How to sample the delights of Cardiff and London

Irish fans hardly need a map for the English and Welsh capitals but taste buds will be tickled by the prospect of first visits to Wembley and the Olympic Stadium

How to sample the delights of Cardiff and London

LONDON

The Grounds

Wembley Stadium

Address: London HA9 0W5

Capacity: 90,000

Fixture: Saturday, September 27, Ireland v Romania (4.45pm)

Olympic Stadium

Address: Olympic Park, London E20 2 ST

Capacity: 54,000

Fixture: Sunday, October 4, Ireland v Italy (4.45pm)

Ireland’s Pool D trips to London take in two iconic, definitively un-rugby stadiums, the home of English football and site of the 2012 Olympics.

Also: Sept 20: New Zealand v Argentina (Wembley, 4:45pm); Sept 23: France v Romania (Olympic Stadium, 8pm); Sept 24: New Zealand v Namibia (Olympic Stadium, 8pm), Oct 7: South Africa v USA (Olympic Stadium, 4:45pm); Oct 30: Third place play-off (Olympic Stadium, 8pm).

History

Wembley has been at the focal point of English football since the 1920s but having not aged well, it was rebuilt and reopened in 2007. It has hosted a World Cup final, five European Cup finals, the Live Aid concert in 1985 and the 1948 Olympics, as well the Rugby League Challenge Cup final on an annual basis. Nor has it been off-limits to rugby union with England playing Canada here in 1992 and Wales calling it home for seven games during the construction of the Millennium Stadium. Saracens hosted London rivals Harlequins in March and attracting record club rugby crowd of 84,068.

The Olympic Stadium near Stratford in East London was built as part of the Olympic Park complex of venues for the 2012 Games.

World Cup highlight: Neither stadium has hosted an RWC game before now.

Feelgood factor: Leinster beat Saracens at Wembley in a 2010 Heineken Cup pool game.

Getting To The Ground

Wembley

The Metropolitan and Jubilee tube lines from central London stop at Wembley Park, a 10-minute walk from the stadium, while the Bakerloo line goes to Wembley Central, 15 minutes from the ground on foot. Even closer than either is Wembley Stadium train station, with services running from London Marylebone.

Olympic Stadium

Stratford tube station is served by the Central and Jubilee lines, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and London Overground trains on the North London Line from Richmond and Clapham Junction.

Mainline trains run from St Pancras and Liverpool Street to Stratford International.

The City

London is no stranger to hosting major sporting occasions, successfully staging 1991 Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham, three Olympic Games in 1908, 1948 and 2012 not to mention the 1966 Fifa World Cup and Uefa’s Euro 96.

London’s airports at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and London City are easily reached from Cork, Dublin and Shannon and it is a well-flown path, given the vast array of attractions on offer in the English capital (check out visitlondon.com). Lots can be enjoyed for free, including the great Science Museum and Natural History Museum and the best travel tip for visitors is to get an Oyster Card (£5 deposit) to save money when travelling on London Public transport. On buses it is necessary too because London Bus no longer accepts cash.

The huge number of options in central London also spread to dining, drinking and entertainment, too numerous to mention here.

Where to eat and drink: Olympic Stadium – head to Westfield Stratford City, one of the largest urban shopping areas in Europe and site of a myriad number of pubs and restaurants, including The Cow, a gastro-pub and bar. In Stratford centre, try the Langthorne Pub and the King Edward VII.

Wembley – not a great area in this regard but the Green Man pub on Dagmar Avenue, less than a mile from the stadium has a great reputation and a large beer garden. Unless it’s fast food you crave, the best bet is to eat in central London before heading north to the stadium.

Where are the official fan zones?

Wembley Park has capacity for 15,000 match ticket holders while over at Olympic Park the fanzone can hold 10,000, while in central London, head to Trafalgar Square for a fanzone from the semi-finals onwards.

So what’s it going to cost?Our check on flights to London on September 26, the day before Ireland v Romania, and returning the day after the match on September 28 came in from €180 return on Ryanair from Cork to Stansted and from €213 return with Aer Lingus from Cork to Heathrow. With hotel rooms aplenty in the capital, finding a room to suit any budget should not be an issue.

