AL-SMITH: The layman’s guide to the 2015 Rugby World Cup

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first_imgOur Ghanaian audience usually isn’t very inclined to following rugby, but many parts of the world are getting excited today and maybe we should know why.The Rugby World Cup starts Friday, as host nation England and Fiji kick off a 44-day extravaganza offering up 48 matches. It’s the tournament’s eighth edition of the event organised by the International Rugby Board. Held every four years, this edition will be hosted in England and take place between 18 September and 31 October. Twenty teams from across the world will compete to dethrone reigning champions New Zealand in what is expected to be the biggest competition in the sport’s 28-year professional history.The winners are awarded the William Webb Ellis Cup, named after William Webb Ellis, the Rugby School pupil who, it is said, invented rugby by picking up the ball during a football game.Can New Zealand become the first nation to successfully defend the title? Will the All Blacks become the first team to win the tournament three times? Or will the northern hemisphere teams end southern dominance?OverviewThe biggest Rugby World Cup in the sport’s history promises to be as open as any of the previous seven editions. With an expected global audience of four billion and with ticket sales having reached record-breaking levels above 2.25 million, the tournament will reach all corners of the globe and looks set to capture some parts of the world’s imagination.Ghana isn’t one of those, naturally. On the pitch, as many as five nations begin the showcase event with genuine ambitions of ending October with the William Webb Ellis trophy. Southern Hemisphere giants New Zealand, Australia and South Africa naturally – because they are very, very good – start the tournament as contenders, while from the Northern Hemisphere, successive Six Nations champions Ireland and hosts England are the major threats.(Okay. So the Six Nations Championship is a yearly international rugby union competition involving six European sides: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. Kind of like an Afcon held every year, or something like that.)However, both Australia and England will have their attention firmly on getting out of the Group of Death, which also includes Wales, Fiji and Uruguay. Warren Gatland’s side might be without Leigh Halfpenny (below, pictured on stretcher) and Rhys Webb but they still pose a threat, while Fiji have added structure and a decent scrum to their tradition of playing the ball in hand.Elsewhere, former finalists France and Argentina are among the dark horses in the competition.  As with every major tournament, the minnows of world rugby will hope to more than make up the numbers and force their way into the knockout stage, or just grab a valuable win that would inspire their nation. Aside from the Pacific island trio of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, 2019 hosts Japan will be keen to make an impression to satisfy their dedicated support and they may fancy a victory over another emerging rugby nation in the form of the United States. According to what we’ve read, the USA are quite rubbish at rugby.Namibia and Romania, meanwhile, will likely fight it out for the wooden spoon. Yup, they are the least of the favourites. Maybe Ghana should have been there, too.Will Ghana be there?No. Because we didn’t qualify. Simple. Ghana barely figures in the world rankings. That’s an understatement. Click here to check the top 102 countries in the world and you’ll see that we don’t make it.Anyway, a few days ago the guys at Ghana Rugby – led by President Herbert Mensah – released the 2015/16 national championship fixtures and you may have heard it somewhere on Joy FM. Click here for the story we did on it. That said, Ghana Rugby has quite a cool website chale. Updated every day since we’ve been monitoring from Monday. Not bad. You can click here to check it out.Let’s get back to the World Cup… Rugby World Cup – 6 things to know1. New Zealand are favorites. Why?Four years ago, the All Blacks overcame their nickname of “serial chokers” by ending a quarter-century wait for a second RWC success, and Steve Hansen’s top-ranked team will once again be favorite despite failing to retain the Rugby Championship title this year.The New Zealand squad features four men who have been named IRB world player of the year — captain McCaw (2006, 2009, 2010), international rugby’s leading