Spectacular ceremony kicks off the World Cup as England see off Fiji

England's Tom Youngs in action with Fiji's Campese Ma'afu during the Rugby World Cup. Photo: Mike Eg

England's Tom Youngs in action with Fiji's Campese Ma'afu during the Rugby World Cup. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

The waiting is over, the Rugby World Cup has started – and what a start it was, before the rugby started at least.

England's Jonny May is tackled by Fiji's Dominiko Waqaniburotu and Sakiusa Masi Matadigo. Photo: Mik

England's Jonny May is tackled by Fiji's Dominiko Waqaniburotu and Sakiusa Masi Matadigo. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

England stuttered their way to a 35-11 victory over Fiji once the action was under way, after being welcomed to the pitch in extraordinary style.

The volume increased steadily throughout the afternoon, with the flags of St George draped on shoulders and shirts, painted on faces and even worn as medieval cloaks.

The first real chance for supporters to warm up the vocal chords came at 5.50pm as 2003 World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson delivered the Webb Ellis Cup to the stadium.

Chants of 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot', were soon being roared outside the West Gate as Wilkinson moved the preparations up a gear.

A general view of the opening ceremony during the Rugby World Cup match at Twickenham Stadium. Photo

A general view of the opening ceremony during the Rugby World Cup match at Twickenham Stadium. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire. - Credit: PA


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The arrival of the team coach at the same entrance truly begun sending shockwaves through the expectant crowds though, as Stuart Lancaster and his side reached HQ shortly after 6pm.

By 6.30pm at least two thirds of the 80,000-capacity crowd were in their seats and ready for the opening ceremony, with a giant rugby ball bursting through the turf the centrepiece already on show.

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The Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines and the choir of Rugby School got the hairs raised on the back of everyone's necks with their own rendition of Swing Low before another member of the 2003 squad was introduced.

Will Greenwood kept the cauldron of patriotic spirit bubbling nicely, getting the whole stadium singing along to Neil Diamond's iconic anthem Sweet Caroline – with bouncing fans rocking the foundations of the famous stadium for the first time of the night.

The opening ceremony. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

The opening ceremony. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Once the fanfare and fireworks were into full flow, a poignant introductory video went back to 1823 and the birth of the game at Rugby School.

Twenty legends of the game were brought out to represent the 20 competing nations, with England of course going last and 2003 captain Martin Johnson's entrance almost taking the roof off an ecstatic stadium.

The introduction of Prince Harry, in his role as vice patron of the Rugby Football Union, kicked things up another notch.

He told the crowd: 'There will be moments in this World Cup which will live with us for the rest of our lives. Who can forget 1995 and President Mandela handing the Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar? And then that kick in 2003?'

Before concluding: 'We're ready, game on.'

With that, the pitch was hastily cleared, as both teams emerged for their warm-ups at either end to huge cheers.

After all the fantastic, emotional and spectacular celebrations to get everyone excited, it was time for the thump and crunch of the rugby.

However, not only were the eyes of the nation fixed on Twickenham for the big night but the spectacle was also being broadcast to households around the globe – with an estimated TV audience of 450 million.

It was the start of English rugby's biggest possible opportunity to grow the game at grassroots level, to inspire the next generation of potential players at all levels and begin uniting the country behind a common cause.

Sporting immortality awaits this group of players – if they can make the dream of home triumph a reality. With the fanfare out of the way, now they must focus on improving on the pitch to make that happen.

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