Twickenham Stadium – England Rugby
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Located in southwest London, Twickenham Stadium, the home of English rugby, was opened in 1909, two years after the stretch of land was purchased from a cabbage farmer – hence the venue’s nickname. Local sides Harlequins and Richmond were the first two sides to play there and since then the stadium has firmly established itself as one of the most iconic venues in world sport.
After redevelopments were completed in 2006, the capacity is now just over 82,000 making it the second largest stadium in the UK – behind Wembley – and fifth largest in Europe.
It is owned by the Rugby Football Union and England’s senior men’s rugby team are the side/team most linked to the stadium. Their first match at the new stadium was against Wales in January 1910 and they now play there about 10 times a season.
Twickenham Stadium also hosts the English Rugby Premiership Final each May, and top flight sides Harlequins and London Wasps rent the stadium at least once a year for regular season matches and come summer there are numerous Sevens tournaments that attract crowds of about 60,000.
In 1991, and before redevelopment, it hosted the Rugby World Cup final and will do so again in 2015, while the European Rugby Cup final has also been held there four times – in 2000, 2004, 2007 and 2012.
More recently and with the approval of the suburb’s residents, the stadium has opened its doors to a number of world-famous bands, including the Rolling Stones, U2 and Bon Jovi.
Food & Beverage 4
One thing is for sure; you won’t go hungry or thirsty at Twickenham. Food and drinks stalls are everywhere and covering all manner of culinary tastes – pork roasts, fish and chips, curries and ice cream vans are numerous and dotted all around the stadium.
This being a rugby stadium there is no issue with alcohol and it is almost positively encouraged that you have a least one or two units of alcohol sloshing around your system come game time. Beer comes in three main varieties – lager, ale and Guinness. There is also wine and spirits available and for the younger fans and designated drivers the usual array of water and sodas.
A bite to eat and something to drink will set you back about £8 and don’t be put off by the queues, they go down quickly.
For those who want to bring their own food and drink, there is plenty of room in the west car park to enjoy a pre-match picnic.
After a match the bars are allowed to stay open until two hours post-match and then it is either a short walk into Twickenham town centre or 10 minutes on the bus to Richmond town centre where the festivities continue.
There used to be the belief that if a bomb was dropped on Twickenham’s west car park that 80% of England’s upper classes would be wiped out in one fell swoop. Yes, the stereotype that England matches at the stadium are populated only by upper class chaps and their old-school chums does hold true to some extent, but in recent years the social cross section of fans has noticeably changed.
Even so, there are times during international test matches when the atmosphere can be decidedly flat. At internationals in particular, there is a section of the spectators that are there almost solely so that they can say they were there. As such, the viewing experience can be disturbed by people getting up to go to the bar or concession stands on a regular basis, meaning it is hard to follow play. Then there are the horrific jingles that the PA rattles out every time someone scores. They add nothing to the atmosphere and kill any ambiance that is growing during tense matches. Throw in the half-time ‘entertainment’ and the butchering of the national anthems at the start of the match by some warbling operatic diva and you begin to feel like an outsider looking on, rather than part of the occasion, which a spectator should be.
“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, a spiritual song from the southern states of the USA was first sung at Twickenham by a group of ex-pupils from an independent school, who had adopted the song. They sung it in honour of Chris Oti, an England wing of Nigerian origin who had just scored a try. When he completed a hat trick later in the match the whole stadium broke into voice in his honour. Since then the song has stuck and gets a regular airing during matches.
For Premiership finals and European Rugby Cup finals, the more tribal nature of the two sets of club supporters and the less corporate air of the occasion mean that there is more noise and more of an edge, though with a very amiable rapport between the two sets of fans.
Twickenham is one of London’s more salubrious suburbs and with its location down by the River Thames it is a very pleasant place to go whether there is a match on or not. Richmond, either a 10-minute bus ride or 20 minute walk away, is an equally pleasant town on the riverside.
The bars and pubs that line the river in both towns are always packed before and afterwards and if it is a sunny day there is almost a carnival atmosphere.
