Monday, September 21, 2015

2015 Rugby World Cup Underway

English and Fijian ruggers vie for the ball
Once upon a time visitors to J's Theater would be likely to encounter regular postings about professional sports, both of the US domestic kind (i.e. baseball in particular, as well as soccer and football) and of the kind played and championed in other parts of the globe (i.e., rugby, the Olympics, etc.). Back in 2005 I even wrote a post some years ago all the sports I like(d) to follow.

At some point, perhaps during one of my very busy autumns half a decade ago or so I ceased posted about baseball, for the most part, and also about all other sports, though I last year did mention soccer's FIFA World Cup in Brazil, with its attendant protests. (It turned out to be a debacle for the Brazilian team and harbinger of a looming political crisis for the country, though the World Cup in general went off without real problems after the first few matches.)
Try is good!
US rugger Andrew Durutalo
Fiji vs. England
Fiji's breakaway run
I haven't posted about rugby union's World Cup since 2011, but I marked my calendar not to miss this year's version, the 8th meeting of this sport's quadrennial global championship, and through the miracle of the Internet, I've been able to catch a few matches and catch up on many more. The UK is serving as host nation for the 2015 World Cup games, which began on September 18, and run through  October 31. The pool matches are taking place across England and Wales. The final will be held in Twickenham Stadium in London.

20 nations, including powerhouses New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and France, as well as the United States, Canada, Italy, and Japan, and Pacific Island nations Tonga, Samoa, and Fiji, are in the competition. 12 of the 20 countries qualified by finishing in the top 3 places in their pools in the prior World Cup, in 2011, and only Uruguay, replacing Russia, did not compete in the prior championship. There are four pools of five teams, with each team in a pool playing a round-robin of 10 games with other pool members to establish which ones will advance to the next round on points and points differentials.

The pools are as follows:

Pool A: Australia, England, Wales, Fiji, Uruguay
Pool B: South Africa, Samoa, Scotland, Japan, United States
Pool C: New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga, Georgia, Namibia
Pool D: France, Ireland, Italy, Canada, Romania

Thus far, there have been expected outcomes, with host England defeated Fiji (though quite badly, which was surprising) 35-11, France walloping Italy 32-10, Ireland wiping Canada 50-7, and Wales defeating Uruguay 54-9, but there also have been upsets, with international powerhouse South Africa falling to Japan 32-34, and Argentina giving the New Zealand All Blacks a stiff challenge before going down 26-16. The US, which is somewhat near the bottom of the pack in global rankings, fell to Samoa 25-16, though they have the skills to win at least one match, if not more, in their pool.
After Fiji's loss to host England
Tonga's succesful try!
US (in dark blue) vs. Samoa
Tonga, and Georgia, during a scrum 
I'll end by noting that whenever I watch rugby I'm reminded of its many similarities to US football. Both involve a group of big men running up a field, with a ball, that they can throw to each other, kick down the field, and try to put over a goal line, or through upright bars, for points. On the other hand, in rugby there are no set yard gain requirements, no padding (except for earguards), and no forward passing.

The sport also involves a scrum, and the fascinating set play where each team hoists a player into the air to catch a sideline pass. (All of these game elements have specific names that I should look up.) When I was in high school, where rugby was played, I thought it was nowhere near as thrilling as football (and I didn't play it, either), but now, watching certain breakaway runs I think it gives football a credible challenge. I'm looking forward to watching more matches, and will aim to post a few more times before the championship is over.

Next matches up, this Wednesday: Scotland vs. Japan, Australia vs. Fiji, and France vs. Romania. Here are a few screen captures from the first few matches. Enjoy!

NZ All Black hooker Kevin Mealamu
throwing in the ball against Uruguay 
All Black back row rugger Victor Vito
New Zealand vs. Uruguay 
Uruguay tackles a New Zealander 
All Black rugger making a run 
New Zealand back Aaron Smith diving
for the goal line and try
Fijian lock Leone Nakarawa
England (in red) and Fiji,
during the match
A Tongan, going for a try (touchdown)
The Tongan player is almost there
South African players,
before their match 
Japan vs. South Africa 

Japan's Ayumu Gomomaru,
attempting a conversion 
Samoan players celebrating a try against US 
Samoan player throwing in
the ball, US vs. Samoa 
US player making a run
US teammates celebrating
US player attempting a goal kick 
Samoan player, after his team's
victory over the US

1 comment:

  1. “We came here with high ambitions and wanted to get one or two matches,” said the Fiji coach, John McKee. “But we will need to be at our best to beat Uruguay. The players are very motivated to finish the tournament on a high note.” WATCH FIJI VS URUGUAY LIVE here