You’re probably wondering why your boyfriend/housemate/colleague/brother/husband has changed his sleeping pattern recently, do not fear, he is not up late sat in the dark getting “excited” by his computer and TV. He is just preparing himself for the biggest sporting event in rugby: the Rugby World Cup, which this year is being hosted in New Zealand, hence the sleeping pattern change.
So that you do not feel left out, we have put together a guide that will see you through the full six weeks of the competition, giving you the information you need to enjoy it, just as much as he is. Who knows, you may really enjoy it and become a fan of the sport!
What is rugby?
In short it was the actions of a certain William Webb Ellis picking up a football and running with it at Rugby School that gave the sport its name. From there it has become an international sport played in 100 countries and every four years they all come together to find out which country gets the bragging rights of being the Best In The World.
Do not worry, not all 100 countries will be descending upon New Zealand in September, qualifying for this competition has already taken place, and the 20 successful countries have been split into four pool groups, and it is here that the real competition begins.
First up will be the pool stages; the teams in the groups play each other and only the winner and first runner up from each group will progress. After that it is a knock out competition before the final on Sunday, October 23rd.
You probably already know the basics: two teams made up of 15 players each battle it out over 80 minutes to score the most points. You are not allowed to pass the oval shaped ball forwards, and grabbing your opponent around the waist and throwing him to the ground is not only applauded but encouraged, the round ball turf fairies of football take note!
How is it scored?
You’ll see 1-0 victories in football but 23-16 scores in rugby – what’s going on there? Well, you can score through 4 different methods: a try, a conversion, a penalty and a drop goal.
A try is scored when you get the ball down over the opposing team’s line; this will earn you 5 points, and provide you with the opportunity to kick the ball between the H-shaped posts. This kick is called the conversion, and gets you an additional 2 points.
Both a penalty and drop goal are worth 3 points. The penalty is a spot kick taken from where the offence has been committed. It’s the one where you use a kicking tee and see Jonny Wilkinson doing his praying hands act. The drop goal is scored while play is in action, you will see the kicker stand back awaiting the ball and then kick it out of hand through the posts. It’s called a drop goal because you drop the ball onto your foot.
But what’s this scrum thing?
Don’t worry about the jargon! Our very own Hutch covered the basics in his survival guide here
Who are the main teams?
South Africa currently hold the Webb Ellis trophy, as they won the last Rugby World Cup back in 2007 in France. However New Zealand are currently ranked World #1 but they always seem to fail in World Cups, except in the first one in 1987. Keeping within the Southern Hemisphere, the Australians are not too shabby either!
Closer to home, England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland all have strong national teams, and on the continent France and Italy are the main forces out of the European sides. And these teams all get together in February and March to play each other in the Six Nations, another highlight in the rugby calendar.
Never forget Argentina though. The Pumas came 3rd in 2007 and are not to be taken lightly, nor are the Samoans, the Fijians or the Tongans. Any of these teams can spring a surprise or two, just ask a Wales fan about what happened to them in 2007 at the hands of Fiji.
But when it comes to the crunch, New Zealand are odds on favourites to win. Although we here at The Rugby Blog will be placing a sneaky bet on Australia to win it, just in case the Kiwis choke again!
Meet the Contenders
Aka: The Pumas
Always regarded as one of the dark horses for this competition, Argentina are in the same pool as England and Scotland, where they will be expected to get out of the pool stages. Their dominance has generally been in the scrum but there is some flair in the backs too. Their main totty, Juan Martin Hernandez, is sadly injured for this year’s tournament but there’s plenty more where that came from!
Next year they join up with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to make up a new Four Nations tournament for the Southern Hemisphere teams.
Top Totty: Lucas Amorosino
Aka: The Wallabies
The Tri-Nations champions will be hoping that their recent victory over New Zealand will act as a catalyst for their World Cup campaign across the Tasman Sea. A captaincy shuffle from the mean, moody and hot Rocky Elsom to fellow forward James Horwill is the major news from the camp, but the no-show from James O’Connor at the squad announcement due to a night on the tiles made the headlines too – naughty boy. Australia will rely on their 9-10 combination of Will Genia and Quade Cooper to get their fantastic backs going, while hoping that their seemingly fragile scrum can do its job at the front.
