Rugby World Cup 2015: How do you understand this game?

How do you understand this game, Rugby?


Rugby, in my experience, is a fast, slow, beautiful, ugly, simple, complicated, brutal, brutal game, of brain, of braun, of millimetres, or interpretations.

I don’t understand too much of it. Not the intricacies of the rules, certainly. I know that watching Australia v New Zealand in a room full of Irish-Australians brings the game alive. Watching France beat New Zealand in a World Cup semi final, in a room full of local New Zealanders brings it alive.  On the phone the other day to family in faraway England (don’t mention the war), I mentioned the war.

– Did you get up to Twickenham? (friendly thrust, referring to Australia’s defeat of England and thereby England’s failure to progress beyond the group stage of a World Cup stage in their own country).

– Ahh, no. Somewhat different to the cricket, wasn’t it? (equally friendly parry, deflecting rugby pain with a slicing cricketing wound). We watched Wales-Australia in the pub just now. Pub full of Welsh in their red dress-ups. But we won 4 tickets to the final. We’ll be going to Twickenham after all.


So Australia topped the group. That difficult Group A of England, Wales, Fiji and Uruguay. Expectations surpassed.

Who is this Michael Cheika? This empowering presence as coach? On “The Offsiders” panelists were likening his influence to that of Ange Postecoglou with the Socceroos.

And what happened to his ears?

I see Kurtly Beale is back in favour.

And there’s some noise about the Wallaby forward pack.

And David Pocock.

What is all this?


Knockout games begin this weekend.

Quarter Finals
South Africa v Wales
New Zealand v France
Ireland v Argentina
Australia v Scotland

All explanations, forecasts, thoughts, welcome.


How do you understand this game, Rugby?


Brilliant series of training tricks from a few years ago.

All Blacks training tricks

All Blacks summer training tricks

ACT Brumbies having a crack.

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Jill Scanlon says

    Hahaha .. David, David, David … you’ve asked the right questions. I have become somewhat of a student of the game for many reasons over the past 18 months (mainly for work reasons) and find I am completely taken in.

    Give it time if you really want to understand the nuances of what I’ve come to see as a physical and exacting game on the outside but a game of real strategies in the detail.

    I’ve grown used to the ‘ears’ (notice it’s only/mostly on the big men – front line of the scrum!!) but I’ve found it somewhat reassuring that one of the old expressions I grew up with my mother saying was obviously based on some historical fact – cauliflower ears!

    If you want something a bit gentler but faster and more athletic in the rugby line – check out 7s – brilliant. Have been even more ‘sucked’ into that!

    Any q’s – feel free to ask :):):):) and check this one out to get you started …

  2. Love it, Jill.
    It seems there’s so much to know. Being amongst the Rugby crowd for a big game is brilliant.

    I happened to buy a Wallabies jersey while in Christchurch in 1999, at the point end of that year’s World Cup (held in Wales and surrounds).
    A mistake.
    The All Blacks were knocked out by France in the semi final.
    And Australia went on to win
    I severely underestimated the depth of feeling in NZ.
    Adventurously wearing that top in Christchurch, I received a few whispered brushes with mortality.
    A mistake.

  3. Dips O'Donnell says

    I’ve actually been quite engaged by this World Cup. Whenever the Aussies fire the Kiwis get a little itchy in the underpants.


  4. Rugby is a secret language. While it helps to have grown up in the village where it is spoken, it can become your second language. Although for many Australians it is their fourth.

    Those for whom it is their first language tremble with excitement at the following things:

    1. A scrum being forced back on engagement alone
    2. The capitulation of a defensive maul such that the attacking side rolls around it
    3. 21 pick and go phases
    4. a complicated scissor move to a large open side
    5. an expansive counter attack from a quick throw
    6. a drop goal from your own half
    7. the removal of electrical tape which has been holding in misshapen ears
    8. an inside ball close to the ruck
    9. a ludicrous swan dive when no-one is within 40 m

    Definitely worth going to a Test match or Super 15 game or a game down the park.

