In celebration of the start of this year’s Heineken Cup, here at the rubgy-loving Sandymount Hotel we’ve decided to give you all a quick run-down – or maybe it’s just a reminder – of the 10 famous sculptures dotted around the world to commemorate the wonderful game – one of which just happens to be (quite literally) right on our very own doorstep.
Called the Sandymount Line-out, this fine piece of bronze sits 15ft tall and celebrates the local history of the game. As such the world’s first ever rugby ground sat next door in Lansdowne Road (now the Aviva Stadium). Not only that but the statue is a great photo opportunity to mark a major rugby victory on match day.
The Rugby Union Offices in Hinemoa Street, Wellington in New Zealand is the site of another very famous and iconic piece of rugby sculpture. The art work was presented to the city from France in tribute to the fact the 2010 Rugby World Cup took place there. Made from aluminium and cast iron, the statue is three metres 60cm tall and weighs two tons.
Titled “Les contre-valeurs du rugby” – or, “the opposites of rugby’s values”, it shows two rugby players in a scrum against a wall of words which conjure up negative emotions and values such as selfishness, cheating, racism etc. The sculptor wanted to get across the message that rugby promoted such values as unity and shared ideals – regardless of nationality.
Our third statue sits in Ipswich, Suffolk and commemorates England rugby legend and pilot Prince Alexander Obolensky. Unfortunately the prince was killed in action at the young age of just 24, during World War II. He and his family had fled Russia in 1917 during the Revolution and ended up in London’s Muswell Hill area where his love for the game grew.
The £50,000 bronze memorial commemorates Prince Obolensky’s famous try in England’s first ever defeat of a tough New Zealand’s All Black team in 1936. He was only 19 at the time and it was his international debut. He went on to score a second try in the same match.
The following 27ft tall sculpture in bronze at the front of Twickenham Stadium shows a rugby line-out. Underneath the statue are engraved the words: teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline & sportsmanship.
The first rugby game ever played at the famous stadium was back in 1907 between Harlequins and Richmond. A year later England played Wales. The stadium is also the location of the World Rugby Museum, complete with interactive displays and exhibitions.
An impressive 200kg statue of Rugby League legend Arthur Beetson proudly sits in the Northern Plaza of Suncorp Stadium, Queensland in Australia. A hero, and the first indigenous Australian to captain his country in any sport, Beetson is depicted in bronze at the height of his career.
He played 221 club games and was Queensland and Australian prop forward. Back in 2004 Beetson was also named the seventh Australian Rugby League Immortal. He went on to coach the Australian side. He died just two years ago in 2011.
Outside the rather corporate headquarters of BBC Wales sits a bronze sculpture depicting the late rugby hero and broadcaster Ray Gravell. The popular sportsman was only 56 when he died six years ago.
Gravell won 23 Welsh caps and a place in the British Lions squad, touring South Africa in 1980. He played for Llanelli from 1969 to 1985, and was part of the Scarlets team which famously beat New Zealand in 1972. He was the team’s captain from 1980 to 1982 but later became a popular broadcaster.
The following sculpture of two rugby players in full flight and cast in bronze sits at the front of Northampton Saints Rugby Football Club. Written on a plinth underneath are the words “They tackled the job.” It’s a tribute to all the directors, staff, shareholders, supporters and players of the sport who helped get the stadium redeveloped into what today has become one of the most admired rugby grounds in the western world.
At the Albert Domec Stadium in Carcassonne, France sits a 300kg, 1.7 metres tall bronze statue dedicated to Puig Aubert who is regarded as the most famous French Rugby League player ever.
Originally signed for AS Carcassonne, Puig (whose real name was Robert Aubert-Puig) he won five championships with the team before moving to Catalan and picking up another. On a tour of Australasia with France he played 25 of 29 matches and scored a record breaking 221 points. As a result he was rightly awarded France’s Champion of Champions title.
The year 2011 saw New Zealand hosting the Rugby World Cup and to celebrate the city council of Wellington commissioned a bronze and concrete statue for their civic square.
Wellington All-Black’s Victor Vito was one of three Hurricanes players who posed for the artist Richard Taylor. The artwork depicts a line-out but it’s also symbolic, of the the city’s geography ie where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet in Cook Strait.
And finally, back to Ireland, and this handsome bronze statue (nicknamed the Ruck and Puck) sits commandingly outside the AIB Bank on O’Connell Street in Limerick. It informs visitors of the two sporting loves of the town - hurling and rugby.
Meanwhile the first matches for the 2013/14 Heinken Cup are due to be played on the weekend of 10/11 October. The quarter-finals are due to be held during the first week in April, the semi-finals during the last week and the cup final at Millennium Stadium on Saturday, May 24. Don’t know about you but we can’t wait!
This year is especially important we feel as it looks as if it will be the last year both the English and French sides will take part in the Heineken Cup. This is because they plan on joining the Rugby Champions Cup instead.
As we write this sadly nothing has been decided and the European Rugby Cup (ERC) is in talks with both aggrieved teams.
If you’re thinking of coming to Dublin for any of the games we’d be delighted to play host to you here at the Sandymount Hotel.