WHEN members of the All Blacks squad step out onto the pitch in Darlington in October next year, it will complete a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the town's arena.
Left with an uncertain future by the departure of Darlington FC following a fans' takeover in 2012, the 25,000-seat stadium was brought back into use as a rugby venue after a ten-month hiatus.
Darlington Mowden Park rugby club took over the ground with ambitious plans to create a rugby training centre of excellence and thriving community hub.
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Those plans have come to fruition, but few could have predicted the reigning rugby world champions would one day be using the ground as a training base as they look to defend their title.
Few, that is, except Danny Brown, Mowden's arena manager and coach, whose vision it was to create a World Cup training base in Darlington.
Mr Brown described the All Blacks' decision to set up camp in Darlington as 'something dreams are made of'.
He said: "We are delighted to be chosen, it is fantastic for the whole club, but also for the area as well.
"For Darlington and the North-East, it's a huge deal for us.
"We were in a very small rugby club only two years ago, we are now in one of the biggest rugby venues outside of Twickenham.
"When we came in, it was a case of building slowly and I think we're still building, but this is the absolute pinnacle.
"The All Blacks have got to be classed as one of the biggest sporting teams in the world, probably in the top three, and to have them on our doorstep in Darlington will be fantastic."
The rugby World Cup itself, the iconic Webb Ellis trophy, won for England in 2003, courtesy of Jonny Wilkinson's last-gasp drop goal against Australia, was on display at the arena during a press conference on Tuesday (August 26).
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was impressed with the facilities on offer and the team decided to use Mowden on the strength of just one visit to Darlington.
Debbie Jevans, chief executive of the World Cup organising committee, also praised the set-up.
She said: "We should be proud of the facilities we have throughout the country.
"The bases allow us to spread the rugby World Cup throughout the entire country.
"We have the 11 host cities, but with the team bases, we are able to take the competition to other areas and that invites the potential for a lot of local engagement.
"New Zealand are going to be in Darlington for six days and that gives a chance to work very closely with the community.
"I can perfectly understand why New Zealand chose this facility, because it is excellent."
The squad will have other bases in London and Cardiff during the tournament.
A total of 20 teams will compete in the rugby World Cup, which runs from September 18 to October 31 next year.
Darlington Borough Council leader Bill Dixon also welcomed the announcement and promised the town would go all-out to support the tournament.
He said: "We're planning to involve the community, especially schools and colleges, because it's not just about rugby, it's about people involved and getting people to be fired up and proud of our town.
"I can't promise how either England or the All Blacks are going to do in the competition next year, but what I can promise is that every single person who comes to Darlington will know there's a rugby World Cup happening."
New Zealand will face Tonga at St James' Park in their final group match on October 9 next year.
They will play their earlier games in London and Cardiff.
Tickets for the tournament will be on sale from September 12 to 29 this year. For full details, visit tickets.rugbyworldcup.com