The game they play in heaven
September 17, 2015 6:13 AM   Subscribe

The eighth Rugby World Cup (@) kicks off tomorrow in England (and Wales), contested by twenty qualifying teams. While the All Blacks are unbackable (5/4) favourites to be the first team to retain Bill, the Cup is equally a celebration of the diverse world rugby family, offering the minnows a chance to pit themselves against the best.

The tournament has four pools of five teams, with the top two team from each pool advancing to the elimination finals. Full fixture here.

Pool A (the Pool of Death) has four of the top ten nations in it. The winner plays the runner up of Pool B, while the runner up plays the winner of Pool B. Someone has to be disappointed.

England can be expected to bring their powerful but one dimensional ten man rugby, practising the dark arts of scrummaging to bore the referees to death. The home ground advantage may be telling.

Wales have been hampered by injuries to vital players including Leigh Halfpenny, but have some big running backs to count on and a strong back row.

The Wallabies have, on their day, the skills and the players to go all the way, but are dreadfully inconsistent, have a new coach and rarely cope with Northern Hemisphere refereeing.

The Flying Fijians are mercurial and every player is devastating in open running play. Without a decent set piece however, they can only hope for an upset (hopefully against England).

Uruguay have a proud rugby history and a strong belief in their ability to contest the scrum, but are extremely unlikely to win a match in this pool.

Pool B is probably the most interesting and unpredictable pool for second place. The winner (South Africa, I mean seriously) plays the runner up of Pool A, while the runner up plays the winner of Pool A.

The Springboks are unlikely to lose a match, but must guard against complacency, injury and the fact that they won’t be hardened before the finals. Some odd selections and coaching, along with a preference for experience/age puts questionmarks over how far the Bokke can go this time.

Manu Samoa (bonus Siva Tau footage) are the only threat to the ‘Boks in this pool, and would definitely hope to progress to the finals, however, like many Pasifika teams are somewhat erratic and will be challenged by the others.

Scotland, the proudest rugby nation (and claiming the (canonical) support of the Wizarding World), sadly lost all recent six-nations matches, and will have a tough time beating Samoa, while also being challenged by the USA and Japan. Still, if it turns wet...

The Brave Blossoms always play with heart, but simply don’t have the forwards to match it seriously. They will contest for a full 80 minutes though, and need to perform well, as the 2019 hosts.

Olympic champions the USA Eagles are improving rapidly, boosted by their confidence in Rugby 7s, and will be eyeing their chances against all the other teams in this pool apart from SA. With a little luck, this may be their first ever time to progress to the finals.

Pool C is the pool of foregone conclusions. New Zealand as winner will play the Pool D runner up, while the runner up (most likely Argentina) plays the Pool D winner.

New Zealand will seek to avoid injuries and cards and remain fresh for the finals. There is little to say about the All Blacks, they are dominant across all areas of the game. As a special bonus for fans of the great Sir Richie McCaw*, here's Law 16.5 about being offside at rucks. (and scrums).

Los Pumas (Argentina) should have no problems with the other teams apart from the ABs. They have an excellent scrum and a world class fly-half in Juan Martin Hernandez. The only question is how far will they go? And will they play possum against the All Blacks in the pool stage?

Tonga, ‘Ikale Tahi, have some great players, but are characteristically ill-disciplined and in Northern Hemisphere conditions can only hope against Argentina.

Georgia, the Lelos, love scrummaging and that’s their best hope against Tonga. Hoping for an upset while watching out for Namibia.

Namibia, the Biltongboere, haven’t won a World Cup game yet and have been on the receiving end of a few records (142 - 0 vs Australia). This isn’t likely to change, with their best players poached by South Africa.

Pool D is difficult to pick, as it has the mercurial, erratic, enigmatic, confused, wayward France in it. The winner of this pool plays the Pool C runner up, while the runner up plays New Zealand.

France is, well who knows what team will turn up. Often hopeless, sometimes brilliant. Two very classy centres. They’ll lose games they should win easily and win games they shouldn’t have. If they come second in the pool, watch out New Zealand!

