Having dipped one tentative toe in the Yorkshire water by hosting the midweek All Blacks at the McAlpine Stadium last November, England are now preparing to play their two pre-Christmas World Cup qualifying matches at the same venue.
Clive Woodward, the England coach, said yesterday: "I was very impressed with the stadium when I watched the Emerging England game against the All Blacks and by taking matches outside Twickenham, we can again show our top talent to an equally appreciative audience."
The decision was made by Robert Horner, regional director of Rugby World Cup 1999, who predicts two sell-outs at the 24,000-capacity stadium, despite the fact no one has the faintest idea who England's opponents might be when the round-robin contest takes place between 14 and 22 November. Like Scotland and Ireland, Woodward's side must play two of the lesser European teams currently huffing and puffing their way through the second round of preliminary qualifying.
Only the top three finishers from the 1995 World Cup - South Africa, New Zealand and France - and the 1999 hosts, Wales, have been granted automatic entry to next year's competition. The qualifying draw will take place in July.
- Chris HewettReuse content