A package?

Again, Club Travel Ltd (www.clubtravel.ie/sports), Trevor Brennan (www.trevorbrennanrugbytours.com) and Killester Travel offer World Cup match packages departing from Ireland for London.

Example: Trevor Brennan tours were offering a flight and match ticket package for Ireland v Romania costing €295 per person with return flights from Dublin to Gatwick and a category D ticket.

CARDIFF

The Ground

Millennium Stadium

Address: Westgate Street, Cardiff CF10 1NS

Capacity: 74,154

Fixtures: Saturday, September 19, Ireland v Canada (2.30pm)

Sunday, October 11, Ireland v France (4.45pm)

Saturday, October 17, Quarter-Final 2: Winner Pool C v Runner-Up Pool D (8pm)

Sunday, October 18, Quarter-Final 3: Winner Pool D v Runner-Up Pool C (1pm)

Ireland’s Pool D campaign is book-ended by trips to the Welsh capital with an opener in front of a large Irish support against the Canucks before a return for the probable group decider with Thierry Dusautoir’s Bleus. The result of that will likely decide first and second places, determining which team plays in which of the Cardiff quarter-finals, with defending champions New Zealand and Argentina lying in wait from Pool C.

Also: Sept 20: Wales v Uruguay (2:30pm); Sept 23: Australia v Fiji (4:45pm); Oct 1: Wales v Fiji (4:45pm); Oct 2: N Zealand v Georgia (8pm).

History

Slap in the middle of Wales’s capital city, the Millennium, with its retractable roof, replaced the Arms Park as the national stadium in 1999. Built for that year’s Rugby World Cup, it hosted the FA Cup final between 2001 and 2006 as Wembley was rebuilt.

World Cup highlight: Hosting the 1999 final when Australia beat France 35-12.

Feelgood factor: Ireland clinched the Six Nations Grand Slam here in 2009.

Getting To The Ground

Millennium Stadium is a short walk from Cardiff Central rail station. There are also park-and-ride schemes operating from Pentwyn (Cardiff East) and Leckwith (Cardiff West). For fans flying in for Ireland v France, a free shuttle bus service will run from Cardiff Airport to the stadium.

The City

Cardiff will hold no surprises for Irish supporters who make the pilgrimage every other year for the Six Nations clash with Wales.

Where’s the official fan zone?

Next door to the Millennium Stadium in the Arms Park.

Where To Eat: Cardiff city centre is not short of quality restaurants and there are chains including Jamie’s Italian, Bill’s, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Carluccio’s within walking distance of the Millennium. For post-match nosh, no visit to the Welsh capital is complete without a trip to Caroline Street, off the main drag, Mary Street. The locals know it better as Chip Alley with a bevy of traditional chippers, kebab houses and a relative newcomer in top-notch American burger joint Five Guys.

Where To Drink: No shortage of options in a city that is home to Brains Brewery but a raucous match night in the town centre is not everybody’s pint of best bitter. We do like the Duke of Wellington pub in The Hayes while if you’re a craft beer fan, take a wander to Westgate Street.

So what’s it going to cost? As is often the case in Cardiff on a match weekend, hotel rooms are in short supply and priced accordingly. We searched for a room on booking.com for Saturday, September 19, the night of the Ireland v Canada game, and were quoted €645 for a double room at the two-star Ibis Cardiff Centre.

With flights leaving Dublin for Cardiff on Saturday morning and returning Sunday starting at €483 on Ryanair through ebookers.ie, if you haven’t booked now, the independent route may be beyond a lot of pockets.

A package?

Club Travel Ltd (www.clubtravel.ie/sports), Trevor Brennan (www.trevorbrennanrugbytours.com) and Killester Travel are a few of the companies offering World Cup match packages departing from Ireland, several including more than one Irish pool game.

Just a sample offering of the many available: Killester a two-night package for Ireland v Canada next weekend include flights, hotel at the Maldron, a short walk from the stadium and match ticket for €675 per person sharing plus €65 tax. Price includes airport transfers, services of a travel rep and a RWC 2015 souvenir. The match ticket is Category D.

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