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World Cup hosts relishing challenge

The team charged with the task of delivering the 2015 Rugby World Cup is relishing the challenge of building upon Britain's blossoming reputation for hosting major sporting events.

The 2012 London Olympics set new standards which were upheld by this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Rugby union's global tournament comes to England and Wales in the autumn of next year with big shoes to fill, but that does not faze Debbie Jevans, the chief executive of England Rugby 2015.

Jevans, a key member of the London 2012 team, said: "It's good pressure.

"If you look back to when we were bidding to stage the Olympic Games, at that point as a country we had to try to persuade international federations to come an hold events in this country.

"We bid, we won it and I think we did raise the bar, and the Commonwealth Games has done the same, raised that bar.

"I wouldn't say it's pressure, it's a challenge that I enjoy.

"We are determined to be the best that we can be, but certainly there is an expectation out there that maybe wasn't out there years ago as to what this country can deliver when delivering sports events.

"I relish that bit and that's credit to everyone that's been involved in delivering events over past years."

Jevans' comments came at the Northern Echo Arena in Darlington as the team bases for the tournament were announced on Tuesday.

The Arena, the home of Darlington Mowden Park RUFC, is one of 41 venues which will host the participating nations - in its case, for six days, the mighty All Blacks.

England will use their usual training base at Pennyhill Park for their fixtures at Twickenham, and the the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford ahead of their game at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, while the remaining teams will carry out their preparations at venues stretching from Newcastle in the north to Plymouth in the south and Swansea to the west.

Jevans said: "They (the bases) allow us to spread the Rugby World Cup throughout the whole of the country.

"We have the 11 host cities, but with the 41 team bases, we are able to take the competition to other areas, and that in itself allows for a lot of potential local engagement."

The announcement was made with talks to offset a potential row between Aviva Premiership clubs, who have threatened to schedule fixtures during the World Cup, ongoing.

However, Jevans is confident agreement can and will be reached.

She said: "I'm not party to the negotiations between the RFU and the Premiership, and nor should I be.

"All I can say is that there are good relations between us and the Premiership clubs - two of them are hosting games in Gloucester and Exeter, (London) Irish are also a team base - so the relationships there are good.

"I am absolutely confident that there won't be any disruption to what we do. We are working with them on the schedule in 2015."

In the meantime, Mowden Park in particular will prepare for a thrilling episode in the club's history.

The Arena is the former home of Darlington FC, a 25,000-capacity all-seater stadium which lay derelict for 10 months after the troubled football club moved out.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen inspected the facilities personally, and that alone fulfilled a dream for arena and events manager Danny Brown.

He said: "For someone who has been involved with rugby for the best part of 20 years and maybe a little bit more, to meet someone of Steve Hansen's calibre...

"It was great just to meet him, let alone sit and have dinner with him, show him around and show him what our facility is and talk him through it. He couldn't have been any more complimentary about the Arena and the area.

"New Zealand have got to be classed as one of the biggest sporting teams in the world, probably within the top three most recognised teams in the world, and to have them on our doorstep in Darlington is fantastic."

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