When the need moves from drink to food both Twickenham and Richmond have a vast array of restaurants catering for a wide variety of tastes and budgets.
Further afield central London and all its delights is only a 20 minute train ride away.
Traditionally the Twickenham international crowd has been fairly stuffy and staid. That said, most appreciate good rugby, whoever it is played by and have no problem showing their appreciation for a spectacular piece of individual skill or slick piece of attacking team play.
True to the sport’s roots there is a friendly and very healthy rivalry between the sets of fans that sit together and mingle throughout the match, most noticeably at the nearest bar come the final whistle.
Things get more tribal for a club game, be it the English Premiership final or a European Cup final. If the latter involves a team from Ireland, expect the majority of the crowd to be made up of people from the Emerald Isle, who roar on their team in spectacular style and do their best to drink the bars dry.
One thing to be said is that with over 80,000 spectators, high prices for tickets, and food and drinks, an international is not somewhere to bring a child of under 12. Unfortunately many parents don’t realise that it makes more sense economically and simply for enjoyment to watch one’s local rugby club where the bar is cheaper and more accessible, the play more open and entertaining and with space for children to run around in.
After paying £80 ($123) for the England v France match, this correspondent would say that the £10 ($15) I paid to watch third-tier rugby just before Christmas was a far better value for money.
Twickenham Stadium is located in southwest London about 20 minutes from the centre of town. The easiest route for those who have to travel from the centre is to catch an overland train from Waterloo station. At some stage the carriage will become very cramped, but it shouldn’t last very long and from the station the stadium is a 10-minute walk away.
Richmond tube station is the last stop on two lines on the London Underground. From there buses are available and cost a token fee to whisk supporters to the station or it is a 20-30 minute walk.
Driving is an option and Twickenham is not far from London’s orbital motorway, the M25, but roads get busy on match days. There is not a great deal of parking and what there is, it is pricey.
Return on Investment 4
Overall Twickenham provides a very good, if not cheap, day out. There is plenty to keep the whole family entertained in the build up to kick off and come game time access to the stadium is fairly stress-free and the views are good even in the uppermost tiers.
There are a number of chances to watch a match throughout the year. The England internationals are the most sought after, but even for the Premiership Final there are usually a number of tickets on sale in the days leading up to kick off.
If you prefer something a little more exotic and quirky there is also the annual Varsity match that takes place in early December between Oxford and Cambridge Universities. It is a match that has taken place for over 130 years and both sides base their entire seasons around winning it. The match also attracts old boys from both institutes, who wear either their old dark blue (Oxford) or light blue colours with pride and zeal.
Following the extension to the south stand in 2006 there is now a fully functioning hotel as part of the stadium. There are 156 rooms, many with views of the pitch on non-match days and the complex provides conference and gym facilities as well. Prices are steep though, with rooms starting at around £200 per night.
One thing not to be missed if you visit on a non-match day is the stadium tour and visit to the Museum of Rugby. The tour takes the visitor all around the stadium, including the changing rooms, pitch-side, the corporate boxes and a number of conference rooms that show the history of the stadium and teams that have played there.
The museum charts the rise of the sport from the initial fabled act of schoolboy rebellion by William Webb Ellis, to its spread around the globe and onto the recent awarding of an Olympic place for Rugby Sevens.
Cost of a combined ticket is £15 for an adult, £9 for concessions or £45 for a family ticket of two adults and two children.
Finally, there are two Rugby Superstores selling all manner of paraphernalia from shirts and kit, to boots and tracksuits, ties, caps, DVDs and all manner of rugby-related produce to mark your day out at the most famous rugby stadium in the world.
Food and Drink Recommendations
World Rugby Museum
Twickenham Stadium/Rugby Rd
London, England TW1 1DZ
020 8892 8877
London TW2 6AA, UK
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198 Whitton Rd
London, England TW2 7BA
London Marriott Hotel Twickenham
198 Whitton Rd
Twickenham TW2 7BA, UK
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