Writing this post is more than a little bittersweet.
After Saturday’s game, and the result meaning we are out, the game being held at the City of Manchester Stadium feels almost pointless.
Except it’s not. It’s still a game, it’s still (especially given their performance at the weekend) a challenge for the players, it’s still a World Cup game in our home country and for me, on home turf. It’s still an opportunity for those of us who love rugby to celebrate not only the sport, but the sportsmanship that lies behind it and hopefully encourage new fans.
And for those of us volunteering, it’s still our role to make sure that all the teams and all the fans still have a bloody fantastic time in our country.
So that’s what we’ll do.
For me, it starts here, this post is all about what to expect this weekend in Manchester. I’m going to be running about on the pitch, so won’t even have much time to enjoy the extras myself, but if you’re attending a game for a first time, there are a few useful tidbits, to help get you started.
For those travelling to Manchester, I’m reliably informed that extra train services, trams and buses are being laid on. In particular, for those travelling to/from London or the south will be pleased to hear that late trains are to be laid on too. The reasons for this are simple. Not only is there the England RWC game, there is also a Rugby League Grand Final at the Old Trafford Stadium.
(For someone who lives in a football city, seeing it taken over with rugby actually fills me with joy).
But it will be busy. There will be delays, especially due to the sheer number of roadworks in the city currently, so wherever you can, plan extra time into your journey.
Albert Square in the city centre is going to be set up as a Fan Zone where there’ll be food, drink and a chance to watch the other games going – Friday through to and including Sunday. If by this point as an England supporter, you’ve defaulted to your ‘back up’ team (we all have one) it might be an opportunity to watch them in action in the city.
There is also a second one at the City of Manchester Stadium itself, again with food and drink and sponsors etc, and that will be open on the Saturday only, so no need to worry about how to occupy yourself if you arrive at the stadium a bit early!
This one always surprises newbies to rugby. So yes, you can drink in the stadium. You can drink before you get in the stadium. It’s fine. It’s allowed. So there’s no need to down six pints before you head over to watch.
Fans, banter, and playing nice:
You will be seated in a mixed style. There’s no split seating allocation, so Uruguay fans will be seated with England fans and vice versa. You’ll all be mixed up in your little ticket groupings. So expect a bit of a ribbing, some teasing, but it’s all good natured. It is actually banter in the proper sense of the word. At the end of it, you’re expected to shake hands and go and have a pint in the pub (not necessarily literally, but you get the idea).
There’ll also be a lot of kids at the game, it’s a real family atmosphere.
Understanding the game
OK, so you might be going and not know the rules. No problem. During the game the organisers have ensured that there are lots of easy to understand videos being shown, that details things like rucks, mauls, throw-ins and penalties. And if you’re really stuck, ask one of the other fans – they’ll be happy to explain (just maybe not do it at a crucial moment when their attention will be focussed on the game)
What to expect
The organisers have tried to make the whole game feel like it’s less disconnected from the experience you’d get at home.
So as well as a pre-game and half-time show, there’ll also be a post-game section broadcast on the big screens. So even if you’re waiting for to leave at the end, you’ll hear the pundits and players talk about the game.
Also expect a little drama, with the national anthems, pyrotechnics and watch out for little me in my neon yellow cap, running around getting people on and off the field of play.
Which brings me nicely to the last bit.
Most of the people you will come into contact on the day – from those directing you to the stadium, to those on and at the Fan Zones, to those of us running around the stadium are volunteers. We’ve taken time off work to devote to a sport we love, to teams we love, and to you.
We’re not paid, though we do get our lunches and our rather fetching navy blue uniforms (and bright yellow caps, as modelled above) as part of it, which makes us identifiable. So say hello, chat to us and know most of all, we’re here to help.
We want you to have the best game you can.
See you there.