Ireland, a far more consistent team, ranked 6th in the world, have only to watch out for France. They have quality across the park and should expect to top this pool, thereby avoiding a match with New Zealand and likely facing a very interesting match against Argentina.

Italy have sadly been going backwards for the past several years and have little hope of a turn-around. Indeed, despite a long proud history, they need to watch out for the minnows.

The Maple Leafs are also failing to improve at the wrong time, having been overtaken in recent years by the Eagles. They will look for a win over Italy, but can’t hope for better than that.

Romania, the Oaks, have been to every World Cup and are in a weak pool, so their strong scrum may give them some hope, but just don’t have the professional players or the backs to score heavily.

*no seriously, he is great, and pure class off the field. Just a blatant serial offside offender.
posted by wilful (75 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

(England will probably win it)

It's a cyclical game and we are without some all-time greats that we had the last time.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 6:50 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Dewch i Gymru!
posted by Chrysostom at 7:33 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I know rooting for the All Blacks is a bit like rooting for the Yankees, but boy can they play.
posted by kjs3 at 7:45 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

South Africa is pinning our hopes on a bunch of veterans who are a hard tackle away from retirement. De Villiers, Pienaar, Matfield, Habana, Du Preez and Burger are going to be tested and tested hard injury wise.
posted by PenDevil at 7:57 AM on September 17, 2015

I'm for England -- they came to my local stadium for "really gruesome" training!
posted by asperity at 8:06 AM on September 17, 2015

I'm supporting the 267 bus route from Hammersmith to Fulwell, but despite my optimistic support I know it will be the real loser in the end.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:08 AM on September 17, 2015

Also, thanks for the great write-up, wilful!
posted by asperity at 8:09 AM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yes, this is a fantastic post, thank you.
posted by dogwalker at 8:17 AM on September 17, 2015

Thanks for the post! As an aside, I hadn't known that (unlike in soccer) the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland field an Irish team together.
posted by tecg at 8:24 AM on September 17, 2015

Awesome post. Go Black.
posted by gaspode at 10:35 AM on September 17, 2015

I had no idea this was coming around again! Thanks for the post. Time to get my All Blacks jersey out.

(In the interests of oversharing, while I am Canadian, I love the All Blacks. I played rugby in high school, and one of the best things the coach did one night (when it was too wet for practice) was put on a tape of the 1987 All Blacks/France final, which enraptured all of us and gave us a much better understanding of some of the tactics and techniques he was trying to coach (he was far more into the style of rugby played by the Pacific nations than the European), along with giving us a bunch of new ideas of things to try. Plus, seeing the Haka for the first time was pretty impactful on a room full of adolescent boys).
posted by nubs at 10:40 AM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Fantastic post. Cymru am byth!

(oh god we're doomed and I still haven't recovered from the 2011 semifinal)
posted by kalimac at 10:54 AM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah I now think Cymru are likely to be the ones knocked out in the pool stage. Pity, I like the Welsh. They particularly need to watch out for Fiji. But who knows? Lots of cracker games to prove me wrong!

I just particularly want the Wobblies to beat the poms, at Twickenham and reffed by Romaine Poite, to shove it up their jumpers after what seems like a decade or two of bad decisions deciding close matches and with the horrible baying English media talking shit with convict jokes etc. And if we could win with a drop goal, landing on Jonny Wilkinson's face , that would be golden.
posted by wilful at 1:45 PM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

We shall prevail!
(or South Africa, Australia, England, France...)
posted by piyushnz at 2:21 PM on September 17, 2015

And if we could win with a drop goal, landing on Jonny Wilkinson's face , that would be golden.

