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Legends Show Youth Support

And so it begins. Rugby World Cup 2015, the world in union, the sport’s greatest showpiece, kicked off at Twickenham yesterday (Fiji time). The tickets are sold, the global audience
20 Sep 2015 09:37
Legends Show Youth Support
Former Flying Fijians captain Simon Raiwalui (middle) was part of the opening ceremony for the 2015 Rugby World Cup yesterday. Photo: Ian Muir

And so it begins. Rugby World Cup 2015, the world in union, the sport’s greatest showpiece, kicked off at Twickenham yesterday (Fiji time).

The tickets are sold, the global audience in their seats – 450 million are expected to watch – all ready for six weeks of action across 13 venues.

It all kicked off with a welcome by Stephen Brown, managing director of England Rugby 2015, who introduced the theme of breaking new ground, before the voice of John Taylor, capped for Wales 26 times, echoed around Twickenham.

The Royal Marines drumming band warmed the crowd with their stirring Invincible and the Fijian anthem Waidebala, and the Rugby School choir sang Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, before an introduction by England 2015 ambassador Will Greenwood.

Rousing singalongs of Sweet Caroline – bound to become the tournament favourite – and Jerusalem led into the ceremony proper.

Dazzling show

And here, fans were wowed with a dazzling show, a 20-minute journey through the country where the game began, from the moment in 1823 when the young William Webb Ellis (played by Edward Anthony) caught and ran with the ball during a football match, through to what has become one of the world’s biggest sporting events, with star turns by rugby luminaries Bill Beaumont, Jason Leonard and Jonny Wilkinson among others.

The opening ceremony, brainchild of London 2012 artistic director Kim Gavin, took Webb Ellis on a journey of the 11 England host cities, witnessing iconic players of the past, including Gareth Edwards, Serge Blanco, Jonah Lomu, Brian O’Driscoll and Joost van der Westhuizen, before he arrived in Twickenham where he kicked the ball into outer space.

When it crashed back down, it broke new ground. Players emerged from the rocks, pushed up a bridge and a new tournament ball. Enter the ‘giants’, 20 legends of the game, including Jacques Burger, Sean Fitzpatrick and Martin Johnson, all introduced alphabetically, with England announced last as the host country. Young people from the RFU All Schools programme linked on the bridge, symbolising how rugby unifies the world.

Formal welcomes came next; from HRH Prince Harry and Bernard Lapasset, chairman of World Rugby.

“It is time for the very best players to step forward and captivate and inspire the next generation of players and fans,” Lapasset said, before thanking the Rugby Football Union, the England Rugby 2015 organising committee, volunteers and fans.

He wrapped it up with the words: “Let the tournament begin.” Stirring stuff.

 

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