Elmbridge is no stranger to rugby, but Cobham RFC chairman Tony Balkwill believes the rugby World Cup will find a wider audience when it visits the borough in 2015.
Cobham and the American Community School will play host to Italy and Namibia during the build up and groups stages of next year’s tournament.
Wales and Fiji will use the Xcel Leisure Complex in Walton-on-Thames to host parts of their preparations in conjunction with Premiership side London Irish.
The three venues were this week confirmed among the 41 official team bases for the World Cup bringing an end to a 15-month selection process, which began in May 2013 when tender applications were first invited.
Walton and Cobham fought off rival bids from more 90 other clubs and leisure complexes to make the grade in an area where National Division One Esher dominate the rugby landscape.
Surrey as a whole is one of the sport’s traditional strongholds, but Balkwill believes Cobham can help the World Cup bring a new breed of rugby fans to the game.
Have a word: Cobham chairman Tony Balkwill announces the news at Fairmile Lane
“As an amateur club we are very proud of our top class facilities, developed by members’ donations, fundraising and grants received from the RFU and Sports England,” he said.
“We were used as a base by four international women’s teams competing in the 2012 IRB Sevens. “Cobham Rugby regards this once in a life time event as an opportunity to showcase the sport within the broader Elmbridge community, thereby providing the motivation to attract a new audience and keen participants in grassroots rugby.
“We look forward to Italy and Namibia coming to Cobham within Elmbridge borough and providing them with an enthusiastic welcome.”
The joint venture in Cobham, which will not be used in the knock out stages, will consist of the London Division One South club’s first team pitch at Fairmile Lane, its clubhouse and gym facilities.
While ACS Cobham – already accustomed to hosting Team GB basketball and England volleyball internationals – brings a 25-metre competition-class swimming pool and international-sized basketball/volleyball show court – for indoor training – to the table.
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And Xcel, which will host teams involved in the knockout stages too, will play a support role to London Irish’s Hazelwood training ground in Sunbury.
And the set-up certainly ticked all the right boxes for Italy’s current team boss Luigi Trioani, who wants the borough to inspire his men – grouped with France, Romania and Canada in Pool D – to the knockout stages.
“I was impressed by the quality both of indoor and outdoor training facilities at our team base and thrilled by the prospect of being part of such a great event as the World Cup,” said the 47-time Italian international.
“I’ve no doubt Italy will receive a warm welcome by the local community, which will help us fight for a historic qualification to the knockout stages, which is our aim for next year.”
Home from home: Cobham’s picturesque first team headquarters