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WMN opinion: Whole of the Westcountry should be up for the cup

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: March 05, 2013

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Cup fever! For sports fans all over the world there is nothing like it.

Enthusiasts plan holidays, sabbaticals, even weddings so they coincide – or at least don't clash – with World Cups, whether it be football, cricket, or rugby.

So the news that Exeter has a shot at being a Rugby World Cup venue in 2015, will set the heart of every sports fan in the South West fluttering.

And what a fitting reward for the extraordinary success of Sandy Park and the Exeter Chiefs the World Cup would be.

There may be a way to go.

Yesterday England Rugby 2015, the organising committee for Rugby World Cup 2015, confirmed that Sandy Park had been added to the 'long list' of match venues for Rugby World Cup 2015.

It is among a number of competing venues – but organisers are keen that the four-yearly tournament utilises venues all over the country.

That helps spread the word about the sport, it extends cup fever, and it makes a pinnacle tournament accessible to people who live in more remote parts of the host nation.

Sandy Park, which was built in 2006 at a cost of £15 million, meets all of the Rugby World Cup 2015 minimum standards criteria, including playing facilities, pitch size, commercial considerations and the support of the local authority.

In addition, the stadium will also have an increased capacity by 2015.

Hosting a World Cup game would bring the eyes of the rugby world on to the fantastic facility – and bring to Exeter world class international sport. The magic of that cannot be underestimated, and anyone who has travelled to or watched a World Cup will now how intoxicating they are.

Chiefs guru Tony Rowe summed it up when he said: "We see this as not only a fantastic opportunity to showcase our great club to the world's rugby fraternity, but also it provides a wonderful opportunity to bring alive not only the city of Exeter, but also our region which we know offers a significant input into the heartbeat of English rugby."

The entire peninsula must hope that Sandy Park can clinch one of the final spots.

It would be a significant feather in the cap for the region.

The stadium sits in the very heart of the South West, which has a long and proud tradition of rugby.

The investment in the facility has been huge. It embraced elements of risk and was based on a bold and visionary view of what could be possible.

That the investment has been matched by some fantastic success on the pitch is neither lucky nor coincidental.

Last October Exeter city councillors gave the green light to multi-million pound redevelopment plans that will expand the capacity of their ground eventually to 20,600. So whoever makes the final decision on which venues will host 2015 World Cup rugby matches must be in no doubt. Exeter and all the Westcountry are up for the cup.

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