In under twenty days the Rugby World Cup will be upon us and for rugby fans across the country Christmas will come early. When the announcement was made back in July 2009 that England had won their bid to host the 2015 Rugby World Cup the tournament seemed a lifetime away, however now it is a matter of days away and everything is in place to make it a tremendous success.
Over the past few months we have all been engrossed in the warm-up fixtures that have been happening across the globe and more recently the 31 man squad announcements and boy has this given us a lot to talk about. Now, with such a short time to go, it seems only right to review some of the headlines that have been created and to cast our eyes over a few of the tournament's statistics and records.
Mauro Bergamasco will play in his fifth Rugby World Cup after running out for Italy in the very first professional tournament in 1998. It is astonishing to think of the amount of individuals that have come and gone during that time and when he takes to the field for the first time during this tournament it will be a special moment. Italy's weekend clash with Scotland didn't go to plan for the Azzuri and with Wales next in Cardiff it may be a bumpy road into the tournament for Jacques Brunel's side.
Waisake Naholo may well make the most remarkable injury recovery in history in order to play a part for New Zealand. As with any pre-tournament injury the hearts of the world went out to Waisake when it was announced that he had cracked his fibula on his debut against Argentina. However after having a 'herbal treatment' in Fiji he was today included as part of Steve Hansen's 31 man squad and looks likely to take part in the 2015 tournament. I wonder if the individual that administered this treatment is now part of Team All Blacks and will be on the plane to London in a few days time!?!
Last weekend, George North, earned his 50th Cap for Wales and became the youngest player ever to do so. George was just 22 years and 320 days old when he ran out at the Aviva Stadium and in doing so eclipsed some extremely well known names on the 'youngest list' including Jonny Wilkinson, Sergio Parisse and Morgan Parra.
In terms of the tournament statistics as you would expect England's Jonny Wilkinson leads the way when it comes to points scored with 277 in total. Indeed Jonny has scored 40 more than his nearest rival in the points table; Gavin Hastings who has 227 to his name. Wilkinson's 277 breakdown into one try, 28 conversions, 58 penalties and 14 drop goals of which we all know the most famous one!
From a tries scored perspective the great Jonah Lomu leads the way with 15 followed by two other Kiwis; Doug Howlett, 13, and Joe Rokocoko, 11. Rory Underwood is the top English try scorer also with 11 and two individuals that will take part in this tournament, Bryan Habana and Drew Mitchell, both have 10 and if they don't increase that tally in a few weeks time then something will have gone very wrong!!
Shifting the focus solely to the hosts; England have scored 1246 points in their Rugby World Cup history and have played 40 matches in total. Josh Lewsey's five tries against Uruguay in November 2003 represent the record scored by an English individual in one fixture and that game's result, 111 - 13, was England's greatest ever match winning margin. Paul Grayson scored a staggering 36 points against Tonga in 1999, a game that I actually went on a school trip to see (!) and Jonny Wilkinson's three drop goals against France in 2003 remain the most an Englishman has scored in one fixture.
The Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle of our sport, it always delivers hugely competitive clashes and history tells us that we will also witness an upset or two during the course of its eight weeks! 2.2million tickets have been sold and the tournament is expected to deliver a staggering £2.2billion of output into the economy. After 43 days of action the Rugby World Cup Final will kick off at 4pm on 31 October and after eighty minutes one nation will claim the William Webb Ellis Trophy and unashamedly I very much hope that it is England!