Must-see matches in the group stages

It’s nearly upon us, and when it is we’ll wish it could stay forever. It won’t, of course – and that’s why we have to savour every moment as though it will be the last. That’s why we’ve compiled the top matches to watch in the group stages. The hardest tackles, the toughest competitors, the nail-biting, leave-it-all-on-the-pitch finales. Don’t miss these beauties. We won’t.

France vs. Italy

Saturday, September 19, 20:00, Twickenham, London

After Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy victories (the trophy awarded to the winner of Italy-France games in the 6 Nations) in 2011 and 2013 an Azzurri victory is not out of the question. The neutral turf could make all the difference against Les Bleus especially as this World Cup will be the talismanic Sergio Parisse’s swansong on the big stage. If Italy win – and it’s a big if – escape from the potentially tricky Pool D could be on.

New Zealand vs. Namibia

Thursday, September 24, 20:00, Olympic Stadium, London

This may seem like a harsh choice but hear us out. The Africans are the lowest ranked team in the tournament and have lost all 15 of their previous World Cup matches so inform favourites New Zealand will expect to set the best ever win recorded in a pro match. There’s no upset on the cards (even if Namibia’s Saracens flanker Jacques Burger turns heads) but watching the All Blacks is always a treat and this will be an exhibition of rugby excellence.

England vs. Wales

Saturday, September 26, 20:00, Twickenham, London

Typical England. We would have to go and land ourselves in the infamous Group of Death. A loss against the Welsh wouldn’t just dent national pride it would put a massive prang in the host’s World Cup hopes and leave a lot to do against fellow Pool A competitors Australia, Fiji and Uruguay. We can take solace in the fact we beat the boyos in their own back garden earlier this year.

England vs. Australia

Saturday, October 3, 20:00, Twickenham, London

With three of the top-six ranked teams in the world in Pool A one is certainly facing the early axe. On paper England – seeded above Australia – should win and with the 16th man playing a part (and with Scotland probably waiting in the quarters, a team which hasn’t beaten England at Twickenham for 32 years) England expects.

Scotland vs. Samoa

Saturday, October 10, 14:30, St James Park, Newcastle

Samoa are the pick of the Pacific Island sides with Northampton players Kahn Fotuali’i and the Pisi brothers setting their sights on victory over Scotland and second place in Pool B. Scottish club Glasgow have had a good year on the European stage and Scotland’s Kiwi coach Vern Cotter has injected a spikiness akin to their national thistle. Come crunch time expect a thriller.

Wales vs. Australia

Saturday, October 10, 16:45, Twickenham, London

Who could forget the Welsh beating the Ozzies 26-17 in November 2013? Their first victory over the team from Down Under in fifteen meetings. It was an astounding performance and an outstanding match. Will history repeat itself this time around? Or will old habits refuse to die? A pretty dismal six Test wins out of fourteen for the Wallabies in 2014 could spell doom.

The Strand Palace Hotel during Rugby World Cup 2015

Explore our special information section for staying at the hotel during the Rugby World Cup 2015. We’re excited to welcome fans from all over the globe following their respective teams, find out about staying with us during RWC 2015

Ticket-buying guide for London and southeast fixtures

Taking place from September 18 to October 31, the Rugby World Cup is going to be something special. For fans of the English game it may be the ultimate celebration with victory in the final – and where better to experience a slice of that spectacle than in the stands themselves? Here’s our ticket-buying guide for England 2015.

Where can I buy tickets?

The ballot is all done and dusted so any one who applied for tickets will know by now whether or not they got them. As one door closes though another opens as there are still many tickets available at varying prices for fixtures at all thirteen venues (although most England matches have sold out).

The best place to get tickets is still on the official ticketing website for Rugby World Cup 2015. Tickets will remain on sale until they sell out. And there are still some beauties up for grabs including Australia vs. Fiji and France vs. Italy.

Don’t lose heart if you log on and see your choice match or venue is all sold out. It’s always worth checking back as general sale tickets will include a mixture of hand backs from corporate allocation and any extra seats released by the grounds up to and during the tournament.

Other than that the best way to grab some – legal! – last ditch tickets is through RFU verified ticket outlets. There are too many to list. Instead if you’re unsure whether a ticketing site is the real deal log on to the Rugby World Cup Official Checker to verify the source.

How much will they cost?

As with all big sporting events the price spectrum is eye watering. Prices range from £15 for the cheapest adult at Samoa vs. USA in Brighton to the most expensive at £715 for a seat at the final.

To give a slight overview: currently the only available England game is versus Uruguay for £250 at the Manchester City Stadium; New Zealand’s matches will set you back £125/175 versus Namibia at the Olympic Stadium and £75/115/150 versus Georgia at the Millennium Stadium; whereas Canada are £85/175 versus Ireland at the Millennium Stadium and £35/60 versus Romania at Leicester City Stadium. As you can see, prices wildly vary from stadium to stadium and match to match.

