2015 Rugby World Championship

The 2015 Rugby World Cup which will be hosted in England and Cardiff in some of the best quality stadiums, will be one of the biggest sports events of 2015 if not the biggest of them all. Although Rugby has been played formally for more than 150 years, the Rugby World Cup has been played only since 1987. Thus, 7 tournaments were played so far.

But first, let's dive into the history. Ever since the schism of 1895 in England's rugby football that was followed by a separation of leagues and unions, two kinds of rugby have emerged; Rugby League and Rugby Union.

Rugby League, which originated in 1895, is slightly different from Rugby Union. Differences are in the number of players (13), in the positions on the pitch, in some of the laws and rules and in the points a team gets for tries, drop goals and penalties.

Rugby Union which is played with 15 players on each side has also a reduced scale version of it with 7 players on each side. This version is recognized as an Olympic sport and will be played in the 2016 Olympic Games. The reduced scale version of Rugby League is played with 9 players on each side. Therefore, when rugby is discussed one should have in mind which of the 4 games is being discussed.

A Rugby League World Cup tournament was established in 1954 and has been played ever since. 17 tournaments have been played so far. The last one was held in 2013 and was hosted by four countries (England, Wales, Ireland and France). The average of spectators per match in the last tournament was 16,374. The next tournament is supposed to take place in Australia and New Zealand in 2017. Australia has been in almost absolute dominance of this tournament, appearing in all finals ever since 1975 losing only once to New Zealand in 2008.

The Rugby World Cup (a Rugby Union tournament) is more popular and bigger in scale. In the last tournament held in 2011 in New Zealand, there was an average of 30,777 spectators per match. In the 2007 tournament hosted by France, Scotland and Wales an average record of 47,150 spectators per match was achieved. There are high expectations of the 2015 tournament which will take place from the 18th of September until the 31st of October. Tickets have been sold ever since September 2014, and by the level of interest and the amount of tickets that have been sold so far, it looks like the spectators records in the stadiums and on TV will be easily broken. So far Australia, South Africa and New Zealand won the tournament twice each while England did it once.

20 teams will play in 4 different pools with 5 teams in each one. The first two teams in each pool will qualify for the quarter finals which will be played in a knock-out system, same as the semi finals and off course the final. The trophy of the tournament is the Webb Ellis Cup, named after the person who allegedly invented rugby while being a student in Rugby school in Rugby, Warwickshire in 1823.

New Zealand, also known as 'the all blacks' is the current holder of the cup and is considered as one of the best squads to ever play the game. It has been nominated as the best rugby team of the year for the last 5 years and has very good chances of defending the title. Players which are expected to carry their teams to success are: Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Brodie Retallic (New Zealand, the 'all blacks'), Handre Pollard, Victor Matfield and Jan Serfontein (South Africa, the 'Sprinboks') , Kahn Fotuali'i, George Pisi and Ken Pisi (Samoa, 'Manu Samoa'), Matt Scott, Alex Dunbar and Duncan Taylor (Scotland, the 'Thistle'), Sergio Parisse (Italia, the 'Azzurri'), Agustin Creevy and Juan Martin Hernandez Lobbe (Argentina, 'los Pumas') Sam Burgess and Chris Robshaw (England, the 'Red Rose'), Matt Giteau and Michael Hooper (Australia, the 'Wallaby'), Leigh Halfpenny and Jamie Roberts (Wales, the 'Red Dragons'), Sebastien Chabal, Morgan Parra, Sofiane Guitoune and Thierry Dusautoir (France, 'Les Blues') Jonathan Sexton, Paul O'Connell and Luke Fitzgerald (Ireland, the 'Shamrock').

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