As the world gears up for the eighth quadrennial Rugby World Cup, we take a look at the A-Z of the 2015 tournament. From the host cities to the star players, our LFX guide has everything you need to know about the biggest sporting event of the year…
A is for All Blacks
The All Blacks are the New Zealand national rugby union team and twice-winners of the Rugby World Cup, having emerged victorious in 1987 and again in 2011. They are also the only international side with a winning record against every country they have played, and since the introduction of the World Rugby Rankings in 2003, the All Blacks have held the number one ranking for longer than all the other teams combined. All of which should make the hot contenders for RWC 2015 Champions… but only time will tell.
B is for the Big Three
There have been seven Rugby World Cups to date, and so far three nations have dominated the tournaments with multiple wins. We’ve already talked about New Zealand, and Australia and South Africa have also racked up two wins each, with England a close fourth having won the cup back in 2003. What do you reckon – will England even things up this year with their second win? Will the top three continue to dominate? Or will an outsider pip them all to the post? The bets are on…
C is for Concussions
Or controversy – you decide. There’ll be plenty of both.
D is for Drop Goal
We’re sure you don’t need to remind you that drop goals have accounted for two World Cup victories already – even the most reluctant of rugby followers will remember Jonny Wilkinson’s stunning 2003 drop goal that led England to victory, and Stephen Larkham’s famous 48m goal back in 1999 which saw the Wallabies take the trophy.
New Zealand coach Sir Graham Henry, gunning for the All Black’s second World Cup win in a row, has been looking for a “drop goal specialist” to ensure his team can compete with their rivals’ famous drop kicks. We’ll soon see whether his tactic pays off…
E is for England
As the host country, 11 English cities are being taken over for the RWC 2015, including Birmingham, Newcastle, London and of course Rugby (with some matches also being held in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium). Not just the host city, the England team are also strong contenders to do well in the tournament – well, if they manage to beat Australia, Fiji and Wales in a draw so fierce it has been dubbed ‘The Pool of Death’…
F is for Fixtures
Get these pencilled into your schedule now so you can plan your trading days to make sure you don’t miss one contentious tackle or vicious scrum. Get the full list of fixtures, times and venues here.
And while you’re on, make sure you’ve made room in your busy trading diary for any other important Trader Lifestyle events coming up this Autumn/Winter – from beer festivals to motor shows, you won’t want to miss out. Find our full list of Trader Lifestyle Events in Autumn/Winter 2015 here.
G is for Giants
Being tall, muscular and a bit of an intimidating presence sort of goes with the territory of being a rugby player. But some of this year’s World Cup hopefuls will truly tower over their (not exactly vertically challenged) peers – like Ireland’s Devin Toner, who stands 6ft 10 (and a bit) tall, and France’s Uini Atonio, who weighs in at more than 22 st.
H is for Heineken
Heineken are the official sponsors of the Rugby World Cup, and therefore your new beer of choice. And it’s not all about the pints – Heineken have also been getting involved with launch parties, competitions and more.
Not too partial to a pint of Heineken? Ditch your usual and check out the LFX Guide to Beer for 10 new craft beers to try instead…
I is for Injuries
Collisions, concussions and the odd broken bone are pretty much a nailed-on certainty for a rugby tournament of this calibre. And before the first game has even kicked off, injuries have ruled out more than a few World Cup hopefuls – not least Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny, who ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament during the RWC warm-up against Italy and is now facing surgery and 6-8 months of recovery instead of leading his team to a World Cup victory. That’s gotta hurt – in more ways than one…
J is for Japan
Set to host the next Rugby World Cup in 2019 – well, if they pull their socks up. Japan was announced as the host for the ninth competition back in 2009, but after they scuppered plans for new National Olympic Stadium, the 2019 Rugby World Cup bid was placed back under review. Japan have until the end of September to produce a new venue plan that pleases the powers-to-be, or the next World Cup may go to the next bidder.
K is for Ka Mate! Ka Mate!
We have to admit we’re looking forward to New Zealand’s traditional pre-match haka war dances… and even more looking forward to the awkward looks on their opponents faces as they wonder exactly how to follow that…
L is for London
Predictably, as the capital city London is playing home to some of the biggest games of the tournament, including England’s opener against Fiji and the final of the 24th October. And the city has risen to the occasion by offering up three iconic stadiums: Twickenham (naturally), Wembley and the new Olympic Stadium. It’s worth making the trip to see the venues alone, rugby or no rugby…
M is for Makeover
Several of the host cities have had a special makeover ready to receive their World Cup visitors. The London Eye has had its capsules wrapped in the flags of the 20 participating nations and the interior of the capsules will showcase images of rugby fans around the world – and meanwhile in Newcastle, the Rugby World Cup logo has been installed on the Tyne Bridge. Leicester, on the other hand, celebrated by sending a 2015 RWC ball into space at their National Space Centre – but we’re sure they’ve put a banner or two up as well.
