Rugby World Cup Road Trip

I love sports and I love travel. I’ve always said that sports and travel go together. One of the advantages to traveling as I have over the years is that it has exposed me to other sports and sporting cultures. I can confidently say that I know more about global football, as in soccer, than 99% of people including most European fans. I’ve also become a huge fan of Rugby. So when the opportunity to do a Rugby World Cup road trip came about, I pounced on it! First stop, London!
London, England, Big Ben, Parliament
London has always been and always will be special to me as it was the first place I ever went outside of America when I studied abroad there in 1998. I am a massive Arsenal soccer fan and have been to all of the stadiums in London and there are a lot!
London, England, Harrods
London is also the home of Rugby. Well Twickenham, the most famous Rugby stadium on the outskirts of London is the home of Rugby. I have only been there once when I did a sports weekend in London 2 years ago with some friends. It was awesome. This trip I didn’t get the chance to go back to Twickenham but I did get to see two games at the Olympic Stadium plus an insider tour of Wembley Stadium.
London, England, Wembley Stadium
The tour of Wembley was really cool as I had only previously been there for an NFL game a few years ago. You get to go everywhere inside the stadium including the pressroom, locker rooms and on the pitch. It was similar to my Camp Nou experience in Barcelona a few years ago. I really enjoyed it and definitely recommend it.
London, England, Lee Abbamonte, Wembley
I went to two Rugby World Cup games at the Olympic Stadium on back-to-back nights. My first game was France versus Romania, which was a romp for France as expected.
London, England, Rugby World Cup, Olympic Stadium, France, Romania
My second game was Namibia versus New Zealand better known globally as the All Blacks. The All Blacks are the rock stars of Rugby in a Rugby mad nation. They are the defending World Champions winning in 2011 when the World Cup was held in New Zealand.
London, England, Rugby World Cup, Olympic Stadium, Namibia, New Zealand, All Blacks
This was my first time seeing them up close and personal and I really had great seats. Needless to say they thrashed Namibia as expected and the atmosphere was phenomenal.
London, England, Rugby World Cup, Olympic Stadium, view of London
During my 3 days in London I also did some other really cool things. I went to an amazing exhibit of old James Bond movie cars at the London Film Museum in Covent Garden.
James Bond, London Film Museum, London England
You may know how massive a James Bond fan I am but if not, I’ve seen every James Bond movie at least 10 times-even the ones I didn’t really like. So seeing the exhibit and these cars in the flesh was pretty awesome for me!
James Bond, London Film Museum, London England
Speaking of James Bond, I also climbed the O2 Arena as Bond did in the opening scene of ‘The World is Not Enough’. That was also really cool and gave you some really cool views of an up and coming area of London that most people don’t visit out in Greenwich across from Canary Wharf. It’s a little more rigorous than you’d expect but still pretty easy so I’d say anyone able bodied can do it.
O2 Arena, James Bond, Greenwich, London, England
I stayed at Cheval Three Quays over in Tower Hill. I had stayed here once before I went cycling in Snowdonia and did the Via Ferrate Cumbria. If you follow me on Facebook and Instagram you would have seen some pretty awesome view shots I posted like these.
London, England, Cheval Three Quays, Tower of London, Tower Bridge
The luxury apartments literally overlook the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and my corner suite also looked out over the Thames and gave great views of the Shard-the new tallest building in Europe and a very cool design. These two photos were taken 45 minutes apart-that’s how crazy London weather can be. I’m a big fan of East London and this is a great place to stay.
The Shard, London, England
From London I took a direct train to the town of Rugby. Yes there is a real town called Rugby and that is where the Rugby School is located. This is where William Webb Ellis famously ran with the ball and Rugby was invented-so to speak.
Brownsover Hall Hotel, Rugby, England
The town of Rugby is quite small and is very English countryside looking. This was really the case at Brownsover Hall Hotel where I stayed. I actually stayed in horse stables; which apparently I didn’t mind as I slept for 11 hours that night!
Rugby, England, Brownsover Hall Hotel, horse stables
In town, I did a tour of the Rugby School; which really looks like an Ivy League college in America. It is absolutely gorgeous and seeing The Close, the famous first Rugby pitch was pretty cool-especially during the Rugby World Cup. There were no games played in Rugby but there was a fan zone set up where I watched Argentina beat Georgia.
