England legend Jason Leonard OBE was at West Ham United FC to welcome rugby's most prestigious prize, the Webb Ellis Cup, to the borough of Newham as part of the Rugby World Cup Trophy tour.
The tournament will be held from Friday September 18 to Saturday October 31. Involving 20 teams, the 48 matches will take place in 13 venues across 10 cities in England and Cardiff in Wales. With 2.3 million tickets available, 460,000 visitors expected and a global TV reach of 4 billion, it is predicted to be the biggest Rugby World Cup ever.
The Webb Ellis Cup, is currently in London as it travels across the UK and Ireland for the 100-day trophy tour. The coveted silverware has been on a 12 month journey around the world as part of a celebration of rugby and marks the countdown to the opening ceremony of the World Cup 2015 at Twickenham Stadium on September 18.
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The trophy is in London for 13 days, taking in iconic sites and engaging with grassroots rugby programmes, local clubs and fans. VIP guests will also join the tour as it visits a number of locations around the region, including host venues: the Olympic Stadium; Wembley Stadium and Twickenham Stadium as well as Downing Street, City Hall, the Tower of London and London rugby clubs.
Rugby is at the heart of the tour, engaging with over 100 clubs, organisations and rugby festivals, from grassroots to elite. In addition host cities, match venues, team bases, community and legacy programmes, sports events, stakeholder visits, worldwide partner activations and iconic landmarks will feature as part of the trophy tour with over 300 events programmed.
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This follows the international part of the tour which began in Japan in May 2014 and visited 15 countries, celebrating rugby across the world in the lead up to the tournament.
As part of the tour the Webb Ellis Cup visited Japan, Australia, Fiji, Madagascar, South Africa, Argentina, Uruguay, USA, UAE, Hong Kong & China, Italy, Romania, Canada, Germany and France before returning to the UK in June 2015 to mark 100 days to go until the big kick off.
Leonard, who is the current RFU President, said: “The Webb Ellis Cup is Rugby’s greatest prize and since June has been on an exciting journey around Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England in time for the opening ceremony at Twickenham Stadium.
"I feel we have engaged tremendously well with fans and the country is getting into the World Cup spirit. We hope that the 2015 story will leave us with amazing and unforgettable memories.”
Local school pupils had joined English rugby’s most capped player at the Boleyn Ground as he took a tour of the WHUFC Inspire Learning Centre.
England kick off against against Fiji at Twickenham and Leonard, capped 114 times for his country, is satisfied with the way things are looking. He is certain that the depth of patriotic support will be very important: "The team looks good and we have strength in depth and this places us in a healthy position.”
"England can match the best and with a loud and patriotic home crowd urging the team on I think we will be hard to topple in this World Cup."
Leonard is keen to see rugby continue to be promoted at grass roots levels and within inner city communities: “Rugby players have a public school background and it’s important to cast the net wide and provide equal opportunities for everyone. There is a lot of untapped and hidden talent and we need to work hardtop unearth those hidden gems.
“As a spectacle this is going to be the best World Cup ever. England are in a tough group and if we can come out on top then I can see a semi-final date on the horizon and perhaps a final. Again, the obvious advantage will be with the magical crowds roaring the team on. We look forward to the nation getting behind England.”
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