Darlington could get a slice of Rugby World Cup 2015

Darlington's arena passes inspection to become international teams' training base for 2015 Rugby World Cup showpiece

Robbie Kalbraier
Robbie Kalbraier

Darlington's Northern Echo Arena stands a chance of hosting a national team during the 2015 Rugby World Cup after passing an inspection by the tournament organisers.

The former home of Darlington Football Club is now owned and run by Darlington Mowden Park Rugby Football Club, who are currently top of National Two North and in the running for promotion to the third tier of English rugby.

The arena joins Gateshead International Stadium and adjacent academy on the list of bases from which competing teams can choose to train during the global showpiece, which sees three games at Newcastle’s St James’ Park and a further two at Leeds’ Elland Road.

Danny Brown, co-coach of Darlington Mowden Park, said: “The facility we have got speaks for itself, and we have worked incredibly hard to be as attractive to a team as we can be.

“As far as I am aware there are only three venues in the North East who have been accepted, which are ourselves, Gateshead Stadium and Queen Ethelburga’s College, which is an independent school between York and Harrogate.

“We have now just got to keep our fingers crossed and hope that somebody comes along, and likes what they see.”

Explaining the next step between being accepted on to the list and actually having a team decide to use their ground as a training base, Brown said: “All that happens now is we wait for Rugby World Cup 2015 to contact us with teams who may want to come and have a look round our venue.

“That could be teams who have games in the North East or teams who just want to be out of the way a little, and if that interest does come we would give them a tour round our facilities before they make a decision.

“It is not a case of us approaching the teams, and by all accounts it is actually strictly forbidden for us or any other venue to do so. That means we are just waiting for the organisers to get in touch but, to be fair to them, they have been spot-on throughout the whole process.

“They have done a cracking job of keeping us informed at every stage and letting us know how the process works. It has been good for us as a club and they have given us a lot of help.”

Darlington’s arena next week hosts international rugby when the England Counties XV, made up of the best amateur players in the country, hosts its Irish equivalent, Brown revealing strong interest for the Friday-night clash.

He said: “We believe we have hit around 60,000 to 70,000 people with information about it, all 17 of our corporate hospitality boxes are sold out, the pre-match meal for another 190 is sold out and another one of our pre-match functions is also sold out.

“That means we are at something around 600 before we even start to factor in general match ticket sales, and it is going well.

“We just need to keep the momentum going for the next two weeks to try and get as big a crowd in as we can, and hopefully people will see the arena not just as a venue for Darlington Mowden Park but also for events like this.”

Mowden pair Cameron Mitchell and Pierce Phillips were in the Counties side beaten by a single point away to the French Federale XV two weeks ago, Blaydon trio Chris Wearmouth, Gavin Jones and Robbie Kalbraier also having been involved.

Brown said: “Having Cameron and Pierce called up is an endorsement of what we are doing at the club, and I think there has been a misconception from people on the outside saying players from National Two level wouldn’t be selected.

“Myself and my fellow coach John Newton certainly knew what the facts were, and that people were mistaken in having that belief.

“If you are good enough and you keep showing it then the selectors will be aware of you, which hasproven to be the case.”

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