Sir Ian McGeechan has urged the sports-mad Yorkshire public to embrace next year’s Rugby World Cup and the four teams visiting the region.
Leeds United’s Elland Road football stadium will host two pool matches next September in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, with tickets for all 48 matches across 13 venues going on sale today.
The city stages Italy against Canada from Pool D on Saturday, September 26, and Scotland versus the USA in Pool B the following day.
While the fixtures may not carry the partisan appeal of an England game, or the lustre of a showpiece team like New Zealand or South Africa playing in the city, McGeechan believes the visit of the World Cup to the region remains an opportunity not to be missed.
“It’s going to be a fantastic event for the whole of the county,” said Yorkshire Carnegie’s executive chairman, who led his native Scotland into two World Cups.
“It’s the third-biggest sporting event now behind the football World Cup and the Olympics and for it to be coming to the city of Leeds is pretty special.
“And the fact that the tickets are going on sale means it’s that little bit closer to happening. It’s all very exciting.
“Interest in rugby has never been greater and the fact we can see two games here and four teams should be embraced and welcomed.”
The only disappointment for McGeechan and his club is that the games will not be played at Headingley Carnegie.
The decision to play the fixtures at Elland Road is a theme of next year’s World Cup with only two traditional rugby venues – Gloucester’s Kingsholm and Exter’s Sandy Park – used to stage matches. Welford Road in Leicester was overlooked in favour of the city’s larger football stadium.
Prices for both matches at Elland Road start at £20 rising to £85, with children charged £15.
They are the second-cheapest range of tickets and for the prices being asked, McGeechan believes Yorkshire’s rugby fraternity will get the chance to broaden their knowledge of the game by witnessing, first hand, four contrasting styles.
McGeechan said: “We’ve seen these teams on the television before, but there’s nothing like seeing a game live and the atmosphere created by the four sets of fans will be terrific.
“Scotland have generally done well at a World Cup. Okay, in 2011 they failed to get out of the group, but they generally reach the quarter-finals.
“And the other three teams are all emerging nations with very different styles.
“By seeing them live you get to appreciate that so much more.”
The 2015 World Cup begins on Friday, September 18, with England’s opening Pool A game against Fiji costing fans anything from £75 to £315.
Tickets to watch England’s closing pool game against the final play-off winner at the City of Manchester Stadium on October 10 range from £50 to £250, with children’s prices set at £15.
The best seats at the World Cup final on October 31 at Twickenham cost £715.
The cheapest ticket to watch matches involving Wales and Ireland is £50, but Scotland fans will have the chance to pay £20 for each of two of their games – one of them being at Elland Road.
England 2015’s ticket sales window will be open until September 29 with any over-subscribed matches being decided via a ballot.
England Rugby 2015 have to raise £250m from tickets to cover the cost of the tournament and pay the International Rugby Board £80m under the hosting agreement, meaning the average ticket will cost around £100.
Organisers say almost a quarter of all tickets will be under £50, however.
An England Rugby 2015 spokeswoman said: “We have worked hard to create as many low-priced tickets as we can – and prices start at £7 for children and £15 for adults.
Over half-a-million tickets will cost £50 or less – but it is a balance as ticketing revenue is our only revenue stream to fund the tournament.
“The pool stages of the tournament will have a much lower average price than the knockout stage of the tournament, where prices are generally higher.”
Debbie Jevans, chief executive of England Rugby 2015, said: “This is an exciting moment as up to one million tickets go on sale for Rugby World Cup 2015. As we approach a year to go, it’s the moment that rugby fans all around the world have been waiting for.
“We have worked hard to develop a ticketing system which makes the application process as easy and efficient as possible, and offers flexibility to fans.
“Fans have 17 days to apply, so there is no rush and they should take time to consider what they would like to purchase.”
Tickets will be sold online via the official Rugby World Cup 2015 ticketing website tickets.rugbyworldcup.com. Fans will need to create an account on the website in order to apply, and can apply for up to four tickets per match.