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Rugby and football enter cosy World Cup relationship

18 September 2015, 18:29

BRIGHTON, England, Sept 18 - Association football and rugby union would seem unlikely bedfellows but the two codes enter into a cosy relationship over the next six weeks as England host the Rugby World Cup -- on many of soccer's hallowed grounds.

Premier League and lower division pitches are being used for pool matches, to the dismay of some of rugby union's traditionalists, but with enthusiasm from competitors.

Among them are the iconic Wembley Stadium, Elland Road, Manchester City's Etihad Stadium, St James' Park, Villa Park and the homes of Brighton and Hove Albion, Leicester City and Milton Keynes Dons.

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer believes football pitches could prove a bonus for running rugby, suggesting that England's top rugby grounds are heavier and therefore do not offer a better viewing spectacle.

"I think we'll see a quicker World Cup with more running because of the soccer fields," he told reporters this week.

Veteran New Zealand flyhalf Dan Carter, playing at a fourth World Cup, said he and his All Black team mates embrace the idea.

"The team are really excited about that; playing in a couple of new stadiums like Wembley and the Olympic stadium next week.

"It's what makes this tournament so special and I've never been to Wembley before, so I'm looking forward to that experience."

But it has not gone down well with all. Leicester Tigers were so incensed they did not get any games for their Welford Road ground that they bemoaned the fact on their website (leicestertigers.com).

"We are hugely disappointed to learn that Welford Road will not play a part in England's hosting of the Rugby World Cup in 2015," said Tigers chairman Peter Tom at the time.

"Welford Road has hosted many, many major occasions over the years, including visits from South Africa, Australia and Argentina national teams in recent seasons. It is home to the best-supported and most successful club in the history of the professional game in this country and, as such, we believe is worthy of Rugby World Cup status."

To rub salt in the wound, matches in Leicester are being hosted at the King Power Stadium, home of Leicester City, whose capacity of 32,000 is 8,000 more than Welford Road.

The Rugby Football Union suggested the larger capacities and better facilities at modern football stadiums led to the controversial decision.

"The selection procedure for the long list of venues took into account a geographical spread across the country, sporting and facilities criteria, levels of support from candidate host cities and capacity requirements for the successful delivery of a Rugby World Cup," a statement said.

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- Reuters


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