If pre-tournament reports and predictions are anything to go by, thousands of visitors will have descended on Rugby, England during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
And from my viewing it seems numbers have not got off to a bad start with a very wide mix of nationalities walking the streets of our fair Warwickshire town, keen to explore and take in the surroundings of the birthplace of rugby football.
French, Canadian, Irish, Scottish, South African, Australians, New Zealanders, Japanese; I’ve seen them all, and in some cases spoken to a few of them.
Over the years I have written a series of travel articles on my hometown which have been published far and wide. After all, there are not many places that can lay claim to being the origin of a sport that is played the world over.
(and finally, the local Borough Council has got its act together to recognise the fact and the opportunities this status presents)
If you are planning on visiting Rugby, England, during or after the Rugby World Cup, I have put together a series of articles on where to go, what to see, where to eat, drink and put your head down.
Call it in an Insider’s Guide to Rugby if you will.
I am after all born and bred – and write, in the birthplace of Rugby.
First, – and it perhaps goes against the title of this articles, what to see!
The Close at Rugby School
A plaque laid at Rugby School – one of Britain’s oldest independent schools – commemorates the moment in 1823 when a young William Webb Ellis invented the game of rugby on The Close.
Where? Little Church Street, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV21 3AW
Tours of Rugby School
The school may have been founded in 1567, but it was in 1845, the first written rules for the game were published by three senior Rugby School pupils, and it was an Old Rugbeian who became the first president of the RFU when it formed in 1871.
Tours of Rugby School and its museum take place every week, offering an unique insight into one of the UK’s foremost and prestigious private schools.
Until the end of October 2015 only the Rugby World Cup Tours will be in operation.
An exhibition celebrating the School Behind the Game is open in the Lewis Gallery (off Barby Road) and is open Monday to Saturday 1.00-5.00pm. Admission is free and no booking is required.
Tours for groups can be booked in advance, while ‘drop-in’ tours take place at 2pm on Saturdays (telephone the Rugby School shop on 01788 556169 to confirm).
Contact: E-mail email@example.com or call 01788 556169.
William Webb Ellis statue
The statue of the man who is credited with starting it all stands outside Rugby School.
William Webb Ellis was a pupil at Rugby School in 1823 when his “fine disregard for the rules” led him to creating the game of rugby football.
The Webb Ellis Cup, presented to the winners of the Rugby World Cup, bears his name and in Rugby – the birthplace of the game – a statue stands in his honour.
A bronze plaque beneath the statue bears the inscription: “The local boy who inspired the game of rugby football on The Close at Rugby School in 1823.”
The statue has become a popular attraction for visitors to the birthplace of the game, providing the perfect backdrop for a photograph.
Where: Rugby School/ Corner of Lawrence Sheriff Street and St Matthew’s Street, Rugby
Rugby Pathway of Fame & Blue Plaque Trail
Across from The William Webb Ellis statue, the Webb Ellis Rugby Football Museum houses a unique collection of rugby artefacts and memorabilia, charting the history and development of the game.
The museum was formerly the workshop of William Gilbert – the man who manufactured the first rugby balls and whose name adorns the official ball for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Where? 5 St Matthew’s Street, Rugby, opens from 9.30am to 5.00pm, Monday to Saturday. Free admission.
Telephone 01788 567777
Rugby Pathway of Fame & Blue Plaque Trail
The Rugby ‘Pathway of Fame’ is a series of 50 numbered metal plaques set into the pavement at strategic intervals around the town centre celebrating iconic figures from the world of rugby.
The pathway was installed for the Rugby World Cup in 1999, and has had more plaques added in 2004 and 2005 to celebrate the history of the game.
The plaques were lifted for a bit of a refurbishment and clean up over the spring and summer, and were replaced in new locations before the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
You can explore Rugby’s rich history further by delving deeper into the town’s heritage by taking the Blue Plaque trail, which celebrates the town’s famous buildings, people and events.
Where? Rugby Town Centre and Rugby School
Rugby Visitor Centre, Art Gallery and Museum
The Rugby Art Gallery and Museum offers a range of interesting exhibitions, displays, and events.
Currently running is an open exhibition inspired by the sport of rugby football, and an exhibition exploring the rich history of the borough’s rugby clubs.
From club shirts, photographs, match programmes and trophies, Rugby Football in Rugby Borough celebrates the grassroots of the sport in the birthplace of the game.
Located in the foyer of Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, the visitor centre is where you can pick up guide books and brochures, buy a wide range of quality gifts and souvenirs – including from new local brand Original Rugby, and find out what’s on in Rugby.
Where? Little Elborow Street, Rugby, CV21 3BZ
Telephone: (01788) 533217 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rugby’s #ProudHome Fanzone
Rugby’s official Fanzone is located on Old Market Place in the heart of Rugby town centre, and just a stone’s throw from Rugby station and Rugby School – the birthplace of the game.
It has a capacity of 2000 people, with free entry throughout Rugby World Cup 2015 for fans and families, featuring a big screen with live coverage of matches, entertainment, food and drink and rugby-based activities.
On days when no Rugby World Cup matches are shown, the Rugby Village will host events and activities as part of the town’s Enjoy Rugby Festival.
Where? Old Market Place, Rugby
Rupert Brooke statue
Aside from rugby football for a moment, head to the Jubilee Gardens in the town centre where stands a statue of Rupert Brooke, unveiled to commemorate the poet’s centenary in 1987.
Other Rugby’s famous writers are also commemorated in the gardens stands a statue of Rupert Brooke, unveiled to commemorate the poet’s centenary in 1987.
Where? Located in Rugby town centre, at the bottom of Regent Street.
As I have advocated over the years, there is more to Rugby than rugby football.
If you have opportunity, head out of town to explore some of the beautiful countryside and scenic villages that fall with the Rugby area.
It is quintessential England at its best, with many of the villages having huge historical connections. Dunchurch for example has links to the Gunpowder Plot.
Plus by getting into the country, you can experience the beauty and serenity of the canals which run through the town’s borders and neighbouring counties.
The Oxford Canal runs into Newbold, out to Hillmorton Locks and then out of the town and east Warwickshire county border towards its junction with the Grand Union Canal at Braunston; itself a hugely important and historic village on the UK canal network.
Tomorrow….Eat and Drink Rugby!