Hear, hear. (Jonny seems to be a perfectly nice bloke, but after years of watching grown men - and John Inverdale - verbally fellate him at every chance, I am particularly Done.)
posted by kalimac at 3:25 PM on September 17, 2015

As a wallabies supporter, my only fear in the pool stages is a badly reffed game against the soapdodgers. We'll come from behind against Fiji, just to give the fans a scare, we'll beat the taffies surprisingly easily, and we'll be shouting and wailing at the dirty cheating poms when they beat us in a low scoring close one. Well that's my fearless prediction. Which puts us in line against South Africa. Which is no problem, I'm sure we can handle them. Then the ABs.. :(

So Australia *really* need to top pool A if we're to make it to the final via the other path, avoiding New Zealand till then..
posted by wilful at 4:46 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

As a special bonus for fans of the great Sir Richie McCaw*, here's Law 16.5 about being offside at rucks.

Is there a law about eye-gouging opponents? Asking for a friend*.

posted by Pink Frost at 5:19 PM on September 17, 2015

More seriously....some interesting points for NZ:
Our two best players (McCaw and Carter), and indeed some of our other key players, are old and fading. Will they hold on for one last victory, or will it turn out that we should have ditched them two years ago and developed replacements?

The English have released a desperately tasteless and racist mockery of the haka. Let's just thank them for writing Richie's team-talk for him, if we ever play them, and move on.

Wayne Barnes, the most hated man in New Zealand, refereeing our first game seems like some kind of deliberate trolling from the organisers (but probably isn't).

It's getting hard for a left-leaning NZer to support the All Blacks at the moment. They are completely inter-twined with our ruling conservative party, it's getting hard to tell whether Richie is actually the deputy Prime Minister or whether (PM) John Key thinks he actually manages the All Blacks. So I'm less excited about this than I would normally be.

That said, I'm sure my interest will pick up. Mostly because I'll want to see the English destroyed. Desperately hoping Pool A goes Australia, Wales, leaving England knocked out, but failing that I'll take the All Blacks knocking them over at Twickenham.
posted by Pink Frost at 5:28 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Pink Frost, I reckon you're right about Carter, should have retired last season, but I think Ritchie has one last go around in him. And yes, those eye gouges (particularly the French) are/were atrocious. Though way way way too much was made of this incident, and I'd like to think both Australia and New Zealand are generally above that sort of shit.

Good to know that stern statements have been made against diving, and the game isn't to become like soccer. Like the horseshit where Argie Nicolas Sanchez rolls on the ground clutching his face after being slapped on the back of his head by Hooper.
posted by wilful at 5:59 PM on September 17, 2015

All teams for the first week will be available here.

First big match though (less than 24 hours to go, so excited!), England v Fiji.

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler. Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Sam Burgess.

Fiji: 15 Metuisela Talebula, 14 Waisea Nayacalevu, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Nikola Matawalu, 8 Sakiusa Masi Matadigo, 7 Akapusi Qera (c), 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Campese Ma’afu.
Replacements: 16 Tuapati Talemaitoga, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Isei Colati, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Peceli Yato, 21 Nemia Kenatale, 22 Joshua Matavesi, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

posted by wilful at 6:09 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

The English have released a desperately tasteless and racist mockery of the haka.

Aw, that's disappointing. I don't know whether I should look for it or just try to ignore poor behavior from my town's guests.

(Also, everybody else should come train here in high-altitude Rugbytown, too. I'll cheer for anybody who visits us!)
posted by asperity at 8:42 PM on September 17, 2015

I got a call tonight at work asking if we will be showing this at the bar in the restaurant that I manage. I said that I'd be happy to put it on for them. I know nothing about rugby. Nothing. I was going to google it and learn a bit so that I could have something to talk about with them when they come in. Decided to check MeFi first to catch up on some other threads I'm following. Thank you for this fantastic post!!
posted by colt45 at 12:06 AM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Great post, wilful. I know nothing about rugby but because of reading this I am going to try and catch a game.

Anyone have any suggestions of where someone can go to get the best introduction to learn what they are doing on the field?
posted by zyxwvut at 5:32 AM on September 18, 2015

zyxwvut: With the disclaimer that I haven't played or watched rugby in years, this video isn't bad as a start, I think. There's another that's like an hour long that likely gets far more detailed. Because the game is quite fluid and fast, it can be hard to follow the first few times you try.

