Rugby Union

Rugby Union

On 19th September 2015, Japan did something unbelievable. They turned up to Brighton Community Stadium for a pool game of the Rugby World Cup. In their group were South Africa, Scotland and the USA. They had never won a World Cup game before. 

They had a chance – a fraction of a chance – against the USA. Against Scotland, there was little hope. And against two-time World Cup winners, South Africa, they may as well mow a pathway to their try line and stand out of the way.

South Africa turned up to the same stadium as juggernauts of World Rugby. They were a big team, made up of World Cup stars and heavily tipped to lift the trophy for a third time once the tournament was over. Japan, on the other hand, was Japan. They were only there on holiday, according to one Australian journalist. 

The game was over in the 85th minute, when Japan dived over in the corner to win the game 34-32, and the commentators called it: “not only the biggest upset in Rugby Union, but the biggest upset in sporting history”.

This, in many ways, is what makes Rugby Union so special. It is a game for big people, but it is also a game for small people. It is a game that champions strength, but it also needs light feet and agility. Every moment matters and any team can win on the day. This is also the reason why you should absolutely tune in to watch what is going to be a mammoth of a year in 2023. 

Before you do, however, you need a little context. How did Rugby Union begin? What are the biggest events to watch? Will there ever be a game like Japan vs South Africa again? To get started, let’s take a look at the 101.

Rugby Union: The 101

  • Rugby Union is a contact sport formed in the 19th century.
  • Teams are made of 15 players each, and the aim of the game is to take the ball down the field to score across the opposing team’s try line.
  • The ball can only be passed backwards and tackles must be below neck/head height.
  • A try – involving a player placing the ball down over the line – is worth 5 points. If a try is scored, teams then get a shot at goal, which is worth 2 points. Drop goals and penalties are worth 3 points. 
  • There are a number of tournaments across the rugby world. In club rugby, the most popular are the Premiership Cup – which involves English premiership teams – and the Champions Cup – which involves teams across Europe and South Africa. 
  • In World Rugby, the most popular tournaments are the Six Nations – involving six northern hemisphere sides – the Rugby Championship – involving four southern hemisphere teams – and the Rugby World Cup – which involves 20 teams from across the world.

A Rugged History Of Rugby Union

The 19th Century

According to legend, the game of Rugby Union began in the playground of Rugby School in 1823. It was here that William Webb Ellis, a pupil at the school, decided to pick up a football instead of kicking it and threw it into the opposition’s goal. 

Although his ability to understand the rules of football was questioned, his knack for creating a more interesting game wasn’t. Later on, in 1839, the pupils of Rugby School went on a tour around the UK, showing others the wonders of this new game and creating mini match-ups between different counties.

Later that year, a definitive set of rules was established by a team in Cambridge, and these rules were then perfected over the course of the next few decades. In 1860, the ball itself was also changed. Players were finding it too difficult to grasp the round pig’s bladder that they had so far  been using, so the shape of the ball was flattened to make it less of a sphere and more of an oval. 

In 1870, a letter was published in The Times newspaper, asking clubs to come together to nail down every aspect of the game. 21 clubs and schools attended the meeting, with Algernon Rutter becoming the first president of the RFU. One year after this, the RFU arranged the first international rugby match, played between England and Scotland. From this point, the game took off to stratospheric heights, with further internationals played out between England and Australia, which created a worldwide appeal.

The 20th Century To Today

Throughout the 20th century, the game went from strength to strength, but it took a while before official tournaments started. The first World Cup game was held in 1987, and the game did not become professional until 1995. Two years later, in 1997, the club premiership that we know today began. 

From this point on, the game only grew further, with the competition in England ramping up to the point where players were coming in from abroad to play for the clubs. In the southern hemisphere, a tournament known as Super Rugby was started between teams in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and the Pacific Islands. 

Every international side is now made of the very best from each club, making the games more of a spectacle than ever. In 2023, the ninth World Cup is going to take place in France, with every player and coach looking to make history by becoming the best Rugby Union team in the world.

Rugby Union: DAZN Bet’s Pop Quiz

To round this off, we’ve curated a little quiz that takes you through everything you need to know if you’re going to tune into Rugby Union in 2023. Starting with the most important question:

Who Is The Best Team In World Rugby Right Now?

Technically, the best team in World Rugby is Ireland, with France and New Zealand close on their tail.

Who Is The Best Team In The Premiership?

Saracens sits at the top of the 2022/23 Premiership table, with Sale behind on 51 points and Northampton in third with 43.

Who Is The Best Team In The Champions Cup?

Leinster is the best team in Pool A of the Champions Cup, with La Rochelle topping the table of Pool B.

Who Is The Best Team In Super Rugby?

Only one game has been played in the Super Rugby tournament this year, leaving the Blues to top the table with a points difference of 40 and the Hurricanes close behind with a points difference of 34.

Who Is The Most Popular Rugby Union Player Of All Time?

This is all up for debate, but Wales’ Gareth Edwards and Barry John, Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll, New Zealand’s Dan Carter and the legend Jonah Lomu are all up there as the best to have ever played the game.

Who Has Scored The Most Tries Of All Time?

The leading try scorer in Rugby Union is Daisuke Ohata, with 69 tries overall. Behind him is South Africa’s very own Bryan Habana, who scored 67 in his career.

Who Will Win The 2023 Rugby World Cup?

Obviously, no one knows who is going to win the 2023 World Cup. Ireland is certainly in with a shot – although they have never won a Quarter Final – and New Zealand can never be written off. Being at home, however, France has a very good chance to lift the trophy as the current second-best team in the world.