The field looks chaotic. Carry the ball across the line to score 5 points, kick the ball through the uprights for 2 or 3 points; but where is the ball? It is under the bodies. The whistle sounds; why? It is often difficult to tell, and not just for novices. Learning rugby can be confusing and even overwhelming, although it seems as simple as most sports when broken down. The biggest difference between rugby and North American sports is that you pass the ball backwards not forwards. Canadian comedian Rick Mercer recently spent some time with that country’s team just back from the world cup and nicely explained and demonstrated the basics.
The Rugby World Cup began in 1987, though the Six Nations Championship, centered in the United Kingdom, started back in 1883. The World Cup is one of the largest sporting events in the world, and the tournament lasts about two months. The first month is pool play and the second month is the playoffs. 20 teams make it to the World Cup of the 93 teams around the world with an official ranking. This year both the United States and Canada made it, though Argentina was the only South American team (they made it to the first round of the playoffs before being beaten by New Zealand). There are many teams from Europe, some from Africa and many from Oceana. Canada has only once made it to playoff round in 1991.
The Rugby World Cup tournament is organized into 4 pools with 5 teams in each. The first two teams in each pool advance to playoffs. However, there are also advantages to coming third in the pool. This had been the Canadian goal, which they were not able to meet, in part due to Tonga’s upset win against France (the French advanced anyway to finish second in the tournament). Both Canada, ranked 13th, and the United States, 17th, are expected to make it to the next world cup. There should also be a chance for some north American players to get more experience on the world stage with the introduction of sevens rugby into the Olympics set for 2016.
Hopefully there will be some time devoted to showing the games on North American television. TSN did a good job with coverage this world cup in Canada, playing not just Canadian games and the playoffs but many of the regular pool play games as well. In the small little pre and post game shows the commentators were optimistic about the future of rugby in this part of the world. In a culture where sport does seem to flourish hopefully there is room for one more. After all, big league rugby has never had a ‘work stoppage.’ That’s for whiny, sniveling . . . well; not rugby players.Kira Burt is a working towards a Masters Degree in History and a full-contact pick-up game.