Villa Park announced as a Rugby World Cup 2015 venue
Tournament organisers England Rugby 2015 (ER 2015) and tournament owners Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) today announced the full list of venues and published the match schedule for RWC 2015.
Villa Park is one of thirteen match venues, alongside other iconic stadia such as Twickenham, Wembley, Millennium Stadium and Olympic Park.
The venues are spread across ten cities across England, from Birmingham to Milton Keynes, Exeter to Newcastle to enable England Rugby 2015 to showcase the game to a large audience across the length and breadth of the country, in addition to the Welsh capital.
Villa Park will host two matches, South Africa vs Samoa on Saturday, September 26 and Australia versus play-off winners on Sunday, September 27.
Paul Faulkner, Villa chief executive officer, said: "We're delighted to be associated with this prestigious tournament and we look forward to hosting marquee matches involving two past winners in Australia and South Africa at Villa Park.
"This is an iconic stadium which has hosted more FA Cup semi-finals than any other venue, along with major concerts and the Community Shield this season between Manchester City and Chelsea.
"We look forward to putting on a show which will highlight the unique character of our wonderful stadium and also the distinctive character at the heart of the city of Birmingham."
Birmingham City Council deputy leader Ian Ward said: "This is fantastic news for the city and should have a real impact on encouraging people to take up rugby, and sport generally, as we saw during the Olympics.
"The city council has been working closely with Aston Villa and the Birmingham Rugby Partnership to secure part of the tournament in the city.
"We are committed to having a real rugby legacy for the people of Birmingham and the wider region.
"There will also be wider benefits for the city's economy, with an influx of tourists visiting Birmingham's countless attractions, and we are also looking to have a fan park for duration of the tournament where families and friends can have a great day out enjoying the rugby and hopefully watching England and the other home nations have a wonderful tournament."
The match schedule will see 25 matches played in dedicated rugby venues, seven in multi-event stadia and sixteen in football venues.
This blend of stadia will provide a variety of Rugby World Cup match day experiences and over two million opportunities for fans to engage with one of the world's most recognisable major sports events.
The tournament will open at Twickenham Stadium on Friday September 18, 2015, where England will face Oceania 1, confirmed at the close of the qualification process in 2014.
Confirmation of the match venues and match schedule follows approval from the Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) Board and an extensive and thorough evaluation process, undertaken by England Rugby 2015 in collaboration with tournament owners RWCL, Host Broadcaster ITV, and commercial stakeholders.
The thirteen match venues selected from the long list of seventeen named in October 2012, plus Sandy Park added last month and the Manchester City Stadium which replaces Old Trafford, took into account geographical spread, sporting and facilities criteria, support from host cities, and capacity requirements to deliver the best possible platform for a fully engaging world class tournament for fans and teams.
England Rugby 2015 also launched the vision for Rugby World Cup 2015 today outlining the tournament as 'a celebration of rugby and its unique values, exciting and inspiring our nation and the world to play and support the game.'
England Rugby 2015 chief executive, Debbie Jevans, commented: "The world can now start planning for Rugby World Cup 2015.
"Today, we've brought the tournament to life, announcing the match venues and the full match schedule. In less than two and a half years' time, we will be welcoming the world to England and to a celebration of rugby, played in a range of atmospheric stadiums right across the country.
"Rugby has so much to offer - and over the next two and a half years, we will be working hard with RWCL to deliver a tournament which celebrates the unique values of rugby and excites and inspires the nation and the world to play and support the game.
"The countdown to 2015 begins in earnest today and we look forward to welcoming the world to England in 2015.
"We are very grateful to all the cities and venues who have been part of the selection process for Rugby World Cup 2015. The support and interest shown by Coventry, Bristol, Derby, Southampton and Sunderland has been excellent and, whilst they have not been selected to host, we will continue to build upon the relationships forged throughout this process to ensure that these cities will still play a part in this truly nationwide tournament."
RWCL chairman Bernard Lapasset commented: "The delivery of the match schedule and match venues in collaboration with England Rugby 2015 is an important milestone for what promises to be a truly spectacular Rugby World Cup. Through this rigorous process we have been able to develop solid foundations for the best tournament experience for all participating teams, the host nation and the global rugby community.
"We have also worked hard with all stakeholders to deliver a match schedule that is fair and balanced for all teams and that will provide the stage for the world's finest players from 20 nations to perform to the best of their ability during a six week festival of world class Rugby.
"Rugby World Cup 2015 is about opportunity. It is the promise of more than two million opportunities to engage with one of the world's biggest major sports events.
"It is the opportunity to engage new fans the length and breadth of the country and to grow rugby around the world in order that more men, women and children may experience the sport and its character-building values. It is set to be an exceptional event for the teams, the fans, the host nation, and the continued development of rugby worldwide."
Minister for Sport and Tourism, Hugh Robertson commented, "Rugby World Cup in 2015 is another great global sports event coming to the UK. It has the full backing of Government and will be fantastic for rugby in this country encouraging more people to get involved.
"There is also a great tourism opportunity to make the most of with matches being played across the country."