2015 Rugby World Cup

I don’t get the chance to shoot a great deal of rugby, so when the opportunity to cover the Rugby World Cup presented itself, I grabbed it. Where I live, in the North West of England, rugby league is King. I’m not much of a fan myself – yes, it can make for some great pictures, but I prefer the complexity of union, the number of ways you can score points, the clearly defined roles the backs and forwards have, and how they compliment each other around the pitch. Granted, league often delivers end-to-end action, which is something every spectator wants to see. I guess it’s the tactical variation in union that gives it the edge in my opinion.

As a photographer, whichever form of the game you shoot, you really don’t want to be at the wrong end. There’s no salvaging a shoot from the wrong end. In football, pictures occassionally make from the far end (albeit, not often), but in rugby, you really a long way away, watching everyone’s backs. Add into the mix a further eight players on the pitch, and the chance of making a picture from more than 100 yards away is less than slim.

My initial group stage schedule for the World Cup was a light one really – initially it began with Scotland v Japan in Gloucester, followed by Scotland v USA in Leeds. However, both these fixtures bit the dust and football matches took priority, so eventually my tournament opened with Canada v Romania in Leicester. This was followed by England’s final Pool A fixture against Uruguay in Manchester, before heading back to Leicester for Argentina v Namibia…

Michael Wiringi of Romania tackles Nathan Hirayama of Canada
Michael Wiringi of Romania tackles Nathan Hirayama of Canada
Jebb Sinclair of Canada gets past Paula Kinikinilau of Romania
Jebb Sinclair of Canada gets past Paula Kinikinilau of Romania
Faces of Canadian DHL employees in the numbers on the backs of the Canada players
Faces of Canadian DHL employees in the numbers on the backs of the Canada players
Pins and badges adorn an England fan's shirt as he enjoys a pint of Guinness before the match
Pins and badges adorn an England fan’s shirt as he enjoys a pint of Guinness before the match
England coach Stuart Lancaster
England coach Stuart Lancaster
England coach Stuart Lancaster
England coach Stuart Lancaster
Tom Wood of England throws a paper aeroplane back into the stands
Tom Wood of England throws a paper aeroplane back into the stands
George Kruis of England breaks free
George Kruis of England breaks free
England captain Chris Robshaw waves farewell after the match
England captain Chris Robshaw waves farewell after the match
An Argentina fan wearing a blue wig
An Argentina fan wearing a blue wig
Matias Moroni of Argentina is tackled by Wian Conradie of Namibia (L) and Chrysander Botha of Namibia (R)
Matias Moroni of Argentina is tackled by Wian Conradie of Namibia (L) and Chrysander Botha of Namibia (R)
Matias Moroni of Argentina runs clear of a diving tackle from Damien Stevens of Namibia
Matias Moroni of Argentina runs clear of a diving tackle from Damien Stevens of Namibia
Eugene Jantjies of Namibia dives over to score a try
Eugene Jantjies of Namibia dives over to score a try

Before the tournament, I was looking forward to covering the England game, and even when it came around and the hosts were playing for nothing, I was excited to be there. The pictures were inevitably to have a negative slant on them, but it didn’t bother me – England were out of their own tournament before the knockout stages, so I had the chance to sum this up in as many ways as possible…

Group games were applied for at the same time as the tournament accreditation was applied for, months earlier, but when the knockout stages came around, we had to apply for each game we wanted individually. Again, with a full football schedule to consider, the only Quarter Final match I could cover would be Ireland’s game against Argentina at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. I travelled down to South Wales at stupid-o-clock in the morning with another photographer, Clint, as well as a couple of friends, Jack and Anna. We left home in the dark, and got home in the dark. It was a long day, but an enjoyable one too – Argentina played Ireland off the park, and finished off the game with one of my favourite pictures of the tournament, as Juan Imhoff leapt into the air to score his side’s final try. I’d secured a red ‘roaming’ bib for the match, which allowed me to travel up and down the far touchline whenever I wanted throughout the match – it didn’t stop me being at the wrong end occassionally, usually when play broke away quicker than I could keep up with it, but it did mean I could be where I wanted to be, and fortunately I was when Imhoff bombed over late in the game…

Ireland fans enjoy themselves, coincidentally, in a pub nextdoor to a branch of Paddy Power, before the match
Ireland fans enjoy themselves, coincidentally, in a pub nextdoor to a branch of Paddy Power, before the match
An Ireland fan wearing a mask depicting Paul O'Connell's face
An Ireland fan wearing a mask depicting Paul O’Connell’s face
Ireland fans wearing suits with the words 'Drink, Feck, Girls, Rugby' written on their backs, in reference to TV sitcom 'Father Ted'
Ireland fans wearing suits with the words ‘Drink, Feck, Girls, Rugby’ written on their backs, in reference to TV sitcom ‘Father Ted’
The huge figure of Devin Toner of Ireland is lifted to win lineout ball
The huge figure of Devin Toner of Ireland is lifted to win lineout ball
Jeronimo De La Fuente of Argentina runs away with the ball
Jeronimo De La Fuente of Argentina runs away with the ball
Juan Imhoff of Argentina dives over and scores a try late on
Juan Imhoff of Argentina dives over and scores a try late on
Rob Kearney of Ireland looks dejected
Rob Kearney of Ireland looks dejected

Offside decided I should apply for the Semi-Finals too – they were both being played at Twickenham, in London, along with the Final a week later, but I knew I could find someone to stay with and was more than happy to be involved. I secured a pass for both days, and was fortunate enough to be able to stay at my Aunty and Uncle’s house in Sunbury, just a stone’s throw from the stadium. Perfect.

