Although not as popular outside Australasia, the British Isles, France, and South Africa, rugby union and the Rugby World Cup has continuously shown growth (in terms of viewership) in the past couple of years. For the uninitiated, the sport might seem barbaric at first glance but it really is a complex mix of physicality, team play, and strategy. The Rugby World Cup, an event that’s held every four years, is a venue where the top international teams stake out their claims of being the best in the sport.
Pool Play and the Knock-out Stages
This year’s iteration of the tournament features 20 teams divided into four pools. The tournament will start off with the teams competing against other teams in their own pool at least once. To determine standings for the pool phase, a match points system is in place to reward teams based on the wins, draws, and loses that they incur. The top two teams from each pool will then proceed to the first of the knock-out stages of the competition: the quarter-finals. Teams who lose during the quarter-finals will be eliminated from the competition while the teams that win are guaranteed at least a runner-up finish.
Storylines that Need to be Followed
New Zealand’s All Blacks have been one of the most dominant teams in the sport for quite sometime now and are currently the defending Champions (as well as the tournament’s inaugural champion). The All Blacks are also trying to become the first team to successfully defend their championship. To achieve this, they’ll have to go through Georgia, Tonga, Argentina, and Namibia. With Argentina already taken cared of, New Zealand figures to come out on top (at least during pool play) due to relatively weak competition in its pool. Host nations England and Wales are currently heading a competitive Pool A which also features another perennial powerhouse in Australia (with Fiji and Uruguay rounding out the field). France and Ireland are off to a great start in Pool D by winning their respective first matches and might be on track to the quarter final considering the competition isn’t as strong as compared to Pool A.
The Brave Blossoms and Pool B
Other than New Zealand’s bid to defend its championship, perhaps the most compelling Pool to follow this 2015 Rugby World Cup is Pool B which has Japan’s Brave Blossoms. Earlier this week, the Japanese team shocked the world by claiming its first win of the tournament off of a close match against no less than South Africa. The win over South Africa also served to help the Brave Blossoms climb up in the world rankings from 13th to 11th place. On the other hand, the Springboks fell down to 6th with England now replacing them at 3rd place (by virtue of the English team’s win over Fiji in Pool A play). Of course, pool play is far from over and the Springboks can still turn things around and qualify for the knock-out stages. However, it would be interesting to see how far Japan can go this year especially since they’ll be hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2019.