It’s nearly here! After all the talking up, talking down, excitement, dread and indifference (delete as appropriate) the Rugby World Cup kicks off in one month’s time when England take on Fiji. Over the six weeks of the tournament Twickenham will host ten matches from that opening Fiji game on Friday 18th September through to the final on Saturday October 31st. Three of the weekends even have two matches in them. In other words, it’s going to be busy. An England v France warm up ‘test event’ took place last Saturday (featuring extra road closures and pubs being asked to restrict post-match admissions) and another is planned for 5th September when England play Ireland. Basically, Twickenham is now officially in Rugby World Cup mode.
So folks, prepare yourself for rugby fans from around the world descending on Twickenham and not only on match days but across the whole tournament. You might even spot the odd player too as South Africa and the All Blacks will be setting up camp at St Mary’s University and the Lensbury respectively. And even if you don’t see the players you will probably be confronted by some very big coaches on the mean streets of ‘Nam. We mean coaches of the vehicular kind not the bull-necked, vein-busting, overly-shouty kind obviously. Put simply, love it or loathe it, for the next couple of months you’re unlikely to be able to avoid the Rugby World Cup.
Oh, and talking of mean streets as we were, did you know that on match days the plan is to close the A316 between Hospital Bridge Road and London Road for three hours before each game until two hours afterwards? That’s about seven hours in total so you might want to avoid driving anywhere at all in Twickenham at those times. On the plus side, we’re told that, “Non-essential traffic will be directed away from Twickenham and Richmond”. We can’t wait to see some Second World War style “Is Your Journey Really Necessary?” posters around south west London. Perhaps Richmond Council Leader, the Blue Baron, aka Sir Lord True, might take on a Captain Mainwaring from Dad’s Army role to assist with this task. And if he does, will Deputy Leader Geoffrey Samuel will be his Sgt Wilson and will Lib Dem Leader Gareth ‘Red Robbo’ Roberts take on the role of his nemesis, ARP Warden Hodges? It could happen.
But, hey ho, it’s not all just about traffic, we can expect some top quality rugby matches too. No doubt some of you will already have purchased tickets with your own hard cash or maybe you’re one of those El Brute council types who has received a freebie… much to the consternation of some locals it seems. Free tickets, cars at a standstill? Please put any visions of our illustrious Councillors being carried through the crowds to matches in sedan chairs out of your heads right now. It’s not helping. Even here at twickerati HQ we’re getting in the mood and will be switching our attention from the ‘beautiful game’ to the oval balled variety for a couple of the Saturdays.
Twickenham’s pubs will be rammed to the rafters on match days and many will be screening all the games, putting on special events and the like. Expect tuneless rumblings of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” to be accompanied by the steady and constant ‘ping’ of cash registers. Or at least that’s the theory. For the recent evening kick off England v France warm-up game, town centre pubs were asked to stop any new admissions after 10.00pm although fans at the game were advised that they could carry on drinking at the stadium. Many local pubs were distinctly unhappy about missing out on a chance for some extra customers. For those fans who can’t or don’t want to venture inside our local hostelries, a dedicated Rugby World Cup Fan Zone is being created in Richmond’s Old Deer Park to entertain the masses. Enjoy it or avoid is as you see fit.
By now some of you will be getting anxious about the whole rugby fan / drinking thing. Will the Police, RFU and El Brute be on the case in terms of managing the crowds? Last May’s Marriot Sevens tournament left a mountain of rubbish in central Twickenham and a lot of angry residents however that event was not a ‘typical’ rugby crowd and we have to hope that won’t be repeated. Hell, let’s do more than just hope, let’s ‘demand’ that it isn’t! It’s not as if the World Cup isn’t generating big revenues, including for the RFU. The Evening Standard recently cited a £500m boost to the London economy from the tournament. And it’s here that people tend to drop in words like ‘legacy’.
While we’re talking about fixing problems then, of course, litter isn’t the only thing that needs attention. Rugby days require enough accessible portable toilets to help reduce the popularity of street pissing. The steps by Twickenham station really are a “go to” destination for this activity and they’ve been tarted-up in readiness. Perhaps the newly installed CCTV cameras might put a few people off. Perhaps the pictures might get streamed? And hell yeah, even Twickenham station itself has had new toilets and a new café installed and a few licks of paint here and there. Please don’t say you hadn’t noticed the ‘transformation’!
If rugby’s not your thing there are other events including films, music, arts and sports activities taking place right through until the end of the tournament under the banner of the Try It Festival. It’s here that we point out that several of these things would be happening regardless of the Rugby World Cup, we’re talking Open House London and the Great River Race and the like, but some are new and El Brute have pulled them all together on one section of its own RWC website. Take a look in between fretting about the road closures and wondering how you’re going to get over to see Auntie Mabel in Isleworth, you might even find something you like.
So, ready or not, here it comes. We have to say that from our vantage point in the ice cream van, we’re moderately looking forward to it. Needless to say our view is totally and utterly irrelevant, it’s how it’s all shaping up for you that really matters. And finally, remember to smile Twickenham, the eyes of the rugby world are upon you.
* England Rugby – Twickenham Community Page
* Richmond Council RWC2015 Page
* Try It Festival (Events until October)
* Rugby World Cup – Official Site
* Twickerati: The Rugby World Cup, the RFU and you (Nov 2014)
RWC Matches at Twickenham Stadium
[Saturday 5th Sept – England v Ireland warm up event (KO 2.30pm)]
Friday 18th Sept – Opening Ceremony + England v Fiji (KO 8.00pm)
Saturday 19th Sept – France v Italy (KO 8.00pm)
Saturday 26th Sept – England v Wales (KO 8.00pm)
Saturday 3rd Oct – England v Australia (KO 8.00pm)
Saturday 10th Oct – Australia v Wales (KO 4.45pm)
Saturday 17th Oct – Quarter Final 2 (KO 4.00pm)
Sunday 18th Oct – Quarter Final 4 (KO4.00pm)
Saturday 24th Oct – Semi Final 1 (KO 4.00pm)
Sunday 25th Oct – Semi Final 2 (KO 4.00pm)
Saturday 31st Oct – Final (KO 4.00pm)