What you need to know about the Rugby World Cup
This article is about rugby, a famous sport in Europe and the countries of the Commonwealth but a little-known game elsewhere. Its world cup is currently taking place on English soil.
Rugby is a sport that has its origins in England. Legend has it that a group of young collegiate boys were playing an old version of soccer in the 19th century when William Webb Ellis, a student at a school in the English town of Rugby, took the ball in his hands and went to put it right behind the goal line.
Reaching the other team’s goal line with the ball eventually became the way of scoring the most points in rugby, named after the town. Today, the sport is played in many countries around the world, particularly those with a historical link to Great Britain, the game’s initiator. New Zealand, England, South Africa, Australia, France and Ireland are known to have the best and most-awarded rugby teams in the world.
More specifically, the French team, which is called “Les Bleus,” is very popular in France, where rugby is considered to be the second sport in terms of importance and number of followers.
The main members on the team are: Scott Spedding, Noa Nakaitaci, Mathieu Bastareaud, Wesley Fofana, Brice Dulin, Frederic Michalak, Sebastien Tillous-Borde; Eddy Ben Arous, Guilhem Guirado, Rabah Slimani, Pascal Pape, Yoann Maestri, Thierry Dusautoir (the captain), Damien Chouly, and Louis Picamoles.
So far, France has never won the Rugby World Cup, which is currently in its eighth edition. But in the past, Les Bleus became close to winning on three occasions, two times in the final game against New Zealand and one time against Australia. The last time the French team played in the finals was four years ago. But back then, the world rugby community voiced support for France as the refereeing was considered biased toward New Zealand, where the game was taking place.
This year, interestingly enough, England have been eliminated from the competition. The English team was beaten 33-13 by Australia on Oct. 3 at Twickenham to become the first host nation eliminated at the group stage. “Lessons will be learnt in a calm and thorough manner in the fullness of time,” Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie said after the game.
Another good point to raise is the debate that emerged in France during the preparations for the World Cup. What got the French public talking was the fact that players from foreign countries that have participated in their home championship for several years could be on the French team. This brought up the question of how relevant the importance of nationality in a national team is, and to what extent the national preference for French players goes. The debate that could easily turn into a political dilemma could also be overlooked if the French team wins, with or without foreign players.
One disappointing fact though is the injury of Yoann Huget, the French player considered to be in the best shape for the World Cup matches. He was wounded during the first game against Italy. However, all French players are keen to do their best on the field, in an attempt to make up for past losses. France will be playing against Ireland as soon as Sunday evening, Oct. 11.
The sides have faced off three times at previous World Cups, with France winning all three, but Ireland have not lost to the French since 2011, winning the last two.
Odds, according to ESPN, are this time, with both sides already through to the knockout stages, the risk-reward balance will be a little skewed and tries may be at a premium that may prove too steep.
But one thing for sure is that the upcoming game will be a real test of French prowess and sportsmanship.
Don’t forget to tune in on Sunday at 4:45 p.m. BST to see how it will turn out!
For more information on the Rugby World Cup, you can visit the official website: www.rugbyworldcup.com.
cartoon credit: findrugbynow.com