To the uninitiated, Rugby Union can seem like a very complicated business.
If you don’t know a ruck from a maul or a blindside from a turnover, the sight of 30 large men chasing a small ball around a pitch crisscrossed with strange markings can understandably lead to confusion. Initially, everyone feels that way.
There’s no denying that with a rule sheet longer than most, Rugby is one of the most complicated sports on the planet.
But it doesn't have to be. At least, not when you take time to understand what is what and who goes where. With a basic understanding of the rules, the intricacies will very quickly fall into place and the Game will soon start to make sense. With a basic understanding, you suddenly see the bigger picture and understand why the Game grips billions across the globe.
If you are reading this, chances are you fall into the uninitiated camp. Ahead of the big kick off on September 18, and before the whole world gets caught up in a frenzy of excitement over Rugby World Cup 2015, you may need enlightenment.
Luckily, help is at hand. To get you started, we’ve broken down the basics of Rugby into six very simple steps. What follows is an absolute beginner’s guide, but it could just prove invaluable over the next 48 matches and 44 days.
1. The Aim Of The Game
The basic aim of Rugby is to use the ball to score more points than the other team. As we said, we are talking the very basics here. Running with the ball in hand, kicking the ball and passing the ball are all permitted and indeed encouraged, but the ball can never be passed forwards. It can only ever go forwards by it being kicked or carried in hand.
Rugby being a contact sport, the team not in possession of the ball can aim to take possession by tackling an opponent to the ground or out of play. The tackle must be firm but fair and within the rules of the Game, however – which generally means that in the interests of safety, no contact can be made above the shoulders.
Now the specifics of how to actually score points to win the Game are deserving of a section all of their own, but we're getting ahead of ourselves and will come to that further down the page. First…
2. The Duration
Each Rugby match lasts for 80 minutes, split into two halves of 40 and with a 10-minute break in-between, during which time the players can draw breath and eat an orange. (Note, and this is key, that upon resumption, the two teams will have changed ends.) During Rugby World Cup 2015, matches in the knockout stages will last longer than 80 minutes if the teams are level at the end of normal time. But we’ll also cover that a little further on.
3. The Pitch
The playing area is a pristine-green rectangle measuring 100m from try line to try line. Each team defends an In-goal area that sits behind the goal posts, denoted by that try line, by the dead-ball line and by the two touchlines. Between the two try lines there will be a series of line markings at regular intervals, both solid and dotted. These divide the pitch into zones and indicate where restart kicks are taken from and where players must position themselves during set pieces. At this stage in your education though, this is more advanced than you probably need to know, so we'll move on.
4. The Personnel
Each team is made up of 15 men of varying dimensions, all of whom would cause significant pain and bruising should they fall on you. Within that team you’ll find eight forwards and seven backs, which loosely covers how they line up on the pitch. Again, their specific roles are complicated and at this stage, this is as much as you really need to know.
5. The Kick-Off
Before the Game begins, the referee will toss a coin to decide which team will kick off. The captain who calls the toss correctly gets to choose to kick off or to decide which end he wants his team to attack in the first half. The Game kicks off with a place kick or drop kick from the middle of the halfway line, with the ball required to go forwards. Finally, with the ball now in play, we come to an explanation of how the players score points, which essentially is why we’re all here.
6. The Scoring
There are several ways to score points, but not all point-scoring is equal.
Five points are awarded for a Try – which is achieved by touching the ball down in your opponent’s goal area, either by a player hurling himself head-first to cross the line or by him nonchalantly waltzing through the opposition defence to touch it down on the turf. However he scores a Try, it’s always five points.
Once a Try has been scored, two points can be added for a Conversion – the name given for a successful kick that sails over the crossbar and between the goalposts.
A further three points are awarded for any goal kick – awarded for a Penalty Kick or a Drop Goal that again sails over the crossbar and between the posts.
After a Try has been scored and the Conversion attempted, or the goal has been scored via the Penalty Kick or Drop Goal, the scoring team surrenders the ball to the opposition, who restart play via a kick from the halfway line. And away we go again, back and forth until the end of the half and the end of the Game.
And that, in a nutshell, is how the Game will unfold until it ends and we have our winner. Of course the Game is far, far more complicated than that, but in terms of the very basics, your education has begun. For a more in-depth guide, click here.
Need To Know: The Rules Of Rugby World Cup 2015
With 48 matches over 44 days, Rugby World Cup 2015 will break down as follows...
Twenty teams are split into four pools, with each pool being a single round-robin of 10 matches. In those matches teams are awarded four points for a victory, two points for a draw and no points for a defeat. However, any team scoring four or more tries in a single match will be awarded a bonus point, as will any team that loses by seven points or fewer.
The top two from each pool progressing to the knock out stages. However, if any teams are level in the pool at the end of the pool matches, the winner of the match in which the two tied teams played each other ranks higher to establish their finishing positions. Once this has been established, we can move on to...
The Knock Out Stages
With two teams progressing from each pool, you've probably guessed that the Knock Out Stages begin at the quarter-finals.
Unlike in the pool matches, which can end level, any knock out match level at the end of 80 minutes will go to Extra Time – which is 10 minutes each way. Ten further minutes of sudden death follows if the teams are still level, during which time if either team scores points, they are declared victorious. But if the teams are still level, a kicking competition follows, with five kicks per team.
And if somehow they are still level at this point, the kicks go to sudden death until we finally have our winners, who by this stage may be too exhausted to celebrate.
This article was commissioned via NewsCred's NewsRoom and written by freelance contributor Nick Harper.