Ritchie rejects Wales offer

  • Last Updated: December 4 2012, 14:45 GMT

Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie has rejected the proposal that England's crunch 2015 Rugby World Cup pool match against Wales should be played in Cardiff.

Twickenham: In the middle of a £76m upgrade

England are the host nation of the tournament but the RFU's bid included the prospect of the Millennium Stadium being used for up to eight matches, including two quarter-finals.

England and Wales were drawn together alongside Australia in the World Cup's pool of death, with the likelihood of them being joined by Fiji as Oceania qualifiers.

Immediately after the draw, Welsh Rugby Union boss Roger Lewis suggested Wales should play England at the Millennium Stadium because "it is the finest rugby stadium in the world".

Ritchie's response to the WRU was a polite thank you but no thank you - and that is the message he will take to the board of England Rugby 2015, who will make the final decision on venues.

"We have a very nice home of our own and I would hope very much we would contemplate playing the match here," said Ritchie, who is overseeing a £76million upgrade of Twickenham stadium.

"With our modest little stadium here at Twickenham, with the further investment we might be able to make it into a decent spot to play rugby.

"We equally believe we are very good hosts here and that we could hold a decent game here and would very much want to do that. Shock, horror and astonishment that I would suggest that!

"We will not get a better opportunity to inspire people to play rugby, be volunteers and participate in rugby.

"We are putting the building blocks in place to make sure we can take the most advantage of having the World Cup."

The final decision on fixture dates and tournament venues will be made by tournament organisers England Rugby 2015, of which Ritchie is a board member, by the end of March.

ER2015 currently has a list of 17 potential venues that will be whittled down to between and 12 and 14 once the fixture matrix for the 48 matches has been finalised.

"The draw brings up all sorts of things about who plays where," Ritchie said.

"There is another three months before we get to a conclusion on which venues we will select.

"How do we inspire the game around the country and who plays where? It is a complex matrix and as a member of the board we have a responsibility to look at the total competition."

Wales played Australia the Millennium Stadium during the pool stages of the 2007 World Cup but the WRU held official hosting status on that occasion.

This time, the RFU would effectively be leasing the ground from the WRU in order to utilise a 72,000-capacity stadium within easy reach of the south-west of England.

Consequently, there are those who believe Wales should not be afforded home advantage against Australia.

"I will not pre-empt discussions on that," Ritchie said.

"Hopefully I have made my views clear on the England situation.

"All venues should be the subject of due and proper consideration through the board."

England are likely to open the tournament with a game at Twickenham on Friday, September 18 but ER2015 will discuss whether the host nation should play pool matches away from their usual base.

"We will look at all of those. From a sporting perspective it is important England (stage) the best possible competition," Ritchie said.

England coach Stuart Lancaster is convinced home advantage could make a decisive difference at the World Cup and he wants to be at Twickenham, where his team were roared on to a record 38-21 victory over world champions New Zealand on Saturday.

"Clearly from our point of view Twickenham would be our preferred venue," Lancaster said after the draw was made.

"Before the All Blacks game I was asked about the haka and said that we'd respect it as a cultural ritual but it was also true we had 82,000 people behind us.

"We certainly felt that in the stands and I am sure (captain) Chris (Robshaw) and the boys felt it on the pitch. It was an unbelievable atmosphere. It was a special day.

"What home advantage did for the Olympians is a great example of how it inspires people to an extra five or 10 per cent and sometimes at this level that's what's needed.

"It's massive for England to have the World Cup here. For the game in general, so many people who will benefit from the tournament which will last way beyond 2015."

Australia are the top seeds in the group with England in the second tier and Wales slipped into the third band after last weekend's 14-12 defeat to the Wallabies.

Lancaster's plan is to turn those seedings upside down by using victory over the All Blacks as a launchpad to propel England into the top two in the world by 2015.

"Our self-belief has grown, but it has to continue to grow to a point where we are consistent," he said.

"We want to improve our rankings so that we're a top two side by the time the World Cup comes around.

"If we get to that point, we'll know we've got the consistency and inner belief to get across the line."


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