Press Association Sport.

"We are over 80 per cent tickets sold, and we are in a position now where we are likely to hit our target sales before the World Cup starts, which we never thought.

"The nice thing is that it is across the country. Brighton, for instance, is off the scale in terms of demand. While it is the south-east of the country, it is not necessarily rugby heartland.

"We want to make sure that every venue is sold out. We want to see every seat filled in every stadium - that is our ambition."

A total of 48 matches at 13 venues will get under way on September 18, many of them in traditional football strongholds like St James' Park in Newcastle and Villa Park, Birmingham, while England's final group fixture against Uruguay will be at the Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City.

"It is almost certainly going to be the biggest and best (Rugby World Cup) from a commercial perspective, and all of that money goes back into rugby," Brown added.

"I think you can comfortably say it is going to be the biggest. It's down to the teams to make it the best from a rugby perspective, but obviously, it is going to be a fantastic spectacle."

Read more: Paul O'Connell: Doubts in the back of my mind make me train harder

In terms of World Cup legacy, Brown accepts that improved participation figures are crucial.

"One of the key messages we looked at at the RFU (Rugby Football Union) was capacity," said Brown, who is also the RFU's chief financial officer.

"We don't want to be in a position where we suddenly make all this demand for people who want to get involved in rugby in some shape or form, and then they turn up at their local rugby club and there is not the capacity to assist them to do it.

"Our commitment almost five years ago was to start investing in building capacity in the game, and that is happening.

"If you look at (the RFU's) financial results, we have put record investment into the grassroots of the game - buildings, social spaces within clubs, coaching provision.

"I think we will miss a trick if we don't get an improvement in participation with the scale of this tournament."

And Brown admits the London 2012 Olympics spectacle remains a source of inspiration as the World Cup countdown continues and the Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour, which visited Kingsholm and Hartpury College on Wednesday, continues to wind its way around the country.

"The scale of an Olympics is different - it's multiple sports - but we are absolutely inspired by London. I don't think any sport could not be inspired, really, given how fantastic it was," Brown added.

"We would love to do exactly the same thing, and add our own colour to it as well.

"On a practical level, we have actually employed quite a significant number of people from London 2012. We want to do our bit, do it our way, and we have great people working for us who know how to do it as well.

"There is a lot to do in 65 days, but there is a lot of excitement. There is appropriate apprehension, which is good, and everyone is absolutely up for it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance - it doesn't matter what your role is."

Read more: Paul O'Connell: Doubts in the back of my mind make me train harder

Read more: Paul O'Connell on his Toulon change of heart and ending his Irish career after World Cup

Press Association

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