Rugby Union, ‘egg chasing’, ‘the one that’s not football’, whatever you want to call it, has its World Cup coming up this week! The competition is being held in Japan this time round, often referred to as the Land of the Rising Sun; however, logistically speaking what this means is that you may have to rise at the same time as the sun, as some kick offs are as early as 5:45am GMT. Here are a few of the basics that you need to know about the competition, its rules and how well we reckon the Home Nations might do!
Imagine a football team sheet, now completely forget that because every position is entirely different. A rugby team is split into 7 ‘Backs’ and 8 ‘Forwards’, there are 15 starting players, with a further 8 on the bench. Here are the positions:
1 & 3 – Props: On the frontline of the scrum, usually built like a brick… outdoor toilet.
2 – Hooker: It’s the Hooker’s job to hook the ball in the scrum and throw into the lineouts, they’re in between the props in the front row of the scrum.
4 & 5 – Second Row: Usually the tallest on the pitch, these mountains play an important role in rucking (not a clue? Then keep reading) and sit just behind the props in the scrum.
6 & 7 – Flankers: Play on either side of the scrum, towards the back, usually utility players, getting involved in everything.
8 – Number 8: The one at the back of the scrum, usually a great ball carrier and all-around unit.
9 – Scrum Half: The one who is usually dwarfed by the others, they are in charge of distributing the ball from the ruck, maul or scrum.
10 – Fly Half: In charge of the kicking game and is the next player across from the scrum half. Usually is the only one on the pitch who would dare to wear luminous pink boots (essentially just footballers who didn’t make it, not that we’d risk saying that to a fly half’s face).
12 & 13 – Centres: Usually the largest of the backs, they play in the middle of the line and can often be found putting in big runs and hits.
11 & 14 – Wingers: These whippets are the pace-men, they play on either wing and are used to get around the opposition backline.
15 – Fullback: The loneliest player on the pitch, fullbacks stand behind the backline where they wait to receive kicks and plug any defensive gaps; think of an old-fashioned Sweeper in football.
Right, this is where things can get a little complicated, but not to worry, we’ve got you. Let’s just go through a few basics:
- Scrum – This is a set piece where the forwards gather together to push against each other for a bit. The ball is fed in by the scrum half and is hooked to the back of the scrum where it is then distributed. Make sense? Doesn’t matter, let’s move on.
- Ruck – When a tackle is made, a ruck is formed. This helps the team in possession maintain the ball by literally blocking it off from the opposition. Counter-rucking is part of the game and possession can be turned over, but it is usually maintained.
- Maul – One of the weirder happenings in rugby. Essentially this is like a scrum that happens sporadically, where players gather round the player being tackled to push them up them pitch.
- Lineout – Quite simple this one, just think of your standard football throw in…and then add another 15 players to the mix and you have a lineout. In rugby union, lineouts are vital for stealing or keeping possession, and players are lifted in order to win the ball in the air.
- Try & Conversion – A try is when the ball is placed over the opposition’s line, which is worth 5 points. Following every try is a conversion (kick between the sticks), worth 2 points if successful.
- Penalty – A penalty can be given away for various reasons; fouls, high tackles, rucking infringements and the list goes on. From a penalty the team has a few options; they can kick for touch and have a lineout, kick at goal to get 3 points, have a scrum or a good old-fashioned ‘tap & go’.
WHO ARE THE FAVOURITES AND HOW GOOD ARE ENGLAND, WALES & SCOTLAND?
England are 3rd favourites for the competition and currently ranked 3rd in the world rankings. England have a pretty good chance in this tournament and it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see them reach the semis or even the final!
Scotland have really developed over the last few years, now sitting 7th in the world rankings, and are 9th favourites for the competition. Scotland should have no trouble getting out of the group, but it will all come down to who they face after!
Wales head into this competition with an injury list as worrying as the newbie turning up to site on their first day with no hard hat. Despite that though, they are ranked as 5th favourites to win and could certainly go deep into the competition.
The main competition will come from New Zealand (favourites) and South Africa (second favourites), two powerhouses of rugby, who have both won the tournament on multiple occasions.
WHERE TO WATCH
Most of the games, including all of England, Scotland and Wales’ group stage games, will be available to watch on ITV, as well as on catch-up on ITV Player. If you’re not usually a rugby fan then give it a go as this tournament is set to be a belter!
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