Here at The Rugby Blog, we’re quivering with excitement at the prospect of the Rugby World Cup in September and October: two months of rugby heaven, and plenty to discuss.
However, we also recognise that for some people, the tournament will be something to endure rather than enjoy, so here is The Rugby Blog’s Rugby World Cup Survival Guide to help you enjoy the event as much as possible.
What to say to join in the discussion
When the conversation inevitably turns to Rugby, here are a few choice phrases to drop in that will have everyone thinking you’re an expert.
1. “Richie McCaw is always offside. How does he get away with it?” A seemingly timeless classic.
2. “England’s centres are the real problem. Mike Tindall seems to be the best option, but he can’t really pass.” The same question baffles every rugby fan.
3. “Australia should be contenders but do they have a strong enough pack? I’m not sure the front five is good enough to win a World Cup.” Only the Aussies will disagree with that.
4. “Why is the England team full of South Africans, Samoans and Kiwis?” Always a certainty to spark a debate that sometimes goes beyond the realms of rugby.
5. “It’s almost as though the coach has selected the team by drawing names out of a hat”. A highly astute observation if France or South Africa are playing.
Phrases to avoid
Now that you’ve built your reputation as a knowledgeable fan, don’t give yourself away by saying anything like this.
1. “Can’t we watch something else?” – no we can’t, Georgia v Romania should be a good match.
2. “It’s only a game.” Never a good idea to mention that, particularly to a New Zealand fan if the All Blacks choke again.
3. “I think Gavin Henson has been treated unfairly.” Come on, he’s had enough chances.
4. “You just never know which team will turn up” when speaking about the French. Everyone else has moved on.
5. “Why is Chris Ashton playing for New Zealand against Argentina?” He isn’t. That’s England. They’re wearing black. Brits abroad love to annoy the locals.
Quick guide to rugby
To continue bluffing your way, here’s a quick overview of how the game actually works.
1. Rugby was invented in England (in Rugby, as luck would have it) by William Webb Ellis nearly 200 years ago – bored of a game of ‘soccer’, he picked up the ball and ran with it. And therein lies the essence of the game.
2. Fifteen players (8 forwards and 7 backs) on each side attempt to touch the oval-shaped ball down over the other team’s try line (a try) to score 5 points, after which they will try to kick it over the posts to convert it into 7 points. Dropped goals – everyone knows what they are thanks to Jonny – and penalty kicks are worth 3 points.
3. Players run carrying the ball and can only pass sideways or backwards to one another, or they can kick it wherever they like. Scrums and lineouts are ways of restarting the game, whilst rucks and mauls happen when a player is tackled and everyone else fights to get the ball back.
4. Most teams will try to get their forwards running at the opposition defenders a couple of times, knocking them over and creating space elsewhere for the backs to run into and score a try. England’s World Cup plan is slightly different in this respect, as the forwards will just try to get close enough to the posts to force a penalty, which they will then kick for 3 points.
5. If all this is too complicated then just try to remember that rugby is a game played behind the ball. If you are in front of the ball you are effectively out of the game.
Rules for the non-rugby fans
If you still can’t face watching Rugby, you are beyond help, and we give up. Here are some rules by which you will be bound for the duration of the tournament.
1. You will forgo control of the TV remote between 9th September and 23rd October, as well as for any repeats of matches outside these dates.
2. A commando crawl is the only acceptable way to pass in front of the TV during a game.
3. You will accept that Rugby is the only topic of conversation for two months, without any whingeing (vocal, facial or otherwise).
4. All previously established rules relating to ‘pink tickets’, ‘green cards’ and whatever else are null and void between the opening and closing ceremonies. Frankly, we can do what we like. After all, it’s only once every four years.
by Hutch (follow Hutch on tour in New Zealand during the World Cup for all the latest updates)