points scorer Carter (2005, 2012), Kieran Read (2013) and Brodie Retallick (2014) — while it has depth in all areas.2. England are hosts but… Despite not having won Europe’s Six Nations title since 2011, the advantage of considerable home support has put England as second favorite with most bookmakers as it seeks to add to its sole title won Down Under 12 years ago.3. Which venue is special?Twickenham, the home of English rugby, is the tournament’s centerpiece and will stage its biggest games — the opener, both semis and, of course, the final.The 81,605-seater stadium, which staged its first game back in 1909, is the biggest dedicated rugby ground in the world and is known as “HQ.” Based in southwest London, it will host 10 games in total, more than any other venue.4.Any economic impact?While it may not be able to quite match its footballing counterpart or the Olympics, the Rugby World Cup is still an incredibly lucrative business for its host.Nearly £1 billion ($1.5 billion) of additive value is expected to be delivered into the United Kingdom’s economy, according to an England Rugby 2015 study, while the event is tipped to generate a total output of around £2.2 billion ($3.4 billion).5. Who is Mr Rugby?New Zealand have a superstar in Richie McCaw — known as “Mr. Rugby” — who played through the 2011 knockout stages with a broken foot and now at 34 years of age is the world’s most-capped player with 142 international appearances. He (above, in black) is captain of his national team, the All Blacks.6. Why ban bagpipes?In an attempt to avoid the controversy that erupted at the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa with vuvuzelas, England’s organizers have decreed that no bagpipes will be allowed on the grounds of any World Cup venue. This did not sit well with Scotland, which sees the instrument as a more than a national instrument.In fact, Scottish MPs have even put down a motion in Parliment denouncing the decision.Now, let’s move on to the games.Following is is the draw for the tournament.Group A: Australia, England, Wales, Fiji, Uruguay18 September: England v Fiji. 20 September: Wales v Uruguay. 23 September: Australia v Fiji. 26 September: England v Wales. 27 September: Australia v Uruguay. 1 October: Wales v Fiji. 3 October: England v Australia. 6 October: Fiji v Uruguay. 10 October: Australia v Wales, England v Uruguay.Group B: South Africa, Samoa, Japan, Scotland, USA19 September: South Africa v Japan. 20 September: Samoa v USA. 23 September: Scotland v Japan. 26 September: South Africa v Samoa. 27 September: Scotland v USA. 3 October: Samoa v Japan, South Africa v Scotland. 7 October: South Africa v USA. 10 October: Samoa v Scotland. 11 October: USA v Japan.Group C: New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga, Georgia, Namibia19 September: Tonga v Georgia. 20 September: New Zealand v Argentina. 24 September: New Zealand v Namibia. 25 September: Argentina v Georgia. 29 September: Tonga v Namibia. 2 October: New Zealand v Georgia. 4 October: Argentina v Tonga. 7 October: Namibia v Georgia. 9 October: New Zealand v Tonga. 11 October: Argentina v Namibia.Group D: France, Ireland, Italy, Canada, Romania19 September: Ireland v Canada, France v Italy. 23 September: France v Romania. 26 September: Italy v Canada. 27 September: Ireland v Romania. 1 October: France v Canada. 4 October: Ireland v Italy. 6 October: Canada v Romania. 10 October: Italy v Romania. 11 October: France v Ireland.Quarter-finals: 17 October: Quarter Final 1: Winner of Group B v Runners-up of Group A. Quarter Final 2: Winner of Group C v Runners-up of Group D. Quarter Final 3: Winner of Group D v Runners-up of Group C. Quarter Final 4: Winner of Group A v Runners-up of Group B.Semi-finals: 24 October: Winner of Quarter Final 1 v Winner of Quarter Final 2. 25 October: Winner of Quarter Final 3 v Winner of Quarter Final 4.Bronze final: 30 October, Rugby World Cup final: 31 October.Where to watch itThere are precious few places to watch the 2015 RWC in Ghana. Apart from illegal internet streams, the legal, safest bet is pay-TV giant SuperSport.They’ll treat the competition like they do for football and cricket global events. All games will be in HD and there’ll be highlights on Blitz (channel 200) as well. As usual, there will be ex-internationals in studio to provide analysis and so on.–Follow Gary on Twitter: @garyalsmith. Get more updates on Facebook/Twitter with the #JoySports hashtaglast_img

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