England expects

AGONY AND ECSTASY: England rugby fans watching the morning 2003 World Cup Final at Knights Bar, in Church Square, Hartlepool.
AGONY AND ECSTASY: England rugby fans watching the morning 2003 World Cup Final at Knights Bar, in Church Square, Hartlepool.

WORLD Cup fever is set to grip the nation as England aim to win rugby’s greatest title.

Tomorrow marks the start of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and people are being urged to get behind their team.

England’s opening match against Argentina tomorrow is being predicted to be the most recorded sports event in history because of the early kick-off.

Some seven million people nationwide are expected to record the game, which is the first of the team’s four group matches being televised.

Rugby clubs in Hartlepool and east Durham are opening their doors early for the game, which kicks off at 9.30am and pubgoers also have the chance to join in the fun.

Hartlepool Rovers Rugby Football Club are also inviting people to watch England’s ties and Horden Rugby Club are showing the games, with a Facebook page being set up urging people along.

But with matches starting as early as 7am, there are many that will not be opening for the games.

Hartlepool Rovers’ club chairman Michael Henderson said: “It’s difficult to do anything with the matches all starting early.

“We’re going to open the club up and invite people for bacon sandwiches while they watch the games.”

Most bars in Hartlepool town centre are screening the games dependent on their opening hours, but Lloyds Bar and The King John’s Tavern in Hartlepool are screening all England’s fixtures.

House committee chairman for West Hartlepool Rugby Club, Dave Picken, said: “Due to all the early kick-offs we have not planned anything.

“We’re just going to get on playing rugby.

“But if England reach the final then maybe we’ll do something.”

Horden Rugby Club’s 2011 Rugby World Cup Facebook page has attracted interest from scores of fans, with 87 people saying they plan to attend and another 94 possibles.

Club president John Groves said: “Some of the young lads wanted to get together and watch the game. We are going to be open at 9.30am and we’ll monitor the situation and see how it goes for future matches.”

England enter the competition ranked fifth in the world, ahead of home nation rivals Wales and Scotland.

The team are placed in Pool B and will go head-to-head against Argentina, Georgia, Romania and Scotland.

The last time England went all the way in the tournament was back in 2003, when England defeated Australia 20-17 in the final after Jonny Wilkinson’s drop kick in the final minutes.

l Mail view: Page 8