FIVE NATIONS' CHAMPIONSHIP: National Homes: How the Grounds for This Ye Ar's Championship Are Shaping Up for the Future

By Slot, Owen | The Independent (London, England), January 15, 1996 | Go to article overview
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FIVE NATIONS' CHAMPIONSHIP: National Homes: How the Grounds for This Ye Ar's Championship Are Shaping Up for the Future


Slot, Owen, The Independent (London, England)


Stadium TWICKENHAM Capacity 59,000

First International 15 January 1910 England 11 Wales 6

Potted history: Originally 10 acres of market garden, bought in 1907 for the RFU for pounds 5,572 by Billy Williams, a Harlequins full-back. Then known as "Billy Williams's cabbage patch". Was apt to flooding until banks of River Crane were built up. In 1969 Peter Hain, now a Labour MP, was carried off during an anti-apartheid pitch invasion of England v South Africa match. First streaker was Michael O'Brien in 1974; Erica Roe followed in 1982.

Redevelopments and future: South Stand was constructed in 1981, and in past five years the rest of the stadium has received a total face-lift. The North Stand was completed in 1991, the East Stand in 1993 and the 25,000-seater West Stand will be finishedin November. Already huge, will be breathtaking when its 75,000 capacity is complete.

Types and stereotypes: Home fans in uniform of Barbours and Timberland boots come for pre-match drinks and eats in stadium car-parks, the biggest public school reunion of the year.

Audience participation: Do sing: "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Jerusalem". Don't sing: "The Red Flag".

Tickets: pounds 12- pounds 33, available only through rugby clubs or schools.

Facilities: Best loos of the lot. Two 45-metre bars in the East Stand claim to be the longest in Britain.

Stadium: Cardiff Arms Park Capacity: 52,554

First international: 12 April 1884

Wales 1DG 2T Ireland 0

Potted history: Formerly property of Cardiff Cricket Club, became the sole Welsh international venue in 1954 after four clubs, Swansea, Llanelli, Newport and Cardiff, had staged internationals. Original North stand was completed in 1935 and hit by bomb in 1941. Until 1967, when redevelopment started, the pitch was an appalling swamp which some sides threatened not to play on. The Pope has also sold out here.

Redevelopments and future Stadium has stayed horseshoe shape because of problems in getting planning permission to develop the East Terrace. This is likely to change, boosting capacity and helping the WRU's bid to stage the 1999 World Cup final. Two architects' plans have already been seen. Suggestions of rebuilding out of town are viewed as heresy.

Types and stereotypes Thousands of short, squat types probably reminiscing about the Seventies. Celebrity fans include Max Boyce and Neil Kinnock.

Audience participation Do sing: "Cwm Rhondda" and "Land of My Fathers". Don't sing: quite the way they used to.

Tickets pounds 8- pounds 24, available only through rugby clubs or schools.

Facilities Generally poor, but worse pre-1967 when urine from North Stand loos would shower on the terrace below.

Stadium: Murrayfield Capacity: 67,500

First international: 21 March 1925

Scotland 14 England 11

Potted history Youngest of the Five Nations' stadia, formerly the ground of the Edinburgh Polo Club. Held record Five Nations' crowd, 104,000, in March 1975 (Scotland 12 Wales 10) when many left midway to escape the danger and discomfort and watched the match on television. David Bowie and the Pope have also each packed out the ground. Undersoil heating was installed in 1991 and broke down three weeks ago.

Redevelopments and future The East Stand was built in 1983, the North and South Stands, which were completed in 1993, slope downwards to meet it.

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