A grand day out
November 12, 2009
The San Siro will host the All Blacks and Italy on Saturday © Getty Images
The differences between rugby and football are well documented. Since William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran the two codes have been on divergent paths. As much as the rugby community may scoff at the white boots and diving, there's one thing that they do enjoy - a day out at one of the many world class arenas offered by the round-ball game.
Think less the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham and more the Nou Camp as we take a run through the grounds that have provided grand days out in our latest Scrum Seven.
The San Siro - Milan
The All Blacks will descend on the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, more commonly known as the San Siro due to the Milan district in which it is situated, to face Italy on Saturday. The game will be a thrilling fusion of one of rugby's most enduring brands and one of soccer's great arenas. Named after a two-time World Cup-winner, the ground is a UEFA five star venue and was originally opened in 1926.
The game is a sell-out, with over 80,000 fans turning out to see the Kiwis take on the Azzurri. Normally the home of both AC Milan and Internazionale, two of the marquee names in European sport, the San Siro has hosted one rugby game before - albeit a slightly more low-key affair. A heady crowd of 9,000 watched Romania beat Italy 12-3 in 1988.
Wembley Stadium - London - 1999
The ground at which England skipper Bobby Moore held aloft the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966 also played host to one of the most famous crescendos in Five Nations history - when Wales were installed as the home side due to the ongoing building work at the Millennium Stadium.
England were the visitors to Wembley, a symbol of England's footballing heritage, as Scott Gibbs' mazy run through the heart of their defence denied them the final Five Nations championship. The final score of 32-31 handed the title to Scotland and put a sheen on Wales' stay at Wembley, which to that point had been a mixed bag.
Wembley Stadium - London - 2008
The 'new Wembley' hosted its first game of union in December 2008, when the Barbarians and Australia trotted out at the newly-finished 90,000 seat ground.
The match had been organised as part of the British Olympic Association's celebrations of the first London Olympics in 1908. Australia won the rugby gold medal at those Games with a 32-3 victory over Great Britain, who were represented by Cornwall. The Baa-Baas wore Cornwall socks for the game but were defeated under the sweeping arch by a young Wallabies side.
The game was marred by serious injuries to Australian props Matt Dunning and Sekope Kepu, who both were let down by a sub-standard pitch. Saracens played the first club game at Wembley when they defeated Northampton Saints there in 2009 and will also host the touring Springboks there in November.
Stade Velodrome - Marseille
The home of French Ligue 1 side Olympique Marseille first hosted a rugby game in 1949, where France defeated Italy 27-0. It was following the renovation of the Velodrome to a 60,000 seat arena for the 1998 football World Cup that rugby took root however.
France won a 42-33 thriller over the All Blacks in November 2000 and during the 2007 Rugby World Cup the city hosted six games. Two quarter-finals were hosted at the stadium, South Africa's win over Fiji and England's memorable victory over Australia. France returned to Marseille in 2008, when a crowd of over 57,000 packed into the ground to see a 12-6 victory over Argentina and they will come flocking again later this month when the All Blacks return.
Old Trafford - Manchester
The home of Manchester United, the most successful English club of the Premier League era, the 'Theatre of Dreams' has also hosted two England rugby internationals. The first was a 25-8 loss to the All Blacks in 1997, when a crowd of 56,000 watched Jeff Wilson and Andrew Mehrtens inspire the visitors to victory.
In 2009, Argentina made the ground their temporary home as they sought to raise much needed funds from a two-Test series in England. The 'visitors' picked up a 35-17 victory thanks to a debut try from Matt Banahan and a brace from Delon Armitage.
Estadio Anoeta - San Sebastian
Normally the home of Spanish Segunda Division side Real Sociedad, the Estadio Anoeta has been utilised for Top 14 and Heineken Cup games by both Biarritz and Bayonne. With the growing popularity of club rugby in France, both clubs have sought to capitalise on the 32,076 capacity of the ground.
In 2006, Biarritz successfully booked their place in the Heineken Cup Final at the stadium with an 18-9 victory over Bath secured thanks to the boot of scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili. The short trip across the border in to Spain's Basque country also proved attractive on the domestic stage, with Bayonne defeating Stade Francais in 2009 before losing a hard- fought Basque derby to Biarritz, 12-6.
Croke Park - Dublin
While not a football stadium one of the most contentious, and eventually successful, shifts in recent years has seen the Irish rugby team play at the home of Gaelic sport, Croke Park. Due to the renovation of Lansdowne Road Ireland secured permission to play at the 80,000 seat ground, normally strictly reserved for the Gaelic games of hurling and Gaelic football, and owned by the Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA).
The first rugby game played at the ground in 2007 was a heartbreaking loss to France in the Six Nations, but the focus fell quickly on the visit of England. There was simmering political tension in the build-up following a massacre by British troops at Croke Park during a Gaelic football match on Bloody Sunday in 1920.
The English anthem was immaculately observed by the fans however, and Ireland produced their biggest ever victory over their fierce rivals, winning 43-13 on their way to a Triple Crown.
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