N is for Nicknames
If you’re a bit of a rugby novice, the first thing to get to grips with is the nicknames for the national teams, as you’ll be hearing them a lot over the next few weeks. The key ones to know are:
Springboks = South Africa
Wallabies = Australia
All Blacks = New Zealand
Oh, and if you overhear anyone referring to “the Bus”, they’re not public transport enthusiasts, that’s All Black Julian Savea. This won’t be the last time you hear his name.
Sure, any rugby experts will be rolling their eyes at us – but if we’ve saved just one rugby newbie from a moment of embarrassment when talk in their local turns to the latest game, we’re happy.
O is for Opening Ceremony
The RWC 2015 Opening Ceremony will “tell the story of rugby’s birth in England and celebrate its journey to the Rugby World Cup in 2015” with its theme of “breaking new ground”. And there will be dancing, singing, acrobatics, fire, and at least one person on stilts.
P is for Parisse
Veteran forward Sergio Parisse has a lot of pressure on his broad shoulders as he helps lead Italy’s challenge at the World Cup. Will he help the team progress from the group stages for the first time? Only time will tell…
Q is for Queen
Queen Elizabeth created quite the media stir by boycotting the RWC Opening Ceremony and inaugural game. The RFU patron will be enjoying her annual holiday in Balmoral as the tournament kicks off, so vice-patron Prince Harry, along with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, will represent the royal family instead. As England’s longest-reigning monarch, Lizzie’s probably earned the break, to be fair.
R is for Rugby
Well, it wasn’t going to be Rounders, was it? As well as the name of the sport the whole she-bang revolves around, Rugby is also the English city where the game was first invented (and which gave the sport its name). As you might expect, Rugby is one of the eleven cities playing host to a World Cup game.
S is for Sin Bin
The Sin Bin is the equivalent of a naughty step for rugby players, a place for any players who are getting a bit heated (and have subsequently won themselves a yellow card) to sit and calm down for ten minutes before they’re allowed to rejoin the game.
Also the name of the alternative RWC round-up on TV3, hosted by comedian Andrew Maxwell and presenter Joe Molloy. Every Thursday at 10pm for the duration of the tournament, the pair will offer a cheeky, topical take on the RWC along with rugby heroes and celebrity enthusiasts.
T is for Top Dog
It might be a little early to be nominating candidates for “player of the tournament” – but the undisputed one-to-watch in this year’s tournament is Wallaby Israel Folau. Before switching rugby codes, Folau broke the record for most tries in a debut year playing Rugby League. After making the switch to Union, he equalled Lote Tuqiri’s tally of ten tries in one season for Australia. And at 26, weighing in at over 16 stone and standing 6 foot 4, he has the strength, youth and height as well as the skill to make him the star player of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Watch this space.
U is for Underdogs
On the other hand, we’d like to spare a moment for the teams who have little more than an outside chance of getting past the first stage of the competition. Rugby can’t be an easy game to go into knowing you’re about to be trounced on a public stage – and even the people who are rooting for the underdogs aren’t rooting for Uruguay or Namibia. Best of luck anyway, guys…
V is for Volavola
The newest amend to the Fiji side that will take on England in the first clash of the tournament at Twickenham, Volavola (who was raised in Sydney and previously played for the Australian Waratahs) is another big name of the tournament. He’ll line up alongside fellow Fiji-born, Australia-raised Nemani Nadolo, who is the biggest ever winger at a Rugby World Cup, to take on the host country.
W is for Webb Ellis Cup
The Webb Ellis Cup is one of the most legendary trophies in sport, named after William Webb Ellis, a student at Rugby school who’s credited with inventing the game back in 1823.
Ahead of the World Cup, it’s been touring the UK and Ireland for 100 days, making its way through Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Wales and England via grassroots games, public events and Heineken parties (now we’re talking) before landing at Twickenham just in time for the opening ceremony.
X is for X Factor
Well, come on, it’s either that or xylophone and you try to make a link between that and rugby. There are two types of X Factor we could mention here – the type that’ll lead star players to victory, and then the type that ITV have shifted from the Saturday night prime-time spot in favour of the World Cup matches (yes, it’s still a sore point with our less sporty members of staff…)
Y is for Young Blood
Georgia teenager Vasil Lobzhanidze will make history as the youngest player to grace the turf at a Rugby World Cup as Georgia face Tonga in the pool phase. The scrum-half doesn’t turn 19 until the 14th of October, but despite his tender age, head coach Milton Haig thinks he’s up to the challenge. We bet his mum is dreading it…
Z is for Zzzz
If all this rugby talk has got you nodding off, don’t worry – the RWC isn’t all that’s going on this autumn. If you’re already ready for a break from ankle tackles and drop goals, check out our guide to New Restaurants, Bars and Spas around the UK and keep well out of the way of the rugby chatter.