Rugby, England, Rugby School, The Close
The next morning I took two trains up to Leeds. It was my first time in Leeds since 2001 and much had changed. Really it seemed like a total metamorphosis of the city. I remembered it being pretty bleak and lame but after this visit, I find it to be one of the cooler cities in England that I’ve been to.
Trinity Center, Leeds, England
I stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton, which is a nice standard hotel in a great location to walk around the city and next to the train station. The center of activity in Leeds is the Trinity Center and where I met up with former US Rugby player Dan Lyle for lunch.
Lee Abbamonte, Dan Lyle, Leeds, England
It was a real pleasure hanging out with him and talking Rugby with regards to the US, as Rugby is growing in popularity but way behind the other major sports. I think as Dan does, that the US will get the Rugby World Cup in 2023 or 2027. Japan has it in 2019. Hopefully that will be a boom for Rugby as the soccer World Cup was back in 1994.
Leeds, England, fan zone, Rugby World Cup
My first night in Leeds I watched the Italy versus Canada and England versus Wales games at the jam packed fan zone set up in Millennium Square. The fan zones were great ideas but the only issue was they only had one bar which made it annoying to get drinks. That said, it was still a great atmosphere at least until England lost to archrival Wales.
Oulton Hall, Golf, Leeds, England
The next day I played a cold 18 hours at the fantastic Oulton Hall golf course outside of Leeds. It wasn’t as cold as when I played the Old Course at St. Andrews but it was pretty darn cold! I played pretty well and had a great time with two great guys I was paired up with.
Elland Road, Rugby World Cup, USA, Scotland, Leeds, England
Then it was time to go to Elland Road to watch the US versus Scotland in a must win for both teams. Scotland was a big favorite and definitely outclassed the US. The atmosphere at Elland Road; which was hosting only its second ever Rugby Union game was electric. It probably hadn’t seen that type of energy since Leeds United was still good in 2000!
Crafthouse, Leeds, England
After the Rugby I headed back to the Trinity Center to close the night at the highly regarded restaurant Crafthouse, which didn’t disappoint. It had been a long day and I totally crashed by 9pm. But that was OK because I was heading to Manchester in the morning.
Hotel Football, Old Trafford view, Manchester, England
I arrived into Manchester for the first time since 2001 and went straight to the awesome Hotel Football, literally right next to Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United. For those who don’t know Manchester United is the biggest team in English football and along with Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich is one of the biggest and most valuable clubs in the world. I could literally see Old Trafford from my hotel window!
Old Trafford, Manchester, England
I did a tour of Old Trafford and much like the Wembley tour I mentioned earlier, I got to see and do everything. It was pretty awesome even though I hate Manchester United as an Arsenal fan.
English Football Museum, Manchester, England
Manchester is also the home of the English Football Museum, which is a new building of curious architecture. The museum was pretty cool to visit but 2 floors were still being finished so I didn’t get to see everything. However, the exhibits were worth seeing and the best thing is-entry is free.
Lee Abbamonte, Jonathan Schofield, Manchester, England, walking tour
To round out the day, I took a walking tour with the man about Manchester, Jonathan Schofield. He took me from the Museum of Football all around the city center, old and new. It was very informative and I got to see everything I wanted to see and more. My favorite building was the Manchester Town Hall.
Manchester Town Hall, Manchester, England
After a dinner at Café Football in Hotel Football, I was asleep before flying out 44 hours to Fiji the next morning. In a week in England I saw and did so much that it still seems like a blur but I really enjoyed every second of it and I always love visiting the UK. I look forward to returning in January!
Quote, Alex Ferguson, Manchester, England
Disclaimer: I was hosted by Visit Britain for this Rugby World Cup road trip and am grateful for their generosity and fantastic suggestions. All opinions are mine and have not been influenced in any way.

Comments

  1. You certainly do get around!

  2. All Blacks!

  3. Awesome trip, would have loved to go this year and watch the ABs bring it home (passionate New Zealander). Will look to the next one in Japan 2019

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