Wide World of Sports will broadcast the opening game of Rugby World Cup 2011 when New Zealand and Tonga meet at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday, September 9, at 9.45pm.
The match will immediately follow the first night of the NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series on the Nine Network.
In the pinnacle of rugby competition the top 20 rugby nations will compete for the most prestigious trophy in the game, the William Webb Ellis Cup, over six intense weeks. With the opening clash now just days away, rugby fans the world over are ready for a massive tournament in New Zealand.
Australia is drawn to play Ireland, Italy, Russia and USA for a berth in the quarter-finals whiles hosts New Zealand will meet Canada, France, Japan and Tonga.
Defending champions South Africa will face Fiji, Namibia, Samoa and Wales in their pool round while 2003 victors England will play Argentina, Georgia, Romania and Scotland for a place in the quarter-finals.
The Nine Network is the official free-to-air broadcaster of Rugby World Cup 2011 and Wide World of Sports will present 17 matches, beginning with the opener on Friday, September 9, at 9.45pm. Wide World of Sports will also broadcast nine pool matches involving Australia, plus the entire play-off series including the four quarter-finals, both semi-finals, the bronze final and the final live on Sunday, October 23, from 6.30pm.
Wide World of Sports’ expert panel is led by Ken Sutcliffe. Joining him are former Wallabies captains George Gregan, Andrew Slack and John Eales, injured Wallabies prop Benn Robinson, and Nine sports reporter Tim Sheridan.
George Gregan represented Australia from 1994 to 2007 and took over as captain from John Eales when he retired in 2001. Gregan played in four World Cups (1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007) and led Australia to a home Rugby World Cup final in 2003 when a heartbreaking field goal from England’s Johnny Wilkinson in extra time robbed the Wallabies of a third title.
Andrew Slack made 39 appearances (1978-1987) in the green and gold and was captain for 19 Test matches (1984-1987). He captained the Wallabies at the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 where Australia placed fourth.
John Eales wore the Wallabies jersey from 1991 until he retired in 2001 and played 86 Tests. He captained the Wallabies from 1996 to 2001 and steered Australia to their second World Cup crown in 1999 in Wales. Eales represented Australia at three World Cups (1991, 1995 and 1999).
Benn Robinson made his debut for the Wallabies in 2006 after a stellar performance for Australia at the IRB Under-21 World Championship in Argentina in 2005. He has played 42 matches for Australia and is widely regarded as one of the world’s best prop. A knee injury in July forced him out of this year’s World Cup side.
Ken Sutcliffe began his broadcasting career in 1966 and joined the Nine Network presenting feature spots on Wide World of Sports. He began presenting sport on National Nine News in 1979. During his 33 years at Nine, Sutcliffe has covered many great sporting events including the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games, Formula One Grand Prix, Wimbledon and US Open Tennis, America’s Cup in Freemantle, Masters and US Open Golf, the FINA World Swimming Championships, the Ashes, State of Origin, NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Finals and the Golden Slipper. Sutcliffe also hosts Wide World of Sports on Nine each Sunday.
Tim Sheridan, a former player for the New South Wales Waratahs, joined the Nine Network in 1983 as a sports reporter. His career at Nine has seen him cover Wimbledon and the US Open, Formula One, World Swimming titles, Olympics, the US Masters, the Tour de France and World Cup Cricket.
The Wallabies will play their first match at Rugby World Cup 2011 on Sunday, September 11, against Italy at Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium. The Nine Network will be live from 1.00pm.
Rugby World Cup 2011: New Zealand vs. Tonga, Friday, September 9, at 9.45pm on Nine