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MP slams decision to omit Welford Road

Welford Road's omission from the list of 2015 Rugby World Cup venues was raised during the weekly business statement in the House of Commons on Thursday.

Jon Ashworth, the MP for Leicester South, described the decision as "absolutely ridiculous" in a question to Andrew Lansley, the leader of the house. Welford Road is the biggest club rugby ground in England but it was dropped as a potential World Cup venue because its facilities were not deemed good enough.

Ashworth said: "I am particularly concerned that we make future sporting events such as the Rugby World Cup in 2015 a great success. Would he (Commons leader Andrew Lansley) agree with me that it is absolutely ridiculous that Leicester Tigers' Welford Road has been excluded from the list of venues that will be used?"

Lansley did not respond to the specific point raised by Ashworth, but he said the Backbench Business Committee could look at scheduling a debate on sporting matters generally.

Ashworth had already written to the sports minister Hugh Robertson about the issue. After raising it in Parliament on Thursday, Ashworth then spoke directly to Ross Young, the chief operating officer for the tournament's delivery company England Rugby 2015.

Welford Road, which boasts a capacity of 24,000 and has been Leicester's home for 120 years, had been included as a venue in England's successful bid to host the World Cup.

But it failed to make the long list of 17 potential venues, published by ER2015, because its pitch size and facilities failed to meet the standards laid down by Rugby World Cup Ltd.

Young told Press Association Sport: "For the last two tournaments, the hosts have been set a number of minimum criteria. If you couldn't meet any or one of the sporting criteria, you wouldn't go on to the next stage."

There will be two standard pitch sizes in place for the tournament. According to ER2015, even the smaller of the configurations - 95metres by 68metres - would not fit into Welford Road without removing three rows of seats.

The Rugby World Cup evaluation committee also decided Welford Road did not meet the minimum requirements with regards to changing room, anti-doping, broadcast and media facilities. Gloucester's Kingsholm is the only club rugby ground on the long list. Leicester is represented by the city's 32,000-capacity football stadium.

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