A Rutland teenager was watched by hundreds of millions of people as he took a starring role in the opening ceremony of the Rugby World Cup.
Ed Anthony, 14, from Tinwell, played the key part in the famous story of the birth of rugby when William Webb Ellis, as a schoolboy in 1823, broke the rules of football when he caught the ball and ran with it.
Ed, a pupil at Rugby School, played Webb Ellis both in the introductory film and live in person at Twickenham on Friday (September 18), where he scaled a tower of rugby players to seize the ultimate prize of the Rugby World Cup, the Webb Ellis Trophy.
Ed, who auditioned for the role of Webb Ellis along with some of his rugby-playing peers, said he never imagined he would be offered such an amazing opportunity.
“It’s been an incredible time being at Rugby School during the world cup year, but to get this role as well was quite something,” he added. “Being selected to play the role of William Webb Ellis has just been fantastic - a real dream come true.
“I auditioned for the part, never believing I’d get it. But I do love playing rugby!”
Starring alongside Ed in the film of Webb Ellis’ younger days were former England rugby star Jonny Wilkinson and Prince Harry, who played the part of 19th century school gardeners watching while rugby history was made.
Former Witham Hall School head boy Ed spent a morning with the pair who, in period dress, were instructed to look on sceptically while Webb Ellis, with a fine disregard for the rules of the game, charged past with the ball under his arm.
“It’ll never catch on,” they agree.
The film also featured Asa Butterfield, star of Hugo and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
Rugby School teachers and pupils were among the 140 extras involved in the filming. They were joined by a cast of rugby greats including Sir Clive Woodward, Jason Leonard, Sir Ian McGeeghan, Maggie Alphonsi, Serge Betsen and Gonzalo Camacho.
England Rugby 2015 managing director Stephen Brown said: “The school’s history and heritage with the game meant it was the perfect location to bring the story of Rugby alive for fans across the world.”
Headmaster Peter Green added: “It was thrilling for all of us at Rugby to have the school featured in the opening ceremony, and particularly to have Prince Harry and Jonny Wilkinson in the cast. It’s a great tribute to the school as the birthplace of the game nearly 100 years ago.”
England began their World Cup campaign on Friday with a 35-11 win over Fiji. Wales beat Uruguay 54-9, Ireland beat Canada by 50 points to seven and Scotland play Japan, who have already secured a huge upset win against South Africa, on Wednesday (September 23). Visit www.rugbyworldcup.com for fixtures and results.