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Pomp, pageantry and a rugby-mad royal launch games at Twickenham

Prince Harry stars in glitzy World Cup opening ceremony

By Tony Jones

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

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.

Harry, 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 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 - a 35-11 victory for England against Fiji.

In the footage a teenager, clutching a ball, runs out of Rugby School's grounds past 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 London's 2012 Olympics when she starred alongside James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, and appeared to skydive into the stadium.

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

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.

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

At the ceremony there was loud applause as 20 rugby legends - one from each team - were introduced. Prince Harry gave a speech and ended with the words "We're ready, game on" before Bernard Lapasset, chairman of World Rugby, said "let the tournament begin".

Belfast Telegraph


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