Top Totty: James O’Connor
Being the typical Brits abroad…England have chosen an all black kit as their second kit. it does look very nice, but will no doubt wind up the All Blacks! England have won the World Cup before, back in 2003 in Australia, and are going into this competition with high hopes. In all likelihood they will go out in the semi finals!
Boasting a team of (technically) royalty (Mike Tindall, husband of Zara Phillips), Pop Idol auditioners (Ben Foden, whose girlfriend is 1/5th of girl group The Saturdays: Una Healy), former rugby league players (Chris Ashton of the Ash Splash fame), guitar players (Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood who were in a band together – awww!) and a player who has an album out on iTunes, (Andrew Sheridan, and it is actually quite good!) it’s fair to say that England have a right mix to them, but can they all sing well together from the same hymn sheet?
Top Totty: Ben Foden (right)
You may have seen the calendars, full of pictures of rugby players wearing very little (and I do mean very little!) shot in mean and moody black and white? Well most of them play in France, and quite a few have made the French squad for this year’s competition. France usually do pretty well in these, as they do have a strong side. Their flaw seems to be the random mad acts of head coach Marc Lievremont, who will no doubt provide us with some hilarious soundbites.
Top Totty: Morgan Parra
The boys in green have had a poor few games leading up to the competition, and have also been hit with a few injuries to key members of the team. They have also dropped to 8th in the World Rankings, which is the lowest they have been. With an average age of nearly 30, the Ireland squad will be all change come the 2015 tournament in England, so this is one of your last chances to see the likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Donncha O’Callaghan and Ronan O’Gara play in green together, where they aim to get out of the group stages of the competition for the first time since 2003.
Top Totty: Tommy Bowe
Aka: The Azzuri
They’re just as bad as the French when it comes to posing in not a lot of clothing, with a large number of them having taken part in the Dieux du Stade calendar as well. With a good mix of pretty and brawn – you only need to look at Sergio Parisse and Martin Castrogiovanni for that comparison, the Italians have something for everyone. Their form hasn’t been too shabby either, a historic victory over France in this year’s Six Nations will be a huge boost for them as they aim to qualify for the knock out stages for the first time ever.
Top Totty: Sergio Parisse
Aka: The All Blacks
They are the team that stand there, on the halfway line, in their all black kit and do the Haka before the match. The hosts are under a tremendous amount of pressure, as everyone is expecting them to win the whole thing, having not done so since 1987. Rugby is the biggest sport in New Zealand so the players are treated almost like gods. Expect statues of the 30 man squad and head coach Graham Henry to be built all around New Zealand if captain Richie McCaw lifts the Webb Ellis trophy in late October.
Top Totty: Dan Carter (right)
Perhaps the most underrated side out of the four home nations Scotland have always reached the quarter finals of these competitions, and are famous for always giving it their all. Famous players include Dan Parks, Max Evans and his brother Thom (although Thom has retired from playing rugby since he broke his neck, yes really, playing against Wales in 2010. He will be providing commentary, and is Kelly Brook’s other half)
Scotland will most likely be knocked out of the competition in the quarter finals.
Top Totty: John Barclay
Aka: The Springboks
They won it four years ago, but it is unlikely that they will hold on to the Webb Ellis Cup this year. Since winning in 2007 the South African rugby team has struggled to maintain a consistent form. Last year they lost to Scotland but they recently beat New Zealand in the Tri-Nations.
South Africa have always been a physical presence, and they should reach the semi finals, but can they make it to the final yet again? No…they will go out to Australia in the semis and play England for 3rd place..and lose.
Top Totty: Jean de Villiers
Like New Zealand, Wales’s high point was in 1987 when they came third. Unlike New Zealand, they haven’t been called chokers since then. Always a side full of flair, Wales come into the World Cup on the back of wins over England and Argentina. Unfortunately for them they were drawn into Group D aka the Group of Death, alongside South Africa, Fiji, Samoa and Namibia. They should qualify second from the group with captain Sam Warburton and winger George North set to shine in the competition.
Top Totty: Jamie Roberts