When the RFL were awarded the honour of organising the 2013 World Cup, they ran a competition for venues to bid for the right to host matches, touring parties and training camps. The idea was new to rugby league, but back in 2010, it probably set the tone for the World Cup that is just days away. Rather than the RFL touring round and trying to strike a good deal for venues, they were now hosting a seminar and inviting local authorities from across the country to hear how it was in their interest to invest in the competition, for the right to be part of the World Cup.
From the start, the 2013ELONG strapline sent a clear message that this was a World Cup to be a part of.
The south-west was not an obvious choice, but there certainly seems to have been lots of activity from the local organisers, since Bristol won the right to be called a host city. The Cook Islands will be the only team based in the south throughout the tournament and they will use Filton College as their training base. The Memorial Ground will be the stage for the USA v Cook Islands match.
The city is home to the Bristol Sonics community rugby league side and forty odd miles up the M5 is Cheltenham, where the Gloucestershire All Golds who play in Championship 1 are based. The Bristol Rugby League World Cup bid team have been doing a great job over the last few months to really promote their fixture and it should be a great trip next week to see how the city receives the USA v Cook Island game.
The World Cup trophy tour visited the city, and Bristol turned out Wallace and Grommit. The city’s ‘Make Sunday’s Special’ event played host to the World Cup team, and so did the Bristol International Balloon Festival. There has even been an exhibition on rugby league in the south-west on display in the local area. It was in 1908 when Cheltenham played host to England and New Zealand in a rugby league match that helped establish international competition.
Whilst South Yorkshire did not secure host status for either Doncaster or Sheffield, the Dons did manage to persuade New Zealand and the Cook Islands to stage a World Cup warm-up match at the Keepmoat Stadium. The Cook Islands arrived in Bawtry earlier this week and are now preparing for the tournament in Doncaster before moving down to their World Cup base in Bristol.
New Zealand arrived today, and were greeted by Norton school with a fabulous haka which was met by the Kiwis in superb fashion. The World Cup will have already created a superb experience for those 50 odd children as well as a memorable moment for the touring Kiwis. The Daily Mirror and that pride of the World Cup the Daily Telegraph, have picked up on the tale which has created yet another heart-warming story for the World Cup.
Doncaster has given both squads a great welcome ahead of Sunday’s warm-up match, but I can’t wait to see what Bristol has in store for the Cook Islands when they arrive in the south-west next week. If their track record to date is anything to go by, then Bristol will leave as big an impression on the Cooks, as the men from the South Pacific will surely leave on Bristol.