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Prince Harry has starring role at Rugby World Cup launch

Published 18/09/2015

Prince William (left) and Prince Harry (right) are fans of rugby
Prince William (left) and Prince Harry (right) are fans of rugby
Prince Harry passes the Webb Ellis Cup as he attends the Rugby World Cup 2015 Welcome Party

Prince Harry has emulated the Queen by making a cameo appearance in the opening of a major sporting event - starring in the launch of the Rugby World Cup.

Harry, who is a passionate fan of the sport, joined a cast of famous rugby faces in a short film recreating the moment when William Webb Ellis invented rugby.

The legendary schoolboy is said to have picked up a ball and run with it in 1823 creating a game that would go on to become a global sport.

The Twickenham crowd of around 82,000 cheered as the short video was played before the opening game of the tournament - hosts England against Fiji.

In the footage the teenager, clutching the ball, runs out of the grounds of Rugby School passing two workmen - the prince and Jonny Wilkinson, England's 2003 Rugby World Cup winning hero.

Harry, wearing a white shirt, braces and trousers, looks up from digging with a spade and when Wilkinson asks "what's he doing?" the prince replies "don't worry Jonny, that will never take off" as he watches the teenager disappear into the distance.

His grandmother the Queen stole the show at the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics when she starred alongside James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, and appeared to skydive into the main stadium.

The Rugby World Cup is expected to be watched by a huge global audience over the next six weeks.

Harry, who is the honorary president of England Rugby 2015, the organising committee staging the tournament, was joined at Twickenham by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prime Minister David Cameron.

Also featured in the short film, and dressed in period clothes, were famous sporting faces like former England Coach Sir Clive Woodward, whose squad won the 2003 World Cup, and former international Bill Beaumont.

The crowds watched the rest of the opening ceremony staged on Twickenham's pitch which featured a living tower of rugby players with the tournament's trophy at its summit.

Twenty nations will compete in stadiums across England and Wales for the Webb Ellis cup, with expectations high for England head coach Stuart Lancaster's team.

New Zealand remain the favourites with many bookies but home support for England, Scotland and Wales is expected to play a part.

During the ceremony there was also loud applause as 20 rugby legends - one from each competing team - were introduced.

Harry gave a speech and told the expectant fans: "There will be moments in this World Cup which will live with us for the rest of our lives. Who could forget 1995 and President Mandela handing The Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar, or that drop kick in 2003.

"To all the players, we congratulate you and wish you well for the tournament. Your individual skill is to be celebrated, but I can think of no other sport where the success of the team is shouldered so equally by everyone.

"Rugby has changed dramatically in my lifetime. But it remains a game founded on a code of values. Values which are as important today, both on and off the field of play, as they have ever been.

"Across the country, regardless of age, background or beliefs; this nation, which gave rugby to the world in 1823, will join together and celebrate the game like never before.

"In six weeks' time, one team will take its place in history. It's up to every one of us, to raise the roof on each match in this unforgettable journey. The players have earned it, the nations deserve it and the fans expect it."

Harry ended with the words "We're ready, game on" before Bernard Lapasset, chairman of World Rugby, said "let the tournament begin".

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