Prince Harry and Jonny Wilkinson kick off Rugby's World Cup preparations - The Rugby Observer

Prince Harry and Jonny Wilkinson kick off Rugby's World Cup preparations

Rugby Editorial 24th Sep, 2014 Updated: 27th Oct, 2016   0

PRINCE Harry and Jonny Wilkinson took to the hallowed turf at Rugby School to kick off the countdown to the

Rugby World Cup in England.

And the visit by the two famous faces also marked the town being given a unique status by tournament organisers England Rugby 2015.

The Prince, who is Honorary President of England Rugby 2015, and England’s 2003 World Cup hero Wilkinson dropped in at The Close, where the game began, to mark one year until the start of the tournament.

And they also celebrated Rugby being given the status of official ‘Proud Home of the Game’ for the six week tournament.

It means the town will have the same status as all towns and cities hosting actual matches – boosting Rugby’s profile, tourism and trade.

And the town is busy preparing to celebrate its heritage and welcome rugby fans from across the world.

Rugby Borough Council will mark the occasion with a festival of Rugby, a public Fanzone where live matches will be screened, and a cultural and education programme.

The council will also invest £40,000 into ‘enhanced gateways’, which will greet visitors on all main routes into Rugby with tournament branding, hard and soft landscaping, and herbaceous borders planted with wild flowers.

Coun Mark Williams, Rugby Borough Council’s environment spokesman, said: “As the Proud Home of the game, we’re expecting to welcome thousands of visitors making the pilgrimage to the birthplace of rugby football, and it’s important the borough looks at its best.

“The gateways promise to create a striking first impression of the borough for years to come and support our commitment to making Rugby cleaner and greener.”

The council’s culture spokeswoman Coun Heather Timms said she was proud the town had been given special status.

She said: “We will have the eyes of the world on us in a year’s time, and there’s going to be a real buzz to the town.

“Since 1823, when William Webb Ellis first picked up the ball and ran with it, we have been proud of our history and keen to share it with the world. We will have a wonderful opportunity to share our history even more widely.”

MP Mark Pawsey said it was a great chance to put Rugby on the map.

He said: “We’re going to have a wonderful time in 2015.

“As fans pass from one venue to the next following their team, they will want to visit the birthplace of the game.

“Let’s have a jamboree, lets have a great time – and I know that people in the town will rise to the occasion.”

He added the influx of tourists would be a great opportunity for town traders to sell accommodation, refreshments and memorabilia – just as three town centre businesses announced ambitious plans to help regenerate the area around Rugby School and the Webb Ellis statue.

The Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 18 next year with England’s match against Fiji at Twickenham, ending with the final on October 31 at the same venue.

Up to a million tickets for all 48 matches are currently on sale at People have until Monday (September 29) to apply.

Fans will find out which tickets they have successfully applied for in October. Any remaining tickets will go back on sale in November.

Council culture spokeswoman Coun Heather Timms joins Coun Claire Edwards, leader of the Labour group, Coun Michael Stokes, leader of the Conservative group, and MP Mark Pawsey, with volunteers to launch Rugby’s status as Proud Home of the Game, with one year to go to the Rugby World Cup 2015.

Council economic investment officer Michael Beirne (centre) models Victorian football kit in a style similar to that used by William Webb Ellis. (s)

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