Wallabies fans can start organising their travel plans for Rugby World Cup 2015, after the draw for the 20-team finals was released by the International Rugby Board. The cities of Cardiff, Birmingham and London will play host to Australia’s pool matches at the eighth edition of the tournament, meaning Australian fans can enjoy some quintessentially British scenery on their travels.
Whisper it quietly among Australian supporters, but the Wallabies have well and truly been drawn in the ‘Group of Death’. But while a decidedly difficult Pool A contains hosts England and neighbours Wales, not to mention a qualifier from Oceania – likely Fiji – and a repechage playoff winner, it also ensures a raucous atmosphere awaits when Ewen McKenzie’s men run out at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Villa Park in Birmingham and the hallowed turf of Twickenham to kick-start their Rugby World Cup campaign.
Though England won the right to host Rugby World Cup 2015, neighbouring Wales has put its hand up to host several fixtures at the spectacular Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. That means the Wallabies will run out in one of the sport’s most passionate heartlands to face the winner of the Oceania playoff between Fiji and the Cook Islands in their opening game of the tournament.
Built adjacent to the famous Cardiff Arms Park, the 74,500-capacity Millennium Stadium is the home of Welsh Rugby. It holds happy memories for Australian fans, after the Wallabies downed France 35-12 to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy as winners of Rugby World Cup 1999. Today, the Millennium Stadium is more often than not covered in a sea of red and with Wales drawn in the same group as the Aussies, there’ll be no shortage of interest from fired-up Red Dragons fans.
March To The Midlands
The Wallabies will continue their World Cup campaign just 50 kilometres up the road from the small market town of Rugby – with its claim to fame as the birthplace of the sport. Though neighbouring Birmingham is more renowned for its gritty industrial past, it will soon transform into a hotbed of international rugby when Villa Park gets set to host its first ever Rugby World Cup games.
For all the imagery of billowing smokestacks and Dickensian workhouses, England’s so-called ‘second city’ is actually a pleasant, impressively vibrant place to visit. From its picturesque canals to revamped industrial sites like Brindleyplace and The Mailbox, there’s plenty to see and do in this bustling Midlands hub, making it an ideal stop for Wallabies fans on their journey across the British countryside.
What would a Rugby World Cup in England be without a stop in the nation’s cosmopolitan capital London? This sprawling, staggering metropolis plays host to no less than three World Cup venues, with the newly-built Olympic Stadium and the expansive Wembley Stadium both staging matches. But it’s the tunnel at Twickenham from which the Wallabies will emerge for two of the pool stage’s most heavily anticipated fixtures.
The spiritual home of English Rugby will be packed to the rafters when England hosts Australia in a marquee pool stage showdown. Jonny Wilkinson’s dramatic extra-time drop goal to win the World Cup on Australian soil in 2003 remains one of the tournament’s most iconic moments, and there’ll be plenty of green and gold in the stands at Twickenham hoping to see the Wallabies avenge that painful defeat.
As if that wasn’t a tough enough task, Australia will back up a week later to face Wales at the same venue, as an otherwise peaceful pocket of south-west London gets set to transform into the epicentre of Rugby World Cup 2015.
Wallabies pool matches
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff vs Oceania playoff winner – September 23.
Villa Park, Birmingham vs repechage playoff winner – September 27.
Twickenham, London vs England – October 3.
Twickenham, London vs Wales – October 10.