If you’re heading to London for the IRB Rugby World Cup 2015, it might well be with a trip to Wembley in mind. English football’s national stadium is one of 13 match venues for the upcoming tournament, which will take place between September 18th and October 31st. Two matches will be played on the ground, which dominates the skyline in the north of the capital. For a period of seven days, the stadium will be given over to rugby union.
A brief history
The original Wembley Stadium, which was famed for its iconic twin towers, opened in 1923 for the FA Cup final. Originally it held 127,000 spectators, which was later reduced to 82,000 with the introduction of seating. The old ground hosted the 1966 World Cup Final, five European cup finals, the 1985 Live Aid concert and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1948 Olympic Games, among many other events. In addition to regular football fixtures, it was also the home to rugby league’s Challenge Cup final each year from 1929.
In 2003, the old Wembley was demolished, allowing a brand new 90,000 seater arena to be constructed on the same site. The Norman Foster-designed structure is perhaps best known for the 133-metre tall arch which sits above the main stand. Since it opened in 2007, the ground has hosted major concerts, a UEFA Champions League final, Olympic football, NFL matches, motor sport and both rugby codes.
Wembley Stadium has hosted international rugby union before. In 1992, while Twickenham underwent redevelopment, England defeated a touring Canada side 26-13. Interestingly, Wales have played the most games at the north London ground – seven in total while the Millennium Stadium was being built in the late 1990s. The most famous of these games was a 32-31 Five Nations victory against England in 1999, when Scott Gibbs ran in a late, decisive try.
Wembley seating plan
There are five levels inside Wembley Stadium. Levels 1 and 5 offer customer facilities, including seating, toilets, bar areas, food and beverage kiosks, merchandise and betting stands and information points. Levels 2, 3 and 4 contain Club Wembley seating with hospitality boxes.
Turnstiles are situated around the stadium at ground level, with over twenty lifts and thirty sets of escalators helping visitors with tickets for the upper tiers find their seats.
Within the stadium there are 310 places for wheelchair users and an equal number for their personal assistants. These are distributed across each of the levels. Wembley also offers 100 enhanced amenity seats for ambulant disabled visitors and those accompanied by assistance dogs.
World Cup fixtures
Two IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 matches will be played at Wembley Stadium this autumn. The first game – on Sunday September 20th – sees New Zealand take on Argentina in a Pool C fixture (kick-off 4:45pm). These two sides are heavily fancied to emerge from the group into the knock-out stages – they face competition from Tonga, Georgia and Namibia for qualification.
The second fixture at Wembley Stadium takes place exactly one week later, as Ireland face Romania in a Pool D clash at 4:45pm on Sunday September 27th. France, Italy and Canada are also looking to qualify from a difficult group which contains three Six Nations’ sides.
The winner of Pool C will face the runner-up in Pool D in the quarter-finals, while the side which finishes second in Pool C will play the Pool D winner.
Getting to Wembley Stadium
Wembley Stadium is located in Wembley in the London Borough of Brent, which is situated in the north-west of the capital.
There are various ways of getting to the stadium from the centre of London. The ground is accessible from two London Underground stations – Wembley Park (Jubilee and Metropolitan Lines) and Wembley Central (Bakerloo and London Overground Lines). Regular services run from London Marylebone Station to Wembley Stadium Station on Chiltern Railways, offering a mainline rail alternative.
Wembley is served by a number of bus routes, including the 18, 83, 92 and 224, with regular services running towards the centre of London. There is limited parking in the area for drivers arriving by car, so spectators heading to the stadium are encouraged to use public transport.