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Visa Rugby Legends programme for World Cup 2007

NEWS RELEASE –
Visa presents its Visa Rugby Legends programme for the Rugby World Cup 2007
Visa Rugby Legends choose Nelson Mandela’s appearance at the Rugby World Cup 1995 Final as the Most Defining Moment in the tournament’s history

PARIS, France, 16 November 2006 – Visa International today announced that five of the world’s greatest rugby players – Zinzan Brooke (New Zealand), John Eales (Australia), Martin Johnson (England), Philippe Sella (France) and Joel Stransky (South Africa) – will be the “Visa Rugby Legends” and official spokespersons for Visa’s global sponsorship of the Rugby World Cup 2007. Visa renewed its highly successful decade-long Rugby World Cup partnership in November 2005, and is the Official Worldwide Partner and official payment service of Rugby World Cup 2007.

“These five rugby greats truly represent the passion and spirit of the game of rugby. They connect with fans everywhere who have witnessed their athletic skill, their ability to transcend the game, and their unique sportsmanship at the highest level of the sport – the Rugby World Cup,” said Tom Shepard, executive vice president, International Marketing, Partnerships and Sponsorship, Visa International. “Their leadership, vision, relevance and excellence on and off the pitch, are all equities that are embodied in the Visa organisation. Working with us, they also will be able to share their insight, passion and beliefs with rugby fans worldwide.”

The Rugby World Cup sponsorship provides Visa with a major global marketing platform, reaching some of its most important markets around the world. As spokespersons for Visa, the Visa Rugby Legends will be visible in a number of Visa merchant and cardholder promotions. Each of the Visa Rugby Legends also will be featured in a number of promotional programmes, including communications to Visa’s 20,000 member financial institutions, advertisements and television commercials.

The Visa Rugby Legends will be featured in a number of online activities in which rugby fans can interact. These will include an online debate forum in which the Visa Rugby Legends will pose specific topics of interest to the rugby community inviting fans to engage and participate.

During the launch in Paris, the Visa Rugby Legends discussed what they believed was the most defining moment of the Rugby World Cup during its first twenty years. The former players unanimously agreed that Nelson Mandela’s appearance, wearing a South African rugby jersey at the Rugby World Cup 1995 final, was the single most important moment in the history of the tournament.

That moment symbolised how sport can rise above all adversities and unite communities. Nelson Mandela’s presence helped unify a newly emerging democratic nation and raised the profile of the Rugby World Cup around the globe. As Joel Stransky explained, “The Rugby World Cup 1995 was much more than a rugby tournament to South Africa, it was a unifying process of a new democratic nation, which was assisted by a nation uniting around a rugby team and showing support collectively. Madiba [Nelson Mandela] was the man responsible for this by wearing the Bok jersey.”

That thought was echoed by John Eales who noted, “Every moment paled into insignificance when Mandela came in wearing a Springbok jersey and with South Africa winning the final, it defined so much more of what the potential of sport can be, a healer.”

Amassing a massive 361 international caps between them, 61 of them achieved at 13 Rugby World Cup tournament appearances, all five of Visa’s Rugby Legends have considerable Rugby World Cup experience; and over the next few months they will be featured in special television webcast and podcast programming in which they will discuss some of their own most treasured Rugby World Cup moments and the highlights from the previous Rugby World Cup tournaments.

Zinzan Brooke was a member of the victorious All Black (New Zealand) side that won the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 on home soil. Zinzan is acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest-ever players, with a unique mix of forward and backline skills that set him apart from many of his contemporaries. His 17 test tries for the All Blacks were also a record for a forward.

John Eales captained Australia (the Wallabies) to victory at the Rugby World Cup 1999 in Wales, after previously being a member of the victorious Wallaby side that won the Rugby World Cup 1991 in England. During his career, he captained Australia a record number of times and still holds the record as the highest scoring forward in test history.

Former England captain Martin Johnson is considered one of the greatest lock forwards and England's greatest captain. Known for his strong leadership and "no-nonsense" approach to the game, he led the England side to a Grand Slam and England’s Rugby World Cup win in 2003.

Philippe Sella made 111 appearances for France, a world record when he retired from international rugby in 1995. Philippe is also one of only a handful of players to have scored a try in every game during a Five Nations season.

Joel Stransky kicked South Africa to Rugby World Cup victory at the Rugby World Cup 1995 final in South Africa. Despite never having kicked an international drop-goal prior to the tournament, Joel’s extra-time feat ensured that South Africa ran out 15-12 winners over New Zealand.

Visa will work with the Visa Rugby Legends to tap into the passion and spirit of rugby to deliver unique, highly visible, business opportunities to its members and their merchants around the world, and provide added benefits to their Visa cardholders.

Visa sponsored Rugby World Cup 1995 on a regional basis and since then has been the global sponsor of RWC 1999 and RWC 2003.

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QUOTES:

Zinzan Brooke commented, “The appearance of Nelson Mandela in 1995 was one of the best episodes in the history of the Rugby World Cup.”

John Eales explained, “Every moment paled into insignificance when Mandela came in wearing a Springbok jersey and with South Africa winning the final, it defined so much more of what the potential of sport can be, a healer.”

Martin Johnson said, “Nelson Mandela's presence at the Rugby World Cup 1995 finals in a Springbok jersey and giving Francois Pienaar the trophy took the image of rugby beyond sport, it was truly a great moment for the future of South Africa.”

Philippe Sella vividly remembers the event, “When the Webb Ellis trophy was raised by Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar, wearing the Springbok jersey, in South Africa it was a very iconic moment for Rugby World Cup.”


Joel Stransky, who kicked the vital drop goal to ensure South Africa’s victory, fondly remembers Nelson Mandela’s appearance. Joel said, “The Rugby World Cup 1995 was much more than a rugby tournament to South Africa, it was unifying process of a new democratic nation which was assisted by a nation uniting around a rugby team and showing support collectively. Madiba [Nelson Mandela] was the man responsible for this by wearing the Bok jersey.”


ends

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