Proud Home of the Game in spotlight for Rugby World Cup kick-off - The Rugby Observer

Proud Home of the Game in spotlight for Rugby World Cup kick-off

Rugby Editorial 21st Sep, 2015 Updated: 27th Oct, 2016   0

AN AUDIENCE of millions was left in no doubt as to the Proud Home of the Game’s location when the world cup kicked off on Friday (September 18).

Rugby was thrust straight into the spotlight at the beginning of the tournament’s official opening ceremony, which began with an introductory film shot at Rugby School.

Over 450m TV viewers worldwide watched William Webb Ellis’ story unfold, with cameos from Jonny Wilkinson and Prince Harry among others.

The cast of extras included Rugby School staff, teachers and friends as well as a large contingent of Old Laurentians RFC members. They were joined by a stellar cast of rugby greats including Sir Clive Woodward, Jason Leonard, Sir Ian McGeeghan, Maggie Alphonsi, Serge Betsen and Gonzalo Camacho.




The secret days of filming in June saw a state-of-the art drone, equipped with a camera, flying through the School’s ancient cloisters and quads to capture a re-enactment of the moment when the game of rugby began.

Historic school buildings were converted into wardrobe and make-up studios, while classrooms were commandeered for costume racks and catering. Old Big School, the very first classroom, featured in Tom Brown’s Schooldays, became an atmospheric base for the hi-tech drone and latest filming equipment.


Pupils from the School’s youngest rugby team were selected for the re-enactment game with 14-year-old Ed Anthony chosen to play Webb Ellis. The Head Boy role was played by professional actor, Asa Butterfield, who starred in the films Hugo and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Old Laurentian, Leigh Fraser, who is Head Coach of the Minis and Juniors RFC said being involved in the filming was a great experience.

He said: “Getting to meet and chat with Jason Leonard, Sir Clive and Sir Ian during the photo shoot and afterwards was a real highlight of the day.

“To be involved so directly has made the start of the tournament even more special for our club members.”

Other Rugby-based extras included the School’s HR Manager, the theatre technician, Artistic Director and Town House Housemaster.

Stephen Brown, England Rugby 2015 Managing Director, added: “The School’s history and heritage with the game meant it was the perfect location to bring the story of Rugby alive for fans across the world.”

Pupil Ed Anthony, who auditioned for the role of Webb Ellis along with some of his rugby-playing peers, said he could never have envisaged he would be offered such an amazing opportunity.

“It’s been an incredible time being at Rugby School during the World Cup year, but to get this role as well was quite something,” he said. “Being selected to play the role of William Webb Ellis has just been fantastic – a real dream come true. I auditioned for the part, never believing I’d get it. But I do love playing rugby!”

But the best part of Ed’s experience was yet to come with the arrival, a week later, of HRH Prince Harry and Jonny Wilkinson, who had agreed to play the part of 19th century school gardeners watching while ‘Webb Ellis’ made rugby history.

He spent a morning with Prince Harry and Jonny Wilkinson who, in period dress, were instructed to look on sceptically while ‘Webb Ellis’, with a fine disregard for the rules of the game, charged past with the ball under his arm. ‘It’ll never catch on,’ they agree.

And as a final tribute to Rugby School and its heritage, members of the School’s choirs – more than 80 pupils – performed live at the Opening Ceremony to add their voices to the rousing rugby anthems that were sung to mark the opening of the Rugby World Cup tournament 2015.

Head Master Peter Green said: “It was thrilling for all of us at Rugby to have the school featured in the Opening Ceremony, and particularly to have Prince Harry and Jonny Wilkinson in the cast.

“It’s a great tribute to the School as the birthplace of the game nearly 100 years ago. In 2017 we mark our 450th anniversary.

“As a co-ed school with more than 800 pupils, Rugby School would be unrecognisable to William Webb Ellis. But the ethos remains the same: allowing the whole person to flourish.”

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