Tuesday Team Talk: Super League Grand Final wins hearts and minds battle with Rugby World Cup fanzone

Last weekend more than 125,000 people came to Manchester to watch both codes of rugby, at long last a chance for union to sell itself to the typically league-loving North.

Yet with Stuart Lancaster’s England team already knocked-out of their own World Cup the opportunity went begging.

Manchester was hosting its first Rugby World Cup fanzone in a weekend that saw a clash of codes. 

A few weeks ago it looked as if Manchester would be forced to choose between league and union but rugby fans were faced with matches of contrasting importance.

At the Manchester City Stadium, England faced Uruguay in a game that should’ve seen the hosts go through to the quarter-finals but qualification was out of reach before kick-off after poor defeats to Wales and Australia.

Down the road Old Trafford hosted the weekend’s stand-out fixture in a colossal clash between Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors in front of a sell-out crowd in the Super League Grand Final. 

Leeds secured the domestic treble in a 22-20 thriller which proved a complete feast for the eyes in comparison to England’s predicted thrashing of Uruguay. 

MM went to the Manchester fanzone in Albert Square in the city centre to see where support lay. 

There families and fans gathered to enjoy everything rugby union with sponsors putting on a whole host of activities from bands to competitions and wide-screens showing all of the weekend’s pool games.   

During the Wales v Australia match MM spoke to Charlie Baker, 23, who bought tickets to the England game nine months ago.

“When you do that badly at your own tournament, I think people question why they should bother showing their support. 

“People dropped out of coming to the game and I’ve had to convince people to come with me!”

The business manager from Suffolk said it was an easy decision for him.

“I was always going to come to the game, I just had to be involved in the excitement of being at our own World Cup.

“I’ve only been to Manchester a couple of times but I’m really enjoying the World Cup atmosphere.

“Everyone is here to have a good time. We know we’ve been knocked out of the competition so everyone is just looking to have a good day out.”

Friend and fellow World Cup ticket-holder, Ryan Shone – that’s ‘Shonah-Lomu’ to his friends – is a Northern rugby union fan and explained why his allegiance lies with union.

“They love the 15-man game where I’m from in Sandbach. 

“My school was purely rugby union, they had a good pedigree for it with former pupils including Sale Sharks captain James Gaskell and Tom Holmes.” 

The 23-year-old from Cheshire jumped at the chance to go to the match.

“Why wouldn’t you go to the England v Uruguay game? It’s not about the winning: it’s the taking part that counts.

“They’re not doing much for the middle-class image of rugby union when they charge nearly £5 for a pint but it’s what you expect at these high-profile events given how much it costs to stage.”

The class-divide in union and league still remains as Grand Final ticket-holders got substantially more bang for their buck.

The best seats at Old Trafford sold for £70 whilst six miles away at the Etihad, the cheapest face-value ticket cost £60 with prices reaching heights of £260.

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