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Spirit of 2012 could carry England

World Cup winner Will Greenwood believes England can ride a wave of partisan support similar to the one generated for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to win the tournament later this year.

Greenwood, speaking at the launch of the 15 Rugby World Cup fanzones and trophy tour, which begins on June 10, spoke on Thursday about the impact of 'Super Saturday' at the London 2012 Olympics.

He was at a wedding that day, but celebrated triumphs for Greg Rutherford, Jess Ennis and Mo Farah and hopes English rugby supporters will be celebrating in the final on October 31, despite coming up short in the RBS 6 Nations last Saturday.

Greenwood, a key component of England's victorious team in Australia in 2003, told Press Association Sport: "Home advantage can be critical. I was fortunate enough to be at the stadium when Mo Farah won his second (gold medal).

"To be at Twickenham on Saturday when Ben Youngs scored that try after a couple of minutes, the stadium moved.

"Rugby is beginning to buy into that spirit, buy into that noise. It's 12th man in football, it's 16th man in rugby. That will give England a tremendous opportunity."

Greenwood went as far as to suggest the interest in London 2012 can be bettered by the World Cup, by the fact the tournament is spread throughout the country.

"I think we'll take it to the next level," he said.

"Through the fanzones and the trophy tours, there's this amazing ability to be part of this.

"We want the World Cup held in England in 2015 to be the best World Cup ever.

"The beauty of having the teams dotted up and down the country allows you to be an Englishman, but adopt a second nation.

"Up in the north-east in Darlington, you can get to see the All Blacks train."

More than one million people are expected to attend 15 Rugby World Cup fanzones - featuring big screens, entertainment, food and drink and rugby activities - with one in each of the host cities, plus at the game's birthplace in Rugby and in London's Trafalgar Square.

Also announced on Thursday was the Rugby World Cup trophy tour in the UK and Ireland, which begins on June 10.

The 100-day continuous tour of the Webb Ellis Cup will visit Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Wales and England and arrive at Twickenham on September 18 ahead of the opening ceremony prior to the first game, between hosts England and Fiji in Group A, which also features Wales and Australia.

Much has been made of the importance of England doing well in the tournament and World Rugby boss Brett Gosper found himself in hot water after tweeting the need for the hosts to progress to sustain local interest in the tournament.

A fourth successive runners-up spot for Stuart Lancaster's side in the Six Nations was described as "not acceptable" by Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie earlier this week.

Greenwood insists head coach Lancaster and the players will agree with that scathing assessment and try to use the disappointment in a positive way, just as he and his World Cup-winning team-mates did.

He said: "Players are their own harshest critics. To suggest that Stuart Lancaster and the boys were celebrating a big win against France - far from it.

"They were ruing a missed opportunity. Unfortunately at key moments in time we didn't take our chances.

"I can talk about 2003. (Wales') Scott Gibbs, (Scotland's) Duncan Hodge, (Ireland's) Keith Wood and Serge Betsen (of France). Four players who the lads who lifted that trophy know all about.

"Those disappointments can often be recrafted into opportunities.

"It's right to set high standards. Played 20, won 16 in the Six Nations is Stuart Lancaster's record.

"Unacceptable is the fact we haven't won one of them, but played 20, won 16 with a young team building to a World Cup might be privately viewed as a nice learning curve as long as the curve keeps going up and doesn't plateau."

The stunning finale to the Six Nations has heightened interest in the tournament, where tickets are still available, going on resale from March 31.

"The excitement's building up around the World Cup now," Greenwood added.

"This is the most unbelievable tournament. We want to make sure we wring it dry of every opportunity."


From Belfast Telegraph