Other sites will sell tickets for different prices again and will probably be far more expensive. They really do vary. Australia vs. Uruguay tickets are going for as little as £59 but England’s opener against Fiji at Twickenham is £264 and some sites are already selling final tickets for £8000 plus.

Good news for under-16s though as after September 18 any group game and the Bronze Final (third‑fourth play-off) will be £7 or £15, seats pending.

Are there any alerts or packages I can sign up to?

The best bet is to sign up to the official RUF alert client the Front Row to get all the latest news and ticketing updates. There is also the official free to use ticket re-sale service, which allows fans to sell any spare tickets to other fans at face value, with security and transparency online, throughout the tournament. The official Twitter account for the Rugby World Cup is also worth following for any last minute ticket updates @rugbyworldcup.

RWC 2015 Official Travel Agents and Official Hospitality offer ticket-inclusive travel and tour packages for every Rugby World Cup 2015 tournament venue and match.

Any legal tips for getting hold of difficult-to-find tickets?

Ticketing outlets such as Viagogo.co.uk and StubHub.co.uk have tickets available for many of the matches. However, be warned that purchasing tickets from secondary websites without official RFU endorsement may lead to refusal of entry. Purchasers of these tickets are not breaking the law but they may be breaking ticket terms and conditions. Buying from touts is also legal but venues can deny entry if they know the ticket was bought from an unofficial source.

What if I can’t get hold of tickets?

England Rugby 2015 has announced fifteen official host city-based Rugby World Cup Fanzones throughout England and Cardiff. They are free to enter, will feature a big screen, food and drink, and regional content but will only be open on match days. Always check before travelling. Over 1 million fans are expected to use them. In and around London there are zones in Brighton, Exeter, Milton Keynes and four in the capital as well.

The Strand Palace Hotel during Rugby World Cup 2015

Explore our special information section for staying at the hotel during the Rugby World Cup 2015. We’re excited to welcome fans from all over the globe following their respective teams, find out about staying with us during RWC 2015

5 things that make Twickenham more than just a stadium

Twickenham isn’t just a rugby pitch it’s a battleground. The daddy of egg-chasing stadia and the undisputed home of rugby union, the proverbial brick house has a capacity of over 81,000 making it the largest dedicated rugby ground in the world. It also has a storied, brutal, century-long history with more hits and showdowns than a Bruce Willis movie script.

Easily accessible from Strand Palace Hotel (click here to see our stadium guide) Twickers will play host to ten World Cup matches – and should it play host to you too, here are five things that make Twickenham more than just a stadium.

Its humble beginnings

In the modern age many stadia are built on soulless plots of land from a bottomless pot of money. Twickenham on the other hand has humble roots. Before the ten acres was snapped up by the RFU for £5000, 12 shillings and sixpence way back in 1907 it was allotment garden churning out vegetables. Earning it the early nickname in the press of The Cabbage Patch.

The ground would return to its earthy beginnings years later during World War 1, as a pasture for livestock, and in World War 2 when one of the car parks was dug up to grow vegetables once again.

England’s 16th man

Twickenham is the church of English rugby and every holy place has a favourite hymn. There is none better than Swing Low Sweet Chariot. The goose bumps, the adrenaline – you can almost taste the victory in your mouth and that’s before the match has even kicked off. It’s also an amazing weapon, as this video of Swing Low drowning out the Haka demonstrates before England’s record breaking 38-21 win over the All Blacks in the Autumn Internationals of 2012.

Watch the Haka drowned out by Swing Low at Twickenham

Al fresco atmosphere

Where else have brass bands walked with fans to the stands? Or flags been handed out at the train station? On match day there’s a carnival atmosphere at Twickenham rivaled by nowhere else in the world.

And to think in the early days the newspapers went to town on the ground for being out of the way. Too far from London, they said. Ironically, Twickenham’s semi-country setting plays a huge part in its appeal. It’s that local rugby town, family friendly appeal that sets the ground apart.

Twickenham memories

Twickenham memories are like belly buttons; everyone has one. What about Johnny Wilkinson’s fairytale comeback scoring 27 points against Scotland in 2007 after three years out? How about when England captain Bill Beaumont was lifted off the pitch after the 1980 Grand Slam? Perhaps Philippe Saint-André’s ridiculous try for France in 1991? Or when Australia beat England in the World Cup final in that same year…  on second thoughts, let’s forget that one. Twickenham is the place where rugby dreams come true. What memories will be forged in the fires of this World Cup?

Philippe Saint-Andres try for France 1991

World-class design

The RFU HQ isn’t just high-tech, it’s positively sci-fi. Twickenham is the first stadium in Europe to have unlimited high-density Wi-Fi so you can Tweet about your match day experience to all your weeping friends at home. There are also tellies throughout the ground showing RFU TV, and two 169-square-metre LED screens deliver a constant flow of fan interaction.

