Rugby World Cup 2015: Twickenham must be a fortress, says Ian Ritchie

Ian Ritchie has called on England fans to build Twickenham into a rugby "fortress" to match the Millennium Stadium in Wales in order to maximise home advantage at the 2015 World Cup.

The Rugby Football Union chief executive said it was "fair" that his tenure and that of Stuart Lancaster as England coach would be judged on the performance of the team at the 2015 World Cup and the legacy it left for the game.

According to the schedule unveiled on Thursday, the home side will play all their World Cup matches at Twickenham bar one, which will be held at Manchester's Etihad Stadium against the weakest side in their pool.

Ritichie said he was never seriously concerned that England's crunch tie with Wales would be held anywhere other than Twickenham, despite the Millennium Stadium also hosting eight matches during the tournament. "We are the host nation, this is an England Rugby World Cup and I think it is absolutely right that England play games at Twickenham," said Ritchie.

He said the union was doing all it could to support Lancaster's side, leaving "no excuses" for them not to perform in 2015. "We've got difficult games but we all knew that when the draw was made. It's a truism, but it is the case: you have to win difficult games," said Ritchie. "We're prepared for that. But a huge advantage, hopefully for us, is playing here."

He called on England fans to take their cue from the Welsh support that roared them to victory over England in the Six Nations. Ritchie said he hoped for a similarly intimidating atmosphere at Twickenham, where England will kick off their campaign with a Friday night match that will probably be against Fuji.

"Let's replicate at Twickenham during the Rugby World Cup the sort of atmosphere that was very powerful in Cardiff," he said. "We want to get everybody behind us and that is why it is important to continue to play at Twickenham."

Despite the avowed intent to use the tournament to galvanise support for the game beyond rugby union's heartlands, he said that all of England's warm-up matches would be played at the sport's traditional home.

"There is the financial impact on the RFU if we start moving away from Twickenham. More importantly, what we need to do over the next couple of years is to build Twickenham into a fortress and make it very clear we want everyone getting behind England when they are playing at Twickenham in the Rugby World Cup," he said.

"The warm-up games will absolutely be at Twickenham. If you want to maximise home nation advantage, we hope and believe we will get fantastic support. Over the next couple of years we should be promoting this event, encouraging people, getting investment together to encourage people because it is a five-year event."

Ritchie said the Friday night opening match would not set a precedent given the complications in terms of transport, policing and nearby residents posed by holding games in the evening. "There are complications with Friday night fixtures which are livable with for the World Cup, but as a matter of generality this is not a precedent," he said.

The former captain Lawrence Dallaglio said England would look to make the most of home advantage. "Having earned the right to host the tournament, there are some advantages that come with that. England are playing all but one game at Twickenham, but when people play against England they want to play at Twickenham too," he said.

"The scheduling was always going to be a really tough job, but on reflection I think it's very fair. Geographically, I think it's fair – there's a good spread across the country. For me, the tournament feels real now."

Powered by article was written by Owen Gibson, for on Thursday 2nd May 2013 22.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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