'Without question for rugby and England this is the biggest year since 1871, since the union was founded for a number of reasons'
The opening words of the RFU's Chief Executive said it all, we are here and it is now, 100 days to go until the greatest tournament ever. Together we have all talked, speculated and anticipated a home Rugby World Cup since the bid was won on 28th July 2009 as as the William Webb Ellis set off in its beautifully designed, bespoke LandRover for the organisers the tournament has already started.
The landmark occasion was met by words from RFU Chief Executive Ian Richie, England Rugby's 2015 Managing Director Stephen Brown, Rugby World Cup Limited Director David Pickering, Jonny Wilkinson and Prince Harry HRH. Right now I'll focus on the words of Ian and Stephen in particular for Jonny's perspective in particular deserves an entire piece in itself, so watch this space.
Stephen highlighted the operational aspects in place and the work going on behind to scenes in preparation for the tournament including the Trophy Tour, Fan Zones, Ticket Sales and the CSR. The CSR piece announced that 15,000 tickets are going to be allocated across Host Cities, Host Towns, Sports Legacy Programmes, RFU Regional Legacy Boards, the Injured Players Foundation and Tickets For Troops and will be released over the coming weeks, something I'm sure we all agree is great to see. The Trophy Tour that Jonny, Will Greenwood & Harry HRH kick started in that gorgeous LandRover, will spend 5 days in Scotland, 5 days in Republic of Ireland, 10 in Wales and then 75 travelling around England. Every stop will host a suite of events to mark the occasion and involve Premiership, Championship and grass roots clubs for example in Cornwall the Cornish Pirates are playing host and they'll be a beach rugby tournament going on.
The objectives regarding England 2015 that Ian shared up front were of interest, as personally I hadn't read or heard these before although as you'd expect I could make an educated guess regarding them; being a great host, making memories, building a legacy and winning, yes winning. Hosting a first class tournament and making memories are intertwined with a 6 week tournament the footprint to inspire and delight is large as well as challenging and the memories will be etched in the memories of those interacting with the tournament for life. For some it will be their first interaction with rugby and as we know first impressions are hard to undo. The legacy piece is vital 'we will never get a better showcase and never get a better opportunity to share and build our game... in 2016 and 2017 we want to see that this was a seminal moment for the growth of rugby'. Right now in 2015 capitalising on the moment is vital and it is something that was missed following the great 2003 success.
The final objective, winning, wasn't left to last for a particular reason and it wasn't said by Ian just because he thought that he should, being the Chief Executive of the Host Nation. Ian's exact words were; 'Of course we want to win, I think that the standard of rugby and the delivery of the game is in a very good place indeed and I feel as far as England is concerned we are going to be very competitive. We want to win, we think that we have a chance of winning but of course there are various countries who will believe that as well and that is quite right and proper.'
When it comes down to it Stuart Lancaster and his squad have less than 100 days to put themselves in a position to deliver and to deliver under the greatest pressure of their lives. Pennyhill Park will be their sanctuary away from the intense spotlight shining upon them however equally it will be their hell due to the outrageous training sessions that designed to push themselves to beyond the places that they thought possible. Throughout that time the Trophy will tour, the Festival of Rugby will delight and we was outsiders will become more and more excited by the day safe in the knowledge that in less than 100 days the most thrilling and important tournament of our sport will commence on home soil.