Rugby: RFU seek to build legacy

The Rugby Football Union have learned the lessons from 2003 and launched plans to maximise the legacy of hosting the 2015 Rugby World Cup on home soil.

Rugby News: RFU

When England returned triumphant from Australia nine years ago, the RFU were not ready to deal with the immediate spike in interest in the sport.

There were not, for example, enough coaches in the grass-roots game to handle the upsurge in participation numbers and the RFU are determined not to make the same mistake again.

With three years to go until the Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham, the RFU revealed a seven-point plan to make "the oval ball the ball of choice" in England.

"The key learning from 2003 was that we didn't plan in advance. The coaches and referees just weren't there," said Steve Grainger, the RFU's development director.

"That is absolutely what we are doing now."

The RFU will invest £25million into 500 grass-roots clubs and a further £1million into qualifying 6,500 new referees and coaches and bringing 5,000 volunteers into the game.

The All Schools programme is aimed at giving a million children a chance to play rugby, with a target of introducing the sport to 750 secondary state schools by 2019.

"The World Cup in 1991 was in England and we saw how the public's perception of rugby changed," said Jason Leonard, who played in that tournament and eventually won the World Cup in 2003.

"But with the legacy planning for this World Cup, we are going to hit the ground running. It is getting volunteers and clubs involved.

"I think this will be the best ever World Cup and we have got to make sure we push that all the way through. This is a great opportunity for English rugby."

Although the RFU are looking to use the 2015 World Cup to spread the game and capture new players and supporters, it is unlikely that England will play any Test matches away from Twickenham in the build-up to the tournament.

"We need to look at methods of engaging with the World Cup around the country over the next three years. We have to think about ways of creating interest and getting people excited," said RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie.

"We have to look at where do England play, when do they play? You would never say never but there is a strong financial reason why England matches are played at Twickenham.

"It is not just as easy as taking a match somewhere. There are all sorts of other things we can look at for games beyond the England senior team."

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