Villa Park anticipation as Rugby World Cup gets nearer
Rugby World Cup 2015 chiefs visited Villa Park - with just 500 days remaining until the start of the prestigious tournament.
The media appointment in B6, which saw England female player Margaret Alphonsi and former Ireland star Kevin Maggs in attendance, also saw the announcement of sale dates for tickets in all 48 matches.
They go on general sale from September 12-29, although 500,000 seats will be available to fans this month through the community ticket programme, which launched earlier this year.
England Rugby 2015 also confirmed details for the international Trophy Tour, celebrating rugby and taking the Webb Ellis Cup to 15 countries in the build-up to the tournament.
The tour will be delivered in partnership with Land Rover and DHL and will depart for Japan on May 20 for the first leg of the journey.
The route will also include visits to Australia, Fiji, Madagascar, Kenya, South Africa, Argentina, Uruguay, China, USA, UAE, Italy, Germany, Romania and France before returning to England on 100 days to go - June 10, 2015 - for a tour of the UK and Ireland.
As planning progresses at pace, the search to find the 6,000 volunteers to welcome the world to England and to rugby in 2015 is well underway with over 20,000 applications received to join 'The Pack'.
Try-Outs - selection events - will be held between June and December 2014 in every 2015 Host City with members of the 'The Pack' confirmed in January 2015.
Debbie Jevans, England Rugby 2015 chief executive, said: "Our plans are right on track with 500 days to go. We are pleased to announce the dates of the general sale today, allowing fans to save the date and plan.
"We have seen a very strong response to the community ticket programme and we are pleased we have enabled clubs to recognise their loyal fans with access to tickets for Rugby World Cup 2015 on home turf.
"From today, members are being registered and 500,000 tickets will go on sale from May 16-June 30.
"We are very excited to announce the trophy tour plans too. This gives us a unique opportunity to celebrate rugby around the world in the lead up to 2015, engaging and exciting rugby fans and potential new audiences.
"Visiting 15 countries gives us an opportunity to showcase the global game and its shared values.
"Everything is in place now for a great tournament as we move into the delivery phase of our major campaigns. We can already see the great enthusiasm 500 days out."
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 10 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 the Rugby World Cup 2015 and the excitement and anticipation has gained even more impetus today with the announcement that it's only 500 days until the tournament starts.
"Villa Park is relishing the opportunity to host marquee matches involving two past winners in Australia and South Africa.
"This is an iconic stadium which has staged more FA Cup semi-finals than any other venue, along with major concerts and major events.
"This latest sports showpiece will be a further addition to the stadium's glorious CV but also, importantly, Villa Park will be able to demonstrate world-class facilities and an impeccable playing surface to the rugby world."
Check out all the tournament details of the Rugby World Cup.