Now we get to the stadia that are football grounds rather than rugby grounds. Let’s start in the north and roll downhill.
St James’ Park
Newcastle upon Tyne, capacity 52,049, grass
A lovely ground this one, first used for football in 1880 and home to Newcastle United since 1892. It’s on a fairly compressed site, which gives it a u-type structure with three big stands connected with one smaller one. It’s a lot of people very close to the action.
The pitch is 105m x 68m, compared to Twickenham’s 125m x 70m. That means smaller run-offs on the sidelines and deadball areas, which could subtly affect the perceptions of the players.
This being England, there’s a minor controversy over the apostrophe and missing ‘s’ in the name. Your pub trivia fact is that the southern end is known as Gallowgate End as it is near site of the city’s (former) site for executions.
There are three cracker games here:
- South Africa vs Scotland (Pool B, 4.45am Sunday 4 October NZDT)
- New Zealand vs. Tonga (Pool C, 8.00am Saturday 10 October NZDT)
- Samoa vs. Scotland (Pool B, 2.30am Sunday 11 October NZDT)
Nice of the organisers to put a couple of Scots’ matches close to the border, so expect a swathe of Scots heading south for a traditional day of rugby and sheep rustling.
Leeds, capacity 37,914, grass
Home to Leeds United since 1919, it was first known as the Old Peacock ground in honour of the pub of the same name owned by Bentley’s Brewery just across the road. (Cue Ned grumbling about the modern world squeezing out the idiosyncratic charm of the olden days.)
The record attendance at the ground was for a fifth round FA Cup replay of Leeds vs. Sunderland in 1967, when 57,892 people squeezed in. That was before the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy which led clubs to introduce all-seater set-ups.
Leeds was a nice West Yorkshire market centre until the Industrial Revolution brought the satanic mills to town, and of course was one of the northern cities hit hard by decline in the 60s and 70s and a dose of Thatcherism in the 80s. Pub trivia: nowadays it is the second largest legal centre in the UK (after London).
Elland Road gets two pool matches:
- Canada vs. Italy (Pool D, 1.30am Sunday 27 September NZST)
- Scotland vs. USA (Pool B, 2.30am Monday 28 September NZDT)
Note that if you’re watching the Canada-Italy match live in New Zealand, daylight saving kicks in during the match when 1.59am ticks over into 3.00am.
Manchester, 47,800 capacity, grass/synthetic hybrid
Amazingly enough, this stadium is in Manchester city, and is home to the Manchester City football club, although when the soccer’s on it’s called Etihad Stadium. The Sevens rugby was played here for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, when New Zealand beat Fiji for the gold medal.
Just the one match: it’s a smash and grab by the RFU to try to stir up some apathy in a region notorious for favouring soccer and league.
- England vs. Uruguay (Pool A, 8.00am Sunday 11 October NZDT)
This is the one match involving England that is not sold out yet, which says everything you need to know about English rugby supporters: they like the home comforts of the Home Counties. Mind you, the prices for drinking weak beer during the weakest game of the pool (£125 to £250) might make you think twice.
A note on the dates/times given:
I have used timeanddate.com to convert the local kick-off times into the New Zealand time. It’s a bit of a schemozzle because New Zealand Daylight Saving Time begins at 2.00am on Sunday 27 September and British Summer Time ends at 2.00am on Sunday 25 October. Oy.
If you’re living somewhere else, I strongly recommend that you do your own conversion starting with the official fixture list from RWC2015.