With the Rugby World Cup kicking off in Twickenham tonight, here’s SW Londoner’s guide to everything you need to know about the game as well as what’s happening when and where to watch it.
Aim of the Game
Each team has 15 players and the aim is to score more points than the other team.
They do this by getting the ball over their opponent’s goalline for a try (which scores five points), converting that try (two points) or kicking a penalty (three points).
They can only pass the ball backwards and there are also line-outs, mauls, scrums and rucks during play.
Who to look out for
New Zealand, known as the All-Blacks, are at the top of the rugby tree.
It could be something to do with their fearsome pre-match dance, The Haka, designed to scare their opponent’s into submission.
Fiji, Tonga and Samoa are also partial to a pre-game wiggle. The real fireworks occur when they play each other facing off in a testosterone-filled version of the Step Up films.
Australia, known as the Wallabies, and South Africa, the Springboks, are also among the favourites for the tournament.
As for the home nations, they are pretty predictable outfits.
The Irish are hyper aggressive, the Scots are perennial let downs, Wales are dangerous, but currently suffering a minor injury crisis and England – who did win the World Cup in 2003 – are chokers, similar to the football team.
Players to watch out for include New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, England’s Sam Burgess – a Rugby League star converted to Union – and Israel Folau, Australia’s slippery full-back.
Road to Victory
The tournament consists of four pools with five teams in each.
Teams play each other once, and get three points for a win, one for a draw.
The top two teams at the end of the pool stage progress to the quarter finals.
The opening game is tonight between hosts England and Fiji at Twickenham, with the final at the same stadium on October 31.
England, Wales, Australia, Fiji, Uruguay
As you would expect there is no love lost between England, Wales and Australia and the aggressive nature of rugby really brings this to the fore.
Three does not go into two, so one of these rugby powerhouses will be leaving the party early.
Expect some feisty encounters and watch out for the flying Fijians, always exciting.
South Africa, Samoa, Japan, Scotland, USA
Home interest in Pool B as on the rise Scotland are in with a real shout of getting through but they will have to earn it.
South Africa should take the group comfortably, then it’s up to Scotland to prove their pedigree against the rest.
Look out for some flashy Japanese play and thumping hits from the Samoans.
New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga, Georgia, Namibia
New Zealand, the current holders, are clear favourites as per usual.
Argentina had a solid showing in France 2007 and will be hoping the European air reignites their form, while the rest are plucky but more likely just cannon fodder for the All Blacks.
France, Ireland, Italy, Canada, Romania
Another strong group with the in-form French and the rugged Irish finally ready to have their day on the big stage. Expect a cracker when they collide on October 4.
Underestimate Italy at your peril though, the Azzuri can be a handful for anyone so don’t rule out a shock.
That being said, expect Ireland to edge it and France to follow them, but it’s going to be close.
Where to go
If you are looking for the real rugby experience then The Cabbage Patch in Twickenham is a good bet.
A stone’s throw from Twickenham Stadium and with the claim of being the most famous rugby pub in the world, it’s the perfect place to absorb the World Cup atmosphere with fellow rugby lovers.
There is also the Fanzone in Richmond’s Old Deer Park. Here you can enjoy the festival feel, watch rugby and see comedy acts including Frankie Boyle.
There will also be appearances from ex-players and other rugby personalities.
You could also try The Alma in Wandsworth. It’s big on ale and has some great bar food including honey and mustard chipolatas.
If you like a more refined setting, then The Exhibit in Balham would be a good choice.
For a £5 entry fee, you can spend your day frolicking in the rugby marquee, or reserve a table for six people for £100, which includes 24 bottles of Estrella.