England rugby legend Jason Leonard believes the 2015 World Cup will be the best ever when it hits these shores next September.
The former prop forward — capped 114 times by England and a World Cup winner in 2003 — was speaking in his role as president-elect of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) at Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club on Saturday.
Leonard — whose official year-long term as president begins in July — was in Suffolk to present Bury with their renewed RFU accreditation and believes they will be among the clubs to benefit from a home World Cup next autumn.
“I think it will be the best World Cup we’ve ever seen,” he said. “We’ve already got half of all the tickets sold with just under a year to go, so everything is looking fantastic.
“We want England to do very well — they have got a great opportunity at a home World Cup in front of a passionate home Twickenham fanbase and I think they could be there or thereabouts.”
Reflecting on the RFU’s commitment to clubs like Bury and his previous visit to the Suffolk side’s ground, he added: “The RFU have invested back into the game to the tune of about £30 million to improve rugby clubs, facilities, training pitches, floodlights, car parks, whatever it may be, especially knowing there will be an uptake in numbers with the World Cup here next year.
“It’s everything that goes towards building a great game and clubs like Bury St Edmunds who we want to support and want them to prosper.
“The last time I was here was years ago — I think I was about at 18 or 19 — for a training session.
“At that time, I don’t think Bury had sorted out their drainage and there was just mud everywhere.
“You could dive off the slope next to where the 3G pitch is now and slide all the way down to the pitch on the far side most probably.”
* For a full report and reaction to Saturday’s game, see Friday’s Bury Free Press print edition.