Prince Harry and a rap poet joined legends of rugby at Twickenham on Friday to formally launch the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
“Never has a tournament been so eagerly anticipated and never has a nation been so ready,” said World Rugby president Bernard Lapasset as he opened the event following a 20-minute ceremony.
George the Poet read his rap work and rugby legends including former England captain Martin Johnson and ex-All Blacks skipper Sean Fitzpatrick took part as a giant rugby ball was dismantled during the ceremony to reveal the Webb Ellis Cup.
“We’re ready. Game on!” Britain’s Prince Harry, honorary president of England Rugby 2015, said to a roar of approval from the capacity 82,000 crowd packed into Twickenham Stadium, the largest stadium in the world devoted solely to rugby.
The ceremony, themed as ‘Breaking New Ground’ celebrated the story of rugby from its roots in 1823 at Rugby School, when according to legend William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it during a game of football.
Harry also featured in the film, playing the role of a stunned gardner as the young Ellis ran from the school and passed the ball through video clips of former great players.
They notably included Jason Robinson of England and Fiji’s Rupeni Caucaunibuca, Australia’s David Campese and All Black great Jonah Lomu and traced the game through to 2015 with the ceremony taking place ahead of the World Cup opening match between hosts England and Fiji.
To the delight largely partisan English crowd the opening ceremony began with the Rugby School choir, accompanied by the Royal Marines band giving a rousing rendition of the England theme song “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”.