My first experience of Twickenham saw South Africa take on New Zealand in a match that promised huge hits but few points – and this was more or less how it played out. For the first time in the tournament, I was allocated a position rather than afforded the luxury to choose where I sat. From the South end of the stadium, I saw the Kiwis edge out the Boks and progress to another Final…

A panoramic view of Twickenham Stadium on Semi-Finals weekend
A panoramic view of Twickenham Stadium on Semi-Finals weekend
A South Africa fan gets into the spirit of things
A South Africa fan gets into the spirit of things
Francois Louw of South Africa jumps on the back of Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand
Francois Louw of South Africa jumps on the back of Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand
Francois Louw of South Africa jumps on the back of Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand
Francois Louw of South Africa jumps on the back of Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand
Francois Louw of South Africa brings down Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand
Francois Louw of South Africa brings down Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand
Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand reveals his armoury
Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand reveals his armoury
Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand looks to the heavens as the rain pours down
Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand looks to the heavens as the rain pours down
Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand hugs Victor Matfield of South Africa after the match
Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand hugs Victor Matfield of South Africa after the match

The next day, I returned to Twickenham on the same free shuttle bus I’d taken the previous morning, which took me from Kempton Park racecourse to a spot right outside the door – it was perfect. I’d been assigned the same position as the previous day, and by this time I knew the drill. Argentina were taking on Australia, so I headed out to find the fans I’d learn to love…

Argentina fans gather together by the huge lineout statue outside Twickenham
Argentina fans gather together by the huge lineout statue outside Twickenham
Argentina fans open their beers outside the ground
Argentina fans open their beers outside the ground
Argentina fans dressed as King and Queen
Argentina fans dressed as King and Queen

The game itself offered more in terms of pictures – there was more running, more free-flowing rugby, but ultimately the result was what people expected – the Final was to be another clash between New Zealand and Australia…

Rob Simmons of Australia breaks away to score their 1st try
Rob Simmons of Australia breaks away to score their 1st try
Drew Mitchell of Australia tackles Santiago Cordero of Argentina
Drew Mitchell of Australia tackles Santiago Cordero of Argentina
Julian Montoya of Argentina (R) and Facundo Isa of Argentina show their dejection at the end of the game
Julian Montoya of Argentina (R) and Facundo Isa of Argentina show their dejection at the end of the game
The son of Juan Fernandez Lobbe of Argentina walks around holding his father's hand after the match
The son of Juan Fernandez Lobbe of Argentina walks around holding his father’s hand after the match

The next week, I returned to south London, having secured a pass for the Final itself. “Play it cool, Trig…play it cool.”…

Australia players watch New Zealand perform the Haka prior to the start of the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final
Australia players watch New Zealand perform the Haka prior to the start of the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final
Kurtley Beale of Australia sidesteps Dan Carter of New Zealand
Kurtley Beale of Australia sidesteps Dan Carter of New Zealand
Brodie Retallick of New Zealand (L) towers over teammate Waisake Naholo
Brodie Retallick of New Zealand (L) towers over teammate Waisake Naholo
Ma'a Nonu of New Zealand breaks away to score a try
Ma’a Nonu of New Zealand breaks away to score a try
Nehe Milner-Skudder of New Zealand
Nehe Milner-Skudder of New Zealand
Dan Carter of New Zealand tees the ball up for the final conversion of the match
Dan Carter of New Zealand tees the ball up for the final conversion of the match
Richie McCaw of New Zealand holds the Webb Ellis Trophy aloft
Richie McCaw of New Zealand holds the Webb Ellis Trophy aloft
Richie McCaw of New Zealand holds the Webb Ellis Trophy aloft
Richie McCaw of New Zealand holds the Webb Ellis Trophy aloft
Richie McCaw of New Zealand holds the Webb Ellis Trophy aloft
Richie McCaw of New Zealand holds the Webb Ellis Trophy aloft
Richie McCaw of New Zealand holds the Webb Ellis Trophy aloft
Richie McCaw of New Zealand holds the Webb Ellis Trophy aloft
Dan Carter sprays champagne as New Zealand celebrate victory
Dan Carter sprays champagne as New Zealand celebrate victory
Kiwi hands on the Webb Ellis Trophy as New Zealand are crowned Rugby World Cup champions once again
Kiwi hands on the Webb Ellis Trophy as New Zealand are crowned Rugby World Cup champions once again
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