How big does the Rugby World Cup want to be? There has already been much tribal humour about the prospective venue for the game between Wales and England, but there is an enticing solution. Make it the opening match of the tournament and play it at the Olympic Stadium.
I can hear the protests already. We will fit more people into the stadium at Twickenham and what if re-fit of the Olympic Stadium isn’t ready in time. Yeah, yeah, yeah, but how iconic would it be to open the Rugby World Cup at the Olympic Stadium in East London and then close it at Twickers in West London.
The opening ceremony would evoke memories of London 2012 and bring a feel good factor to the tournament. New Zealand’s opening ceremony for the 2011 World Cup was one of the best for any big sporting event and there is no doubt that England has the theatrical and story-telling expertise to rival it.
England should not be afraid of playing away from Twickenham because the stats are massively in favour of the home team. The record of the host nations at the World Cup is three wins, two losing finalists, one semi-finalist and one quarter-finalist.
I have a feeling that England will take a more cautious route, as New Zealand did in 2011, and open the championship against Fiji at Twickenham. They won’t want to take on Australia who travel well and just happen to have won both the previous World Cups played on British soil.
But Wales already have the right attitude. Sam Warbuton said: "We had a group of death in the last World Cup so we are used to the situation. It’s a fascinating pool. Wales against Australia has always been a good game.
“As for England v Wales, there is enough rivalry there without it being the World Cup. From a players’ point of view we are guaranteed to play in front of a packed house against England which is really exciting.”
The recent trend at World Cups is for the host to open against the third ranked team in their group. New Zealand played Tonga, who had a good fan base in Auckland, and the three previous hosts all happened to begin against Argentina.
But the two teams who had the bottle to open with a really big game were rewarded for their courage. In 1991 England opened against the All Blacks and four years later South Africa began against Australia. On both occasions it was the host nation against the World Champions and it didn’t seem to do either team any harm.
England lost the early battle, but made it through to the final and South Africa went on to win the World Cup against the odds. So why not take on Wales, or even Australia at the Olympic Stadium. It would be a huge game, but it’s worked in the past. It’s not a pool of death, it’s a pool of life.
Like this post? Then share it. After all, Rugby’s a team game!