LEEDS MIGHT be better known as a hotbed of rugby league but this weekend it will host teams competing for the other rugby code’s Webb Ellis cup.
Final touches were being put in place yesterday at Elland Road ahead of this weekend’s games which will see Italy take on Canada and Scotland taking on the USA in the Rugby World Cup. While the games may not feature the All Blacks, Aussies or other tournament favourites, the games are expected to be at full capacity with fans travelling from across the globe to Leeds and locals snapping up tickets and the opportunity to be part of something special.
Ground staff carried out checks and prepared the pitch at Leeds United’s Elland Road ground yesterday, with the goal posts in front of the ground’s Don Revie stand replaced with rugby posts and banners in place saying: “Welcome to Rugby World Cup 2015.”
Outside the stadium, above the iconic Leeds United crest, a giant image of the Webb Ellis cup that the teams are all aiming to win, could clearly be seen.
The world cup has already seen fans dressed up to the nines supporting their teams decked out in their team’s kit, carrying national flags, and even sporting wigs in their nation’s colours.
Ahead of the games fans were already sharing their excitment on social media and looking ahead to the matches.
One, Canadian, Andrew M Boggs, tweeted: “Let’s make some history @RugbyCanada eh! Looking forward to supporting you in Leeds.”
While Rugby Canada yesterday tweeted: “We’re pumped up for tomorrow’s test match against #Italy.”
The focus of most rugby followers in this part of the world may be currently fixed just down the road at Headingley with Leeds Rhinos fighting for Super League spoils but there is no denying the benefit of hosting the world cup which is the third biggest sporting event in the world and will be beamed to an estimated TV audience of over 3.2 billion giving the city a huge opportunity.
Coun Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “After such an exciting build-up, it’s amazing to be able to say Rugby World Cup 2015 has officially come to Leeds this weekend and the atmosphere at the games, in the Fanzone and around the city will be incredible.
“Hosting a prestigious, global sporting event like this really helps us to shine a light on Leeds and showcase it to the many visitors who will be coming from other parts of the country and the world.”
Early estimations are predicting up to 7,000 people will stay in hotels within the city this weekend, with the event set to bring a major boost for the economy, and give Leeds a global spotlight.
The city has developed a comprehensive legacy plan in partnership with the RFU and others that will encourage increased participation at local clubs, in particular in the key age range of 16-24.
Canada take on Italy today and Scotland take on the USA tomorrow with motorists yesterday warned to expect delays and plan their journeys ahead of the matches.