THE countdown to the 2013 Rugby League World Cup has got under way – in Huddersfield!
Famous former World Cup stars and top Rugby Football League officials joined leading Kirklees Council figures at the George Hotel to launch the trophy tour.
Between now and the end of November, the impressive £500,000 silver-plated trophy will travel across World Cup host countries England, Wales and France, with the George Hotel chosen as its starting point in recognition of the fact it’s the birthplace of rugby league.
And as part of the opening-day celebrations, a class of children from Scholes Junior and Infant School performed a version of the dramatic scene in the hotel when rugby league was born on August 29, 1895.
The World Cup was also on display in St George’s Square for supporters to have their picture taken with the trophy before moving on to a further 20 venues, including a date with Prime Minister David Cameron in Downing Street and a trip to the Welsh National Assembly.
It will also visit Salford’s MediaCityUK on October 26, the date of the opening 2013 World Cup game, and Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium on November 30, which is one year before the World Cup final.
But the fact RL World Cup organisers chose Huddersfield as the trophy tour launch venue is something that has delighted Kirklees Council leader Mehboob Khan.
“It’s an absolute honour and a privilege that the trophy tour has started in Huddersfield,” said Clr Khan.
“But there’s no question the George Hotel is a fitting starting point as it is, of course, the birthplace of rugby league.
“Over the next 12 months the council and its partners have a unique opportunity to build on the already-established game of rugby league in Kirklees and develop it further through a programme of activities.
“This programme culminates with the only guaranteed game in West Yorkshire when England take on Ireland at the John Smith’s Stadium next November.”
RFL chief executive Nigel Wood led a strong World Cup organising team at the launch event and admitted the George Hotel was the logical starting point.
“Rugby League is justifiably proud of his heritage, and there’s nowhere more important in our game than the George Hotel,” he said.
“We are extremely confident next year’s World Cup will be an overwhelming success and this launch day in Huddersfield has really set the tone.”
As well as the trophy tour launch, a blue plaque to officially celebrate the George Hotel as the birthplace of rugby league was unveiled on the railings at the side of the main entrance.
The ceremony was led by Mayor of Kirklees David Ridgway, with David Rose, the former Fartown winger and member of the England team in the inaugural World Cup in 1954, also in attendance.