The big rule to remember for most new viewers is the offside rule - basically, the ball is the offside line. Forwards can't join a ruck or a maul from an offside position - they have to join from their side of the field, with the ball determining where that offside line is. Also, the ball can only be passed backwards by hand as would be the case in American football when playing past the line of scrimmage.

Some terms you might hear and get confused by:

-Hooker: The game does not involve prostitution! This refers to one of the positions on the field - specifically, the forward who in the scrum is in the middle of the front row. The hooker is held up by the players to either side (the Props) so that he has his legs free to hook the ball back into his side of the scrum.

-Knock-on: When the ball is played by hand in a forward direction, it is usually called a knock-on.

-Playing advantage: A penalty has happened, but the ref is playing the advantage - which means the team that would benefit from the penalty still has the ball and is moving forward, so the ref won't stop the game to apply the penalty unless that changes.

-wheeling the scrum: The referee will stop a scrum if it starts to "wheel" or spin on the field; if the ref feels one team is doing that deliberately, it will be a penalty.

Another point new fans sometimes get confused on: When scoring a try, the place for the conversion kick is determined by where the ball was touched to the ground after the player crossed the goal line. So you may see players who have crossed the line continue running to try to get position closer to or behind the goal posts, to make the kick easier. The kick is made from any point on a straight line "drawn" out from where the ball was placed.

In terms of strategy - teams will look to create situations where they have "overlap" - more players to one side of the field than the other team; this should allow them to advance because they should have one player left to take a pass after the defenders have all tackled the other attacking ball carriers. Teams with strong "packs" - the nickname for the group of forwards (at least it was when I played) - relative to the other team may look to create mauls, rucks, and scrums in order to keep winning the ball as they advance up the field. With rucks/mauls/scrums, if one set of forwards has the advantage, they may try to push the formation down the field, keeping the ball in their feet (or, in a maul, carrying the player who has the ball along with them). That usually results in the scrum wheeling or the similar happening with a ruck/maul formation, so I don't know how often you'll see it at a World Cup level. Usually, they will try to drive a ruck over the top of the downed player so that the ball is now in the feet/control of their side, making it easier for the scrum-half to pick the ball up and get play moving. Defensively, teams will kick the ball down the field and out into touch fairly frequently, so scrambles around the goal area can get really quite intense as the players stack up and tackling distances are short, and you have players trying to make a kick while the opposing team drags them down.

Things may have changed, but in my recollection, in general the European teams will use a lot of kicking and try to establish positional advantages on the field through that, while the Pacific nations tend to use a lot of speed and advance the ball via the run and strong forward play.

(I'm quite sure someone more in touch will be along shortly to fill in all the things I missed or am wrong about due to my dusty memory or changes to the game in the past years).
posted by nubs at 1:15 PM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

There is a gigantic post on reddit with links to match threads, livestreams, pool predictions, etc.

Guardian liveblog for ENG v FIJ
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:26 PM on September 18, 2015

And maybe just to explain the scrum formation, because it looks like a hodgepodge in a game, but is really quite interesting:

The front row is Prop-Hooker-Prop
The second line is Lock-------Lock

The Locks help to hold the front line together. They crouch over, and wrap one arm around the outside of the Props and then bring their other arm up between the legs of the front line to grab onto jerseys and put their heads between the hips of the front row so that they can squeeze the Props into towards the middle. The Locks are usually (but not always) the guys with the soft helmets/tape over their ears to keep them from getting pulled on when they are doing their job.

The Flankers grab onto the backs of the Locks, and use their shoulders on the hips of the Props, again to help hold that front row together. At the back, helping to hold the two Locks in place, is the Number Eight (that literally is the position name). An ideal scrum results with the ball being filtered back from the front row, through the Locks, and into the feet of the Number Eight, which is where the scrum-half picks it up from. In my playing days, the Number Eight also had the option of disconnecting from the scrum and grabbing the ball as well - that may have changed. The Flankers and the Number Eight are also sometimes referred to as the "loose" forwards, as they can detach from the scrum quickly and join the play.

