Oct 22, 2003

Taking things in your own hands

Imagine you're a h00ker and you've been dumped to the Sin Bin. Don't worry - it'll probably only be for 10 minutes if you're lucky, and yes, you did get a punch in too.

Welcome to the world of International Rugby - and to terms like flyhalf, scrummage and Blood Bin. Part of the fun in following a different sport is in the new language that comes with the package. And what better time to follow this game then during the 5th Rugby World Cup being held in Australia.

Judging from the teams taking part in this year's Cup (a 20 nation event), Rugby is more global than Cricket - there are even teams from the US, Georgia and Romania, in addition to the ones from the traditional superzones of the British Isles, Oceania and from the south of Africa. It is also probably the only world event that Fiji, Tonga and Samoa can compete in! Also, unlike the last Cricket World Cup, there are atleast 3-4 genuine contenders along with another 5-6 teams that make life tough for the big guys, which mean that there are a greater number of close encounters. The first really huge game saw South Africa lose to England (with Jonny Wilkinson proving to be the difference again), which probably sets up another tasty prospect - South Africa v New Zealand.

Trivia-mongers: remember Rudi Van Vuuren of Namibia? Well, he's close to becoming the only man to play in both the Cricket and Rugby World Cups. This article talks of his chances of playing in, very appropriately, the Adelaide Oval.

The TV coverage is fantastic, I always love the fact that Rugby Test Matches have the referees with a mike on them so that everyone knows what they're saying to the players, the Australian grounds are lush as always. Also, the frequent flare-ups and punch-ups add to the interest (these are big men, so they know the score when it comes to throwing a few). And best of all, anyone can appreciate when someone takes off on the right wing, dodges three defenders and flings himself on the ground to score a match-winning try. Or when the kicker suddenly drops the ball in mid-run to launch a drop-kick high over the goal - sometime's there's grace evident in the movements of the barrel-chested.

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