Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson was forced to keep the St James’ Park crowd entertained after a broken public address system hampered the World Cup opening ceremony.
Wilson took to sprinting up and down the touchline to raise spirits as the pre-tournament show was brought to an abrupt end, just minutes before the curtain-raiser between England and Samoa.
The hugely-anticipated opener ended up kicking off over 10 minutes late as a result. Former England international Jon Wilkin said on the BBC: “I wonder, at the Olympics would you chuck the opening ceremony before the 100m final? You can say it’s funny but it’s not.”
Prior to the unfortunate mishap, Rob Burrow had got the 2021 Rugby League World Cup off to an emotional start. He launched the welcome event in Newcastle.
The former Leeds and England scrum-half, who is battling motor neurone disease received a rapturous welcome from the 40,000-plus crowd in Newcastle.
He was in the main stand at St James’ Park accompanied by his parents Geoff and Irene. They watched the parade of the flags representing all 32 teams across the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions.
Former Great Britain scrum-half Andy Gregory was the England flag-bearer.
Kaiser Chiefs open the World Cup tournament welcome
Kaiser Chiefs then took to the pitch as the headline music act. They got through their hit ‘Oh My God’ before former England captain Kevin Sinfield and dual-code international Jason Robinson brought out the Paul Barriere trophy which will be awarded to the winners of the men’s competition on November 19.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson was forced to withdraw from the ceremony after experiencing a minor fall in Newcastle on Friday night. In her place Mel Magee, head of Newcastle Rugby Foundation, joined wheelchair ambassador James Simpson in delivering the wheelchair trophy.
RFL president Clare Balding then brought out the women’s trophy alongside Fareeha Usman, a North East resident who has been recognised as a voice for equality and diversity in the community.
The ceremony was disrupted when the public address system went down. Kaiser Chiefs were forced to cut short their part, allowing the players to finally arrive on the field.
The build-up to the delayed tournament began on Friday with the opening of the fans village on the Quayside. On the morning of the opening game, professional performers combined with locals to take to the streets of Newcastle for a specially-commissioned show featuring dance, music and aerial performance as part of the tournament’s Cultural Festival.
Rugby League World Cup 2021 statement on tournament welcome
It read: “RLWC2021 would like to sincerely apologise for the disrupted tournament welcome, which was severely affected by technical failure.
“It wasn’t the start we wanted; but we would like to thank fans for their patience and for continuing to celebrate the teams and the tournament.”