In addition to wheeling the scrum, it is also illegal to deliberately collapse a scrum.
posted by nubs at 1:28 PM on September 18, 2015

Anyone watching Fiji-England? I only woke up a few minutes ago, looks like a great game.
posted by Pink Frost at 1:38 PM on September 18, 2015

I will be watching my very first ever rugby game tomorrow. At least if I can figure out how and what time.

I with some folks from Ireland and the subject has come up on our Skype calls this week and I'm feeling like I need to give it a shot.
posted by Jalliah at 1:46 PM on September 18, 2015

Yes I got up for it - it's been very entertaining and well reffed. The better team is winning but I love watching the Fijian game. Nadolo has been superb.
posted by wilful at 1:48 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am disappointed. Despite the fact that I'm sure when I checked yesterday it said the game would be on, my local cable sports network is not covering this match, and most of the matches are on their premium channels that I don't get.

posted by nubs at 3:09 PM on September 18, 2015

Well reffed?

Knock-on literally right in front of him ignored in the run up to the "bonus point try".

I have a feeling England matches are going to reach a new low in favouritism from the officials.
Although if they play as badly as they did tonight it's not going to make any difference.
posted by fullerine at 7:25 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Are you all watching the South Africa v Japan game at the moment? Fantastic work from the Japanese, ten minutes to go and it's all level.
Come on Japan!`
posted by Fence at 10:26 AM on September 19, 2015

Watching Boks v Japan and I cannot believe my eyes. This has been incredible.
posted by all the versus at 10:31 AM on September 19, 2015

Just caught the last minute; well done Japan!
posted by nubs at 10:46 AM on September 19, 2015


Well if there's any consolation for me it's that Eddie Jones (Japan Coach) is coming to coach the Stormers next year.
posted by PenDevil at 10:49 AM on September 19, 2015

For context, Japan was a 43 point underdog. South Africa had only lost 4 games in World Cup play coming in. What a huge upset.
posted by nubs at 10:53 AM on September 19, 2015

Good God, what a fantastic game. Fantastic result. The guts of the Japanese side to keep going for the try when they could have taken the pen for a draw, but their ball handling was excellent for the part of the game I saw so maybe they felt confident enough to rely on it. Best game of rugby I've seen in a while, every minute you expected SA to turn it on and open up a big points gap but they just couldn't do it. Makes that group a damn sight more interesting. Scotland won't be coasting over the line with the second place that's for sure.
posted by biffa at 10:54 AM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have to see if I can find a rebroadcast or an online replay; the highlights are amazing and my broadcaster just claimed it to be the largest upset in WC history. Group B just got very interesting.
posted by nubs at 10:58 AM on September 19, 2015

nubs: this wiki page lists all the SA results in the five rugby world cups since they started playing in them in 1995. In that time they have only lost the following games

1995: 0
1999: RSA 21 - 27 AUS (Australia went on to win the title)
2003: RSA 6-25 ENG (England went on to win the title)
2003: NZ 29-9 RSA
2007: 0
2011: RSA 9-11 AUS

So they have only lost to the really big teams, Australia, NZ and England. Japan have only won one game before at the RWC, back in 1991 against Zimbabwe, a team generally regarded as being minnows in the rugby world. They have drawn another two.
posted by biffa at 11:11 AM on September 19, 2015

The Brave Blossoms always play with heart, but simply don’t have the forwards to match it seriously.

I probably would have said something similar if I was framing the post. Seriously what were the odds of them winning against South Africa. Just checked results while on the plane and may have released a few expletives (with joy) in the middle of a quiet cabin.....go Japan!
posted by inflatablekiwi at 4:17 PM on September 19, 2015

I looked it up. You could have got 80-1 against Japan to beat South Africa yesterday morning. Not bad odds in a two horse race.
posted by biffa at 10:09 AM on September 20, 2015

Anyone see NZ-Argentina? Quite a good game. Thought Wayne Barnes did a good job (and I'm still mad at him for Cardiff eight years ago). Wilful will have been pleased to see McCaw sin-binned. Bit of a shame to put that game first though, it removes any real tension from the group (play it last and there's always the chance that Argentina could win and top the group, now we know the ABs will certainly be first).

