In ITV’s first keynote session of Ad Week Europe, John Inverdale was announced as lead presenter for the Rugby World Cup.
At the BAFTA theatre on Monday he hosted a well attended debate between Laurence Dallaglio, Sean Fitzpatrick, Sir Ian McGeechan and Shane Williams.
In the green room prior to going on stage, I spoke to Shane and John and we were both united in our opinion that last Saturday was one of the most remarkable days in the history of the game.
Invers introduced the panel and stated that the tournament has already broken all box office records with 86 per cent of all tickets sold.
A combined audience of 20 million watched the culmination of the Six Nations on Saturday – and Rugby World Cup on ITV is the next stop for those millions of fans in the Autumn.
The panel began by reflecting on the events of Saturday, when England just fell short of beating France by the required 26 points, handing the championship to Ireland.
Dallaglio said: “I thought 26 points was going to be a little bit too much and you always felt that the chance of winning the championship went when they left too many tries behind against Scotland the week before. “
But he said the crowd at Twickenham had almost willed them over the line. “I’ve never seen an atmosphere like it at Twickenham,” he said.
Fitzpatrick agreed. “What it showed was that the Northern hemisphere teams have all the necessary skills to score tries. It was by far the best atmosphere I’ve ever seen at any rugby game at Twickenham.”
Shane, who watched his team rack up a huge score against Italy, which later proved to be insufficient, said: “It was a very long day. There were a lot of Welsh people celebrating really early on Saturday.”
Many of the panelists had memories of the first Rugby World Cup in 1987, hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
Fizpatrick, who was part of the winning New Zealand team that year, said: “We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into. It was a pretty amateurish tournament really.”
“We were back at work on Monday; we’d done our job. The most important thing for us was to beat Australia in two weeks’ time.”
There was no ticker tape parade and no fuss was made. “We had a World Cup breakfast and that was it,” said Fitzpatrick.
Dallaglio relived some of his memories from the World Cup of 2003, which England famously won with a last-minute drop goal from Jonny Wilkinson.
Finally, they discussed their hopes and dreams for this year’s World Cup, due to kick off in September and being played at venues around England and Wales.
England will be in a tough group together with Wales and Australia, with Fiji as potential party poopers, with only two teams going through.
“It makes for an exciting group and I can’t tell you which two teams will go through,” admitted Williams, who went on to re live the nightmare of RWC 2007 when Wales were beaten by the South Sea Islanders.
When asked who will win the tournament Dallaglio said: “My heart says England; my head says it will be between New Zealand and South Africa.”
Fitzpatrick said: “This is why it’s going to be the greatest World Cup, without question because arguably we’ve got six or seven teams that could win the World Cup.
“I’m sure the people of England and Wales will deliver an amazing World Cup. I can’t see anyone beating New Zealand, but I’d like to see us playing England in the final.” and maybe Nigel Owens as referee