Rugby Expo 2014: Day One Review

By Community | October 23, 2014

Twickenham was awash with the great and the good in British sport as the annual Rugby Expo returned to HQ on Wednesday.

The first of two action-packed days featured Jason Leonard, impotent Ieuan Evans and Bill Beaumont, herbal as well as representatives from Super League, Manchester United, Twitter and much more.

Discussions surrounding the future of professional club rugby and building ‘Big Game’ strategies filled the morning, while the panel delved into clubs and countries’ ability to nurture the next generation of talent.

“There is no reason why in England we shouldn’t produce our fair share of indigenous players,” said Mark McCafferty, CEO of Premiership rugby. “We have the raw materials.”

Leicester Tigers chief executive Simon Cohen added: “It has to be a strategy from the top down. Where it becomes difficult is where the expectations are so high that winning every single Saturday becomes paramount.”

Experts from the world of social media and sponsorship held the floor after lunch, before the afternoon’s main attractions.

RFU chairman Bill Beaumont’s big interview rounded on the legacy of next year’s World Cup on home soil and the drive to empower grassroots rugby clubs up and down the country.

He said: “98 per cent of rugby is played by men and women, girls and boys, amateurs just having a bit of fun and I think we will never lose track of that.”

And proceedings came to a close with an entertaining discussion between British & Irish Lions Leonard and Evans, chaired by former Bath and USA No.8 Dan Lyle.

The debate centred around the World Cup – the day’s overriding theme – which will see Leonard’s England and Evans’ Wales pitted against each other, as well as Australia, in the pool stages.

“It’s the group everyone will be looking at,” said former Wales wing Evans. “Australia always have the ability to bounce back really quickly.

“This autumn is all the more important because of it. It will definitely improve their chances of getting out of the group if they beat one of the Southern Hemisphere teams this autumn.”

And win or lose next year, Leonard is determined to see England ride the World Cup wave better than following their memorable triumph Down Under in 2003.

“The problem with 2003 was it is very hard to capitalise on a World Cup win when you are on the other side of the world,” he said.

“This is too good an opportunity to miss to create a legacy in England and create something that will be the best World Cup so far. This will be the biggest and the best World Cup.”