Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 13 December 2019

Are Brazil in it? Rugby World Cup 2019 guide for football and cricket fans

Rugby's global tournament begins on September 20 and will be held in Asia for the first time

There is no escaping the Rugby World Cup, even if you want to. To nations more attuned to games involving 11 players a side, it can look a bit overmanned and rather stop-go.

With every game televised live in the UAE, it’s as well to be clued up. Here’s our guide to 10 essential questions on RWC 2019, just for football and cricket fans...

1. So what’s all the fuss about?

Well, it’s the third biggest global sporting event on the calendar after the football World Cup and the Olympic Games. It lasts as long as both of them put together and has a potential television audience of 4.1 billion. They won’t get that many viewers but it’s a cracking number to throw around.

2. Are Brazil in it?

No, and neither are Germany nor Spain, but the rest of the football World Cup winners are there – Argentina, Uruguay, Italy, France and England. England is the only nation to win both the football and Rugby World Cups, not to mention the global cricket crown this year.

3. I suppose it’s dominated by Europe?

In numbers, yes, but only one winner out of eight has even come from the Northern Hemisphere. Football power splits either side of the Atlantic, rugby either side of the Equator. But if you were to split the 20 finalists into Fifa zones, it makes interesting reading. Two each would come from South America, North/Central America, Africa and Asia (perversely including Australia). Eight would come from Europe but four are from Oceania.

4. Home nations?

Going into the final weekend of friendlies, Wales, Ireland and England were ranked second, third and fourth in the world, with Scotland seventh, though the Scots are still giddy about this year’s "Miracle of Twickenham" – an absurdly heroic comeback resulting in a world record 38-38 draw.

5. Bond villain?

Sadly, Georgia captain Mamuka Gorgodze, nicknamed "Gorgodzilla", has retired from international rugby. Gone, too, is the Picasso-faced Namibian No 8 Jacques Burger. France centre Mathieu Bastereaud enhances his wrecking-ball persona with scars from falling face-first through a glass table. He’s the one.

England lock Maro Itoje. Press Association 
England lock Maro Itoje. Press Association 

6. Bond himself?

Eon could do worse than run the rule over England lock Maro Itoje in their search for the next 007. The lofty Harrow-educated poet and financier has kept his serene looks despite the violence of the second row. Never shaken, rarely stirred. Good earthquake potential when he faces Bastereaud on October 12.

7. Will there be much sticking tongues out and throwing phantom spears?

You bet, and don’t forget the throat-slitting bit. The Pacific islanders like to call on the spirits of their warrior ancestors; these were a bloodthirsty lot who never took a backward step. Seems to fire them up a treat.

New Zealand doing the haka. Getty Images
New Zealand doing the haka. Getty Images

8. Can’t the home nations have a war dance?

Nothing to stop them, but you’d have to give a bit of notice for anything orchestrated for the camera angles and whatnot. By the way, they're now called "cultural challenges". The last time Scotland won the Grand Slam they entered to a slow martial walk before the Calcutta Cup triumph at Murrayfield. Less is more.

9. Favourites?

New Zealand are favourites to make it three crowns in a row, which could take a lot of the fun out of it. Wales, France and Argentina should live up to their outsider status. The Eddie the Eagle Game-Trier Novelty Shield should go to Namibia once again.

10. Who’s got the best anthem?

Italy’s is the fastest and heartiest, with a headlong prum-tee-tum. England and Scotland share the slowest and most glum, but both do the trick for their fans and players. The majestic Russian anthem is back this time, rivalling France’s soaring La Marseillaise in a rematch of 1812.

Updated: September 17, 2019 03:37 PM

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