Twickenham set to land plum World Cup matches
The millions captivated by this season's Six Nations decider between Wales and England will learn tomorrow where an even more significant encounter between the two great rivals – the World Cup pool match in the autumn of 2015 – is to be staged.
Unless there is a collective outbreak of insanity among the grandees of the Rugby Football Union, the game will be played at Twickenham, the biggest dedicated union stadium in the country and, more importantly, the home of the tournament hosts.
Commercial imperatives dictate that the one major venue on the "foreign" side of the Severn Bridge, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, will have more than its fair share of World Cup business: failure to secure the use of Old Trafford reinforces the importance of the 72,500-capacity ground to the organisers, who must sell 2.9 million tickets across 48 matches to have any chance of meeting financial targets.
When the draw was made before Christmas – a draw that bracketed England and Wales with Australia in the "pool of death" – the chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, Roger Lewis, generously offered to host the cross-Severn derby at the Millennium. If it seemed an ambitious suggestion at the time, the Welsh demolition of the Grand Slam challengers in Cardiff in March rendered it a non-starter. Indeed, many in Wales believe their team's meeting with Australia will also be played at an English venue.
Twickenham will inevitably be the tournament's centre of gravity: England are also expected to face the Wallabies on the old cabbage patch and there have been strong indications that when the knock-out stage is reached, two quarter-finals and both semi-finals will played there, as well as the final.
A handful of games will be awarded to the Olympic Stadium, even though the planned retractable seating may not be in place in time for the tournament.
Other leading venues include Wembley and the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. Only two club rugby grounds – Kingsholm in Gloucester and Sandy Park in Exeter – are in contention for fixtures.
The vast majority of shortlisted candidates are football grounds, stretching from Newcastle in the North-east to Brighton on the South Coast.
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