Director General of the National Sports Council Jaime González Castaño today welcomed rugby’s greatest prize – the Webb Ellis Cup – to Madrid as part of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour.
Federación Española de Rugby (FER) President Alfonso Feijoo, national coach Santiago Santos and players Jaime Nava and Gautier Gibouin joined the formal welcome ahead of their Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifier with Germany at the Estadio Nacional Complutense on Sunday.
Los Leones will be eager for victory this weekend to remain on course to claim the Europe 1 qualification place for Rugby World Cup 2019 as the highest ranked team in the Rugby Europe Championship across the 2017 and 2018 editions, excluding already qualified Georgia.
Spain are bidding to qualify for a Rugby World Cup for the first time since 1999, their one and only appearance in the showpiece tournament when they met Scotland, South Africa and Uruguay. Victories over Germany and Belgium on 18 March will confirm Spain’s place in Pool A alongside Ireland, Scotland, hosts Japan and the Play-off Winner.
The ninth Rugby World Cup takes place in Japan from 20 September-2 November and will be the first tournament to be hosted in Asia. Sixteen teams are already confirmed for Japan 2019 with the remaining four qualifiers to be known by November 2018.
The tournament is already capturing the imagination of fans around the world with 864,000 applications for team and stadium pack tickets and global fans are urged to sign-up and join the official Front Row (www.rugbyworldcup.com/supporters) to avail of a priority ticketing phase in May.
In the countdown to the tournament, the Webb Ellis Cup will embark on a tour of 18 countries across five continents, exciting and engaging new and established rugby markets in a bid to grow the game and build excitement for Japan 2019.
As part of the latest stop of the tour, the Webb Ellis Cup will be in Madrid from 8-11 March, visiting local youth and women’s rugby programmes that are part of World Rugby’s Get Into Rugby initiative which aims to encourage players of all ages to Try, Play and Stay in rugby.
While inspiring the next generation of players the Webb Ellis Cup will also visit CD Arquitectura, one of Madrid’s oldest clubs, and will be joined by Alberto Malo, who captained Spain at Rugby World Cup 1999. The Trophy Tour will culminate with Spain’s encounter with Germany where fans can see the coveted silverware as qualification for Rugby World Cup 2019 continues in Europe.
FER President Feijoo said: “It goes without saying that for the Federación Española de Rugby and all of Spanish rugby it is a honour to have the iconic Webb Ellis Cup in Madrid, because as much as being one of the most valued sporting trophies it is a symbol of rugby. Also, the fact that Spain are two games away from qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2019 – playing against Germany in Madrid on Sunday and a week later against Belgium in Brussels – gives this visit an even sweeter taste.
“I had the opportunity to take part in Rugby World Cup 1999, the only one Spain has competed in. I went as coach and now, as FER President, we have the opportunity to again compete for the Webb Ellis Cup. I know we cannot touch it as it is an honour bestowed for the champions, but it is our goal to play for it, which for Spanish rugby is already a win. Lastly, I’d like to thank World Rugby for bringing the trophy to our country where I have no doubts it will feel at home.”
Romania are the only team who can deny Spain the Europe 1 qualification spot after Russia, Belgium and Germany saw their dreams end. Whichever side misses out on this place will face a play-off with Rugby Europe Trophy 2017 winners Portugal for the right to meet Samoa in a home-and-away Europe/Oceania play-off to determine the Play-off Winner. The loser of this play-off will enter the four-team global repechage tournament in November to compete for the final place at RWC 2019.
Spain’s match with Germany, which kicks off at 12:30 local time (11:30 GMT), will be streamed live via www.rugbyeurope.eu.
For more details on the Rugby World Cup 2019 ticketing process, visit www.rugbyworldcup.com/tickets.