The Rugby World Cup has been glinting in the sunlight and catching the eye of many a passerby as it visited Palace Green in Durham on Monday 3 August as part of the 100 day trophy tour of the United Kingdom.
The gold cup was on display in front of the spectacular backdrop of the Cathedral, while a touch rugby tournament took place on the green featuring some of the North-East’s young, upcoming players. The mixed teams of 12-18 year olds had travelled from four local rugby clubs, Chester-le-Street, Durham City, Houghton and Sunderland, to play on Palace Green under the watchful eye of England ladies professional Tamara Taylor. She said: “We’ve been to some great spots like the Angel of the North to play with the tour, but this backdrop between the Cathedral and the Castle is just amazing. It’s a great opportunity for these young players to take part in this event, which is being watched by passers-by who may never have thought about coming to see the trophy or watch a rugby match – hopefully now they will!”
And Tamara wasn’t the only rugby professional on hand; former England 7s and Newcastle Falcons player, Ollie Phillips was also on the touch line. He said: “It’s great to be here in Durham today, and particularly special for me because I came to University here, so I graduated in this wonderful Cathedral. I’m from Brighton originally and had never before been this far North; I loved the area so much that I wanted to stay and was lucky enough to play for Newcastle Falcons. Having the trophy tour here is a brilliant awareness-raiser and it’s very special to know that Newcastle is hosting several games during the World Cup because this region is so passionate about sport.”
While some visitors to Palace Green were keen to watch and cheer on the visiting youth teams, others were quick to join the queue for a photo with the cup itself and the only person at the event officially allowed to lift it, RFU president and former England Prop, Jason Leonard. As England’s most capped player at 114 appearances, it is hard to say which was the bigger attraction, the cup, or the player, as he posed for photos with kids and chatted to fans.
He said: “It’s been such a great day today and having the cup and the touch rugby tournament in the city centre creates such a buzz. I love to inspire young people to get involved with rugby and seeing the joy and the enthusiasm on these kids’ faces today has given me such pleasure.”
Jason took part in the 1991 World Cup, the last time England was a major hosting nation, with the final being played at Twickenham. He added: “It’s great to see the World Cup being hosted here again; it will be another proud moment for the country with the final at Twickenham. And taking part in the trophy tour has been a wonderful experience, we’ve been to some great places but this setting between the magnificent Durham Cathedral and Castle has to be one of the best yet.”
The Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour continues, and finishes on 18 September in Twickenham.