Scotland-Japan and Argentina-Georgia shaping as the next interesting games - can the underdogs prevail again?
posted by Pink Frost at 1:17 PM on September 21, 2015

I wasn't very impressed with New Zealand against the Argies - looking a bit old and tired frankly. And I reckon a deliberate trip should be a red card. I agree that it would have been better if the game had been last in the pool. Though getting the one challenging game out of the way for the All Blacks is probably a good thing, they won't be battle hardened by the semis.

And tonight the Wallabies play Fiji! Looking forward to it - the wobs are playing the Pooper - Pocock and Hooper, our two world class flankers.
posted by wilful at 8:54 PM on September 21, 2015

zyxwvut, there's really a lot to rugby, it takes a long time to come to grips with the laws of the game. As nubs said above, the main thing that creates the structure and defines the game is the concept of offside.

As an introduction to the game, I think one of the easier things to get to understand is the positions. So there are fifteen players on the field, and eight reserves (used to be seven). The numbers on their backs means something, it is their position. There is a lot of specialisation in the roles. I'll provide a brief overview, from the top, by the numbers.

1 - the loosehead prop. Short fat strong guy who smashes into other short fat strong guys. Has a vital role at the propping up the front of the scrum. Doesn't need to pass much. Needs to eat a lot.
2 - hooker. Hooks the ball out of the scrum with his feet (hence the name) and binds to the two props. Throws the ball in at the lineout. Equally robust physique.
3 - tighthead prop. Very similar to the loosehead prop, it takes a deep knowledge of scrumming to really know the difference in their roles.

Collectively these three guys are the front row, aka the piggies (due to frequent burrowing in mud).

4 & 5 - Locks - one of the few interchangeable roles, these are the two really tall guys (200cm a common height) who jump in the lineout, push the scrums (locking it) and also like smashing into other guys. May have an enforcer role too.

These players are collectively the tight five.

6 - blindside flanker . On one of the flanks of the scrum, on the 'blind' (closer to sideline) side. Big role in tackling and ball carrying (smashing into blokes while carrying the ball).

7 - openside flanker. On the open flank of the scrum, job is to disengage quickly from scrum and tackle hard, trying to cause a turnover (stealing the ball).

8 - No. 8 - A big fast moving ball carrier ideally, who can break through the opposition line and tackle hard.

6,7,8 are called the back row. The front eight are collectively the forwards or the pack.

Now the halves. The next two positions are the main decisionmakers for the team on the field.

9 - scrum half, aka halfback, aka scrummie. The most specialised position. Main job is to collect the ball from the back of the breakdown and pass it quickly to the right person (often the fly half). Needs to be quick on their feet, god decisionmaker and have a very accurate pass. Also an ability to kick is useful. Generally the smallest player on the pitch, so tackling isn't necessarily a strong point. Often quite yappy, particularly if there's a lock nearby.

10 - flyhalf, aka five-eighths. Receives the ball from the scrummie and decides what to do with it - pass, run, kick. Needs to be a very good kicker and passer. Will often be the team place kicker too.

I'll skip 11 for a minute.

12 - Inside centre. Takes the ball and tries to run it or pass it (in attack), has to be a good tackler in defence. Often the main defensive captain, making sure the defensive line is reset properly.

13 - Outside centre. Similar to inside centre, often more of a 'crash ball' runner, someone who doesn't necessarily pass so much but tries to move the ball forwards.

11 & 14 - wingers. Pretty much interchangeable, these are the prettyboys who try to avoid getting tackled in attack and should have a real turn of speed on them. Of course they need to be able to defend against the opposition winger. Will provide covering defence

15 - Fullback. Last line of defence, needs to be able to catch a kicked ball and to kick the ball a good distance. Needs to really be able to understand the game to be in the right position and to tackle very reliably.

9 - 15 are the backs. 11, 14 & 15 are the back three (not the same thing as the back row - they're forwards).

