By Christopher Stott – Reporter
The next six weeks will see twenty nations battle it out for the honour of being the Rugby Union World Champion.
So, what better time for Pluto to give you the lowdown on one of the most viewed sporting events in the World that is taking place on these very shores.
Firstly, with Preston being a northern city, its surroundings are predominantly rooted in the code of Rugby League rather than Union.
The fundamentals are the same; the aim is to score a Try and kick subsequent attempts at goal. The ball can’t be passed forward and if it’s dropped in a forward motion then it’s a knock on.
That’s the basics. Now for the differences between the two, and the ones that set Rugby Union apart from its sporting cousin.
In Rugby Union there are fifteen players per side, as opposed to thirteen in league. Union also awards a higher number of points for the types of scoring; Five for a Try, 2 for conversion (same as League) and 3 for a penalty or drop goal.
Set Pieces differ also – Scrums in union are contested and contain a higher number of competing players.
A lineout is also included in the Union code which is effectively a throw-in in which team mates can lift a fellow player to catch the ball.
In tackling, League requires a play the ball and only six plays to score or make an attacking kick.
Whereas Union allows as many plays as you can commit to without coming up with an error, and when the tackle is completed, a ruck is formed (a glorified pile on in many ways) to recycle the ball for the next play.
Now, enough about the technical side of the Rugby World Cup. What about the tournament itself.
The Rugby World Cup was first held back in 1987 and this year’s competition on England is its 8th edition.
England are hosting for the second time having hosted the 1991 competition.
As mentioned, twenty nations will be competing for the prize, and they are split into four pools (groups) of five.
The top two sides from each pool progress to the Quarter Finals, the four winners then make up the Semi Finals and then the two victors from that contest the Final itself.
2011 winners New Zealand are odds on favourites to become the first side to retain the Webb Ellis Trophy, but hosts and 2003 victors England are also strongly fancied.
Australia, Wales and Ireland will be in with a good shout of taking the spoils as will 2011 runners up France.
The opening weekend of the tournament saw South Africa, who famously won back in 1995, suffered a shock loss to Japan in their opening pool game which goes to show that this year’s instalment is set to be one of the best to date.
I know we here at Pluto have been glued to the opening fixtures, and we hope we have persuaded you to join in the fun and hopefully help cheer England to World Cup glory, starting with this Saturday’s match against Wales.