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Rugby World Cup: Your Guide and Vocabulary

14 września 2015, poniedziałek,

A global sport

Most people, when thinking of the phrase ‘World Cup’ associate it with football. After all, it is the world’s most popular spectator sport globally. Yet, so far this year there have been at least three more events with that name, in cricket, women’s football, and right now, it’s time for the Rugby World Cup. This year the event is being held in England so it’s a particularly exciting year for rugby fans in Europe.

Poland + Rugby = ?

Unlike  cricket, which I wrote about recently, there is actually some awareness of rugby as a sport in Poland. There is a national league, and for the last few years the top European tournament, the Six Nations, has been televised on Canal Plus.

Poland Rugby National Team, Image Credit pzrugby.pl

Poland Rugby National Team, Image Credit pzrugby.pl

Rugby World Cup – will you be watching?

Like its footballing counterpart, the Rugby World Cup takes place every four years, though the first tournament only took place in 1987. Since then, four countries have won it: New Zealand (1987 and 2011) Australia (1991 and 1999), South Africa (1995 and 2007) and England (2003). You’ll notice that England is the only country from Europe to have won the Webb Ellis Trophy. Quick rugger fact: the trophy is named after the Rugby schoolboy who started the game by picking up the ball during a game of football and running with it. Does this mean we should encourage all our children to be rule breakers?!?

1987 The First Tournament; Image Credit rugbyworldcup.com

1987 The First Tournament; Image Credit rugbyworldcup.com

How does the tournament work?

There are twenty  teams, who play in four groups of five. The two best teams qualify for the quarter-finals, and then the tournament continues on a knockout basis, just as in football. England are the host nation this time, with the opening match on 18 September and the final on 31 October, both to be played at Twickenham, the home of English rugby. London’s Wembley Stadium and the Olympic Stadium will also be used for matches, together with grounds in nine other English cities and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, which is of course in Wales.

Twickenham Stadium; Image credit rugbyworldcup.com

Twickenham Stadium; Image credit rugbyworldcup.com


The rugby world is divided into northern and southern hemispheres. In the northern hemisphere, Wales v England is probably the most keenly-contested match. In Wales, rugby has a status akin to a religion, and there’s no one who they enjoy beating more than their English neighbours. The two teams are in the same group in this World Cup, and their match on 26 September promises to be a classic. In the southern hemisphere, Australia (nicknamed the Wallabies) New Zealand (the All Blacks) and South Africa (the Springboks) all have extremely strong teams, and compete against each other every year in the Four Nations tournament, which also includes Argentina.

Wales vs England; Image credit bbc.co.uk

Wales vs England; Image credit bbc.co.uk

Rugby Terminology

scrum – this is where the two packs of forwards get together and try to win the ball. It takes place after some fouls, like a forward pass (the ball can only be thrown backwards in rugby)

line-out – the equivalent to a throw-in in football. The forwards line up and compete to catch the ball

try – the most important way of scoring. A try is scored when one team crosses the other team’s try line. It is worth five points.

conversion – after a try, the team’s kicker has a chance to add two more points by kicking the ball between the posts

penalty – for certain fouls, like a high tackle, a penalty is awarded. As with a conversion, it involves an attempted kick between the posts, but this is worth three points.

dropped goal – any player can attempt a dropped goal, which is when the ball is dropped from hands and then kicked between the posts. It is also worth three points.

Playing Positions

Backs Forwards
15 Full Back 1 Prop Forward
14 Right Wing 2 Hooker
13 Centre 3 Prop Forward
12 Centre 4 Second Row
11 Left Wing 5 Second Row
10 Fly Half 6 Flanker
9 Scrum Half 7 Flanker
8 Number Eight