The bench depends a little on the coach's choices, but will generally have a 5/3 split, which is to say 5 forwards, 3 backs. Most importantly, once subbed off, you can't come back on. Some front rowers must be included (otherwise you wont be able to contest scrums, a bad thing), a spare scrum half and two utility backs (able to play in several positions) is typical.
posted by wilful at 9:27 PM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

Those tackles in gridiron look fucking awful and scary. But the cheerleaders are nice! Really not a thing in rugby, only a few Super teams have them.
posted by wilful at 10:29 PM on September 21, 2015

Isn't Australia-Fiji tomorrow?

Though getting the one challenging game out of the way for the All Blacks is probably a good thing, they won't be battle hardened by the semis.

This is already looming as such a repeat of 2007; easy road to the knockout stages then losing to France in Cardiff....I can only pray that the agony of defeat is softened by our trans-Tasman friends knocking England out in the group stages.
posted by Pink Frost at 11:39 PM on September 21, 2015

Isn't Australia-Fiji tomorrow?
Yes indeed, getting a mite ahead of myself.

While I would be very sad not to make it out of the pool, if we happened to not do that but did smash the poms, well that would be almost worth it.
posted by wilful at 1:49 AM on September 22, 2015

I am dreading the South Africa/Samoa game. The South Pacific nations always play extra hard in the WC and with our bunch of slowed down injury prone veterans I'm expecting another Brian Lima car crash.
posted by PenDevil at 2:28 AM on September 22, 2015

I think there is a definite chance SA do not make it out of the pool.
posted by fullerine at 2:39 AM on September 22, 2015

Teams for Aus v Fiji:

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Kurtley Beale.

Fiji: 15 Metuisela Talebula, 14 Waisea Nayacalevu, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Nikola Matawalu, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Akapusi Qera (c), 6 Peceli Yato, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Tuapati Talemaitoga, 1 Campese Ma’afu Replacements: 16 Viliame Veikoso, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Isei Colati, 19 Nemia Soqeta, 20 Malakai Ravulo, 21 Nemia Kenatale, 22 Josh Matavesi, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Leighton Hodges (Wales)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

This is pretty much Australia's A team. The betting odds confirms it, Australia are 1/25, Fiji are 12/1 on one major website. Still should be a good match.
posted by wilful at 3:03 AM on September 22, 2015

Campese Ma’afu
His dad (or mom) must be conflicted on which team to support...
posted by PenDevil at 3:19 AM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

And maybe just to explain the scrum formation

One bloke shoving two bloke's heads up three bloke's arses.
posted by pompomtom at 4:55 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Went to the Australia v Fiji match last night. Reasonably good game, but we spent twice as long in the queue to get to the train platform afterwards as we did watching the actual game.
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:55 PM on September 23, 2015

Changes to the Boks' lineup.
posted by pompomtom at 11:27 PM on September 23, 2015

well that should work for developing a team rhythm (not). Though maybe it reflects that they thought Japan were easybeats and they played their B squad against them. I know Australia's run on team against Uruguay is going to be very different to its team against Fiji.

The Australia Fiji game was interesting. Thought we did OK, except with the shocking lineouts (lost four in a row). Which is why the bonus point try didn't turn up. The Pooper were superb, as always, great defence across the park. Not afraid of Wales with that showing.
posted by wilful at 11:43 PM on September 23, 2015

Australia looked about as rusty as they're going to get, and strangely hesitant at times on attack. Great loose forward display though. But what was with that awful lineout?

