Rugby World Cup 2015 – a bluffer’s guide
We’re just three weeks away from the Rugby World Cup on home soil and I couldn’t be more excited. Here’s a rundown of some key tournament trivia, a selection of the best games to watch out for and a look into some of the top sponsor activations we’ve seen ahead of the tournament.
Some handy RWC stats
This is the second time the Rugby World Cup will be held primarily in England, the 1991 World Cup was the first to grace our shores, while the 2007 World Cup saw some matches played in Cardiff. The southern hemisphere giants of New Zealand (1987, 2011), South Africa (1995, 2007) and Australia (1991, 1999) have won two World Cups each, while Sir Clive Woodward’s England side won the 2003 World Cup in Australia, avenging their defeat in the 1991 Rugby World Cup final. The All-Blacks are favourites to win this year, but who knows what can happen on the game’s biggest stage. There will be 20 teams competing, starting in the group stages, in which the top two placed teams from each pool will qualify for the quarter finals. From then on we’ll see knockout rugby to decide who takes home the Webb Ellis Cup at Twickenham on 31 October.
The Rugby World Cup has seen some true heroes shine for their country when it matters most and England legend Jonny Wilkinson tops the leading point scorer list with 227 in his World Cup career. New Zealand’s monstrous winger, Jonah Lomu tops the tournament’s try scoring list with 15 in the 1995 and 1999 Rugby World Cups. There have been some excruciatingly close encounters over the years, but the All Blacks hold the record for the highest points scored in a game – a staggering 145 against Japan in 1995, while Australia beat Namibia by 142 points in 2003.
England v Fiji (Friday 18 September 20:00, Twickenham)
The opening game is what we’ve all been waiting for. England kick off their campaign at Twickenham against one of the most physical yet entertaining sides to watch, Fiji. Stuart Lancaster’s men need to make a statement in their first game in the ‘Pool of Death’, which includes Wales and Australia. Points difference could decide who qualifies for the quarter finals in Pool A, so captain Chris Robshaw’s men need to start strongly.
England v Wales (Saturday 26 September 20:00, Twickenham)
This is going to be a humdinger of a game, between two of the sport’s greatest rivals. England has won the last two meetings between the two sides and the previous meeting history reads England 58 wins, Wales 56 and 12 draws. Expect this one to be decided by less than five points in an absolute thriller.
South Africa v Scotland (Saturday 3 October 16:45, St James Park)
This is a real treat for fans in the North East, with the twice champions South Africa taking on a brave Scotland side, with plenty of potential. Scotland face tough opponents with Samoa and the USA vying for second place in Pool B. Expect a tight forward battle between the monstrous Springbok pack and the plucky Scots. In Greig Laidlaw, the Scotland has a goal kicker who will punish any indiscretion from South Africa, so they’ll have to keep their discipline.
England v Australia (Saturday 3 October 20:00, Twickenham)
This match could decide the outcome of Pool A, with a rematch of the 1991 and 2003 Rugby World Cup finals. Australia has an outstanding back row that will capitalise on any of England’s weaknesses in the contact area and it will be an exciting prospect to see the likes of Israel Folau and Drew Mitchell taking on England’s young crop of wingers.
France v Ireland (Sunday 11 October 16:45, Millennium Stadium)
Another likely pool decider, this game should be a fantastic mix of flair and power. The French are always unpredictable away from home, but they’ll hope for a strong showing in Cardiff. France finished as runners up to New Zealand in the 2011 final and arguably deserved to win, so the Irish need to watch out. However, the likes of Jamie Heaslip and Jonny Sexton should give the Irish the edge in this one. Another decided by a late score, Ireland should have this one by 6 points.
Top sponsor activations
O2 Wear the Rose
O2 has tapped into the importance of the fan and has been rewarding their followers with a variety of excellent competitions and a fantastic activation across key cities in the UK. They set up clothes lines at the average height of a line-out and offered England fans the chance to win a shirt by working as a team to lift each other up to claim their prize. They rolled this out across the UK, offering a generous 50,000 shirts, so England fans are kitted out ahead of the tournament.
Land Rover – We Deal in Real
Grassroots rugby is at the heart of the Land Rover campaign, which was launched earlier this year with an illustrious list of players including Jonny Wilkinson, Bryan Habana and Matt Giteau at the smallest rugby club in the UK, Racal Decca RFC. The rugby superstars helped Racal Decca on a match day against Croydon-Streatham 3rds, Sir Clive Woodward gave the team talk, Giteau pumped up the match balls and Wilkinson carried on the kicking tee. The company has continued this creative and has just launched a 60-second spot showcasing 11 local rugby clubs from across the world. The Land Rover Trophy Tour has also been a great success, visiting clubs across the UK with appearances from rugby legends.
Heineken – It’s your call
The beer giants are offering 48 fans the chance to hold the coin toss before Rugby World Cup matches if they find specially minted coins ahead of the tournament. This is another excellent way of getting fans closer to the action this is how brands will be moving forward in sport, offering unbeatable experiences. Heineken will also be worth watching on social media, as they have a plethora of rugby legends on hand to comment on games with innovative social content.
It’s going to be a fantastic tournament and there are plenty of opportunities for brands to make an impact. We’ve still not seen much from the likes of DHL, Emirates and Société General, so I’m sure there are a few surprises to come.
For what it’s worth here are my 2015 Rugby World Cup predications:
Winners – New Zealand
Top Try Scorer: Julian Savea (New Zealand)
Top Point Scorer: Morne Steyn (South Africa)
Shock of the tournament: Scotland lose to Samoa (Sorry Neil B!)