The pitch itself is also a modern marvel. In 2012 the RFU spent £1.2 million installing a new DESSO pitch with under soil heating and an irrigation system that can drain 123 millimetres per hour. The stadium also has barcode entry so you don’t have to faff around with the stewards; you’re straight in and it’s on with the game.

The Strand Palace Hotel during Rugby World Cup 2015

Explore our special Rugby World Cup 2015 hotel information section on the site. We’re excited to welcome fans from all over the globe following their respective teams, see what staying with us offers during RWC2015

West End Show of the Month: Jersey Boys

London’s West End is one of the world’s top theatre districts and the best place in the UK to see acclaimed musicals performed by immensely talented artists. Unsurprisingly, it is one of the biggest tourist attractions in town and we like to keep prospective visitors informed about what they can see during their stay. Which is why, each month, we profile a big West End show here on our blog.

This month… Jersey Boys

About the show

The Four Seasons were a popular rock music group in the 1960s who rocketed to fame from humble beginnings in New Jersey. Jersey Boys charts their career path during this decade and the emotional rollercoaster experienced by the band members. Fans of the group will be glad to hear that classics like December 1963 (Oh What a Night), Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and Bye Bye (Baby Goodbye) are all featured.

Playing the lead character of Frankie Valli is Michael Watson, who has performed in other top-tier musicals such as Sister Act and Hair. His understudy is Sandy Moffatt, who has starred in Rock of Ages and Dirty Dancing, while Tony Award-winning Des MacAnuff directs. The show has won several awards, taking the Best New Musical title at the 2009 Olivier and Whatsonstage awards.

Insider show tips

If you want to stay in a hotel near Piccadilly Theatre, choose Strand Palace. We are just 15 minutes’ walk away. If you don’t fancy going there on foot, just take the Bakerloo line from Charing Cross to Piccadilly Circus or the Piccadilly line from Leicester Square to the same stop to make your journey a little quicker.

Here is some other useful information about going to see Jersey Boys:

Strand Palace Hotel has a concierge who can assist with acquiring tickets and help ensure you get a prime spot in the audience.

For a more luxurious theatre experience, book in for a private booth in the Ambassador Lounge, where you can enjoy a drink before the performance and at the interval.

Take time before or after the show to revel in the hubbub of bustling Piccadilly Circus, one of the busiest junctions in central London.

There is no dress code at this theatre, so there’s no need to spend ages getting ready.

Before and after

Strand Palace Hotel is close to the theatre, so you may want start your night off with a pre-theatre meal at our Indian restaurant, Daawat, or at Strand Carvery. If you prefer something lighter, our Lounge Bar serves afternoon tea. Top off your night with a post-show cocktail in our Mask Bar.

For a hotel near Jersey Boys at the Piccadilly Theatre, choose Strand Palace. With great food, great theatre and a great location, it’s sure to be a night to remember.

Parades and Parties – Pride in London

London has long been known as one of the most culturally diverse places in the United Kingdom, and what better way to applaud this diversity than with Pride in London 2015? The event, which celebrates all thing LGBT+ (‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, non-binary, asexual, polysexual, genderqueer and gender variant’) will be massive. Last year, some 30,000 people joined in its parade and more than 750,000 were involved on the day. This year, the festivities are taking place from 21 to 28 June.

As a hotel in central London, we like to stay on top of all the latest and greatest goings-on across the capital, so we’ve rounded up all the essential details of this year’s Pride festivities.

Trafalgar Square

Strand Palace Hotel is just steps away from Trafalgar Square, one of the main hubs during Pride in London. On 27 June, free shows will be put on there. From 1pm to 8pm, entrants from the Pride’s Got Talent competition, as well as LGBT rights organization Stonewall and Drag Idol winner La Voix, will be taking to the stage. Guests hoping to attend will be glad to know that Trafalgar Square is only a 6-minute walk from Strand Palace Hotel.

Pride Parade 2015

Pride in London Parade will be marching from Baker Street to Whitehall between 1pm and 4.30pm on 27 June. The parade route takes in major London sights like Oxford Street, Regent Street and Pall Mall, and participants are encourage to dress up in an outfit inspired by the theme of Pride Heroes. If you are a member of one of the 250 organisations involved in the parade, get your thinking cap on! Otherwise, head along to cheer them on. Strand Palace Hotel is just a short walk away from the Pride in London Parade route, so go to Whitehall or Charing Cross to watch from the sidelines.

Pride Arts Festival

Most of the Pride Arts Festival events will take place between 21 and 28 June. If you’re looking for a Pride party near Strand Palace Hotel, head on down to the Phoenix Artist Club for the Live at the Phoenix event on June 21. Drag artist Vanity von Glow will be spearheading a cabaret night and there is no admission charge to the club, which is about 10 minutes’ walk from Strand Palace Hotel. Alternatively, get on the Northern line at Charing Cross Tube station, get off at Tottenham Court Road and walk from there.

Are you coming to London to celebrate Pride 2015? Stay at Strand Palace. Not only is our hotel near the Pride in London parade route, but it’s also near many of the other main Pride hubs.

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