Glen Jackson had another blinder with the whistle, I thought: kept the game flowing until the final few minutes when it broke down into scrum development hell.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:11 AM on September 24, 2015

posted by PenDevil at 11:16 AM on September 26, 2015

Go Wales!
posted by PenDevil at 2:01 PM on September 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Dear Mr Lancaster, I'm not an expert on rugby but I wondered if you had considered asking your players not to give away stupid penalties really close to your end of the pitch, perhaps if you just tried this for the first five minutes of a game it might stick? This might help keep your opposition's score down. I was also wondering whether you had noticed teams like Japan and their ability to throw the ball to each other a lot without dropping it? Is this something you have thought about getting your team to practice more?
posted by biffa at 2:19 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

And yet again, Jean De Villiers goes home early from the Rugby World Cup. I think this is now the third time out of the last four tournaments.
posted by PenDevil at 3:57 AM on September 27, 2015

Ioan Gruffudd likes this.
posted by fullerine at 4:15 AM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Wahooo! Smashed em boys! That was a great game by the wallabies. Grinding the pommie scrum into the grass at Twickenham, how excellent. Having Joe Marler, the prop with more angles than a dodecahedron, get a talking to by the ref, great. Pocock at the breakdown. 100% kicking! So enjoyable. Well, unless you're an english rugby fan...
posted by wilful at 12:29 AM on October 4, 2015

So. Much. English. Angst. John Inverdale looks particularly traumatized, like he's just been plucked off the beaches of Dunkirk. Keeps veering back onto the unspeakable spectacles he witnessed last night.
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:52 AM on October 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

That Australia v England game really was quite good - bit more worried about the AB's chances now than I had been. But man, England now have now been knocked out in pool/group play stages from the last Cricket, Rugby, and Football World Cups....ouch - that's got to sting! I actually feel a bit sorry for them.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 10:35 AM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

If anyone's still playing along at home, here are two analyses of the English scrum.

The first one, from ENG v WAL, showing how the roses like to play for penalties (successfully).
The second one, from ENG v AUS, showing how this can be countered (and reffed).

Frankly, never having been a piggie, this is all utterly mysterious and baffling to me, but I find it really interesting.
posted by wilful at 5:35 PM on October 6, 2015

I actually feel a bit sorry for them.


Well no, I do too, the players (most of them) and the coaches. But the English sporting press, all I feel about them is a lovely warm gloat and a big fuck you, across cricket, association football and rugby.
posted by wilful at 5:37 PM on October 6, 2015

Also - just because its awesome (at least for NZ rugby supporters) the Alternative Commentary Collective are back, following their stellar success getting kicked out of the Cricket World Cup, with their new show "Champagne Rugby". Set inside a stylised scrotum with a social media testicle, it honors the legendary Buck Shelford, who famously captained a game where he got knocked out, lost four teeth, and had his scrotum ripped open leaving one testicle hanging free....and played on!

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3 - Including the Drunk Man on a Ladder World Cup Winner Predictor
posted by inflatablekiwi at 6:38 PM on October 9, 2015

Hey the ABs get to play a quarter final..against Cardiff.....what could possibly go wrong?
posted by inflatablekiwi at 11:29 AM on October 11, 2015

The Aus v Wales match was awesome for aficionados - so much defence! Wasn't a big fan of Joubert, but I won't say he was biased.

So it's Australia v Scotland, SA v Wales, NZ v France and Ireland v Argentina.

I'm gonna back the southern hemisphere in all of these. I don't think NZ will trip up again. Ireland Argentina will be close though.
posted by wilful at 3:39 PM on October 11, 2015

Feeling sad for Japan. Would have been an amazing achievement if they'd made the last eight, and they came so close. Shame Samoa couldn't beat Scotland, but at least it was another good game.
posted by Pink Frost at 11:17 PM on October 11, 2015

Japan gets to host next time, and hopefully their involvement now in Super Rugby will pay dividends. So a lot of positive for them - hopefully a team who can sustain upward momentum
posted by inflatablekiwi at 10:34 AM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

The latest world ranking have come out, and England have dropped to eighth! ahahahahhahah. And Japan has snuck up to tenth! Which is great.

The USA would be bitterly disappointed with their tournament, along with Samoa. Georgia has done very well, look about ready to overtake Italy.
posted by wilful at 4:39 PM on October 12, 2015

France have twice pulled an upset over NZ in the RWC knockout stages and almost did it again in the 2011 final, only losing 7 - 8. Depending on which French team decide to show up on the day it might not be as cut and dried as NZ hopes.
posted by PenDevil at 1:35 AM on October 13, 2015

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