    When it’s flowing it’s brilliant.

    When the beers are on on XXXX Hill at Ballymore it’s also brilliant.

  5. It’s fast, mad stuff, isn’t it?
    Being at a rugby pub is worth the trip, too.
    Haven’t a clue what any of the penalties are for.

    Foley! Giteau!

  6. JTH – haven’t really considered what language it is for me. Probably second in football language – superior to League, Soccer, Gridiron. But I don’t understand all the nuances. I just love the open spaces when they occur.

    I have fond memories of a World Cup past when we were in Yarrawonga (which is the month of January) so I’m probably thinking of the 2003 Cup when Mortlock made his famous run that effectively knocked out the All Blacks. It was about 36 degrees at 8pm. We were drinking cold Crownies under the elms and rushing in and out of the closest room to watch any highlights of the Aussies v Kiwi semi-final whenever the occupants of the room let out a squeal of excitement. It was brilliant.

  7. What JTH said!
    The Laws of Rugby are arcane.
    Great tries are sometimes named; The Try from the End of the World.
    The All Blacks have the best name and jersy in sport.
    A bomb or up & under is a Garyowen
    The only thing better than the Welsh crowd singing at Cardiff Arms Park is the silence when the Wallabies scrum scored a push over try.
    Names like Stan Pilecki, Mark Loane, Tony Shaw, Paul McLean & Roger Gould are considered deities in Qld rugby circles.
    Nick Farr-Jones & John Eales were outstanding captains of the Wallabies.

  8. What do I wanna be? I wanna be a Wallaby.

    This beautiful game, from 1 to 15 there is a position on the team for ever size and shaped person on the planet.

    If you’re built low to the ground with broad shoulders and a lack of speed, then it is into the front row for you. Tall, yet strong but also not the fastest, then into the 2nd row you go. Quick off the mark and know how to tackle hard, then it’s breakaways for you.

    Speedy little bloke who can pass accurately, you’re the half back. Pretty boy who doesn’t like to get tackled and refuses to tackle but can run, kick and pass? You’re the Five Eighth.

    Are you fast on your feet and can still pass? You’re in the centres. Fast but can’t pass, out on the wings you go.

    Can you catch a high ball and then kick it away? Fullback.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    I’ve been a fan since the Channel 7 televised days of the mid to late 1990’s, the most recent Wallabies golden era. Made the decision back then that I only had room in my life for one Rugby code. Have ignored the NRL ever since. Love watching the Wallabies and the Melbourne Rebels, though have only ever attended a game once, the Australia v Ireland 2003 World Cup clash. Reckon we are a big chance in this World Cup.

  10. JTH …. 2 yrs ago I would have had a cursory notion of what you referred to in your msg, but now – as you say – I speak the language almost fluently and I understood every word and its meaning!
    Having always supported Aust in any sport, I have memories of watching David Campese run to the line like he had wings and of Nick Farr-Jones & Eales lift those Webb-Ellis trophies.
    But my appreciation of it as a sport and a code has grown and while I’ll always be a Carlton girl, and I love Melbourne Storm, Rugby has definitely moved up my code ladder to rival AFL for my interest.
    I also really like the culture – there’s a lot of respect out on that field in many forms.
    Bring on the qtr finals and more…. I’m feeling the excitement of a kid nearing Xmas.

  11. Paul Buxton says

    Rugger has been my second choice after Aussie Rules for some time, at the International level only. Have seen some pretty ordinary suburban games from Brissie on the old ABC TV. Got better when they stopped the Kiwis from rucking the head of any player lying on the ground 15 yards from the ball. But my feeling is that some of the penalty infractions are very technical and the 3 points on offer are an excessive punishment, exceeding that allowed under the Geneva Convention. Some teams (hands up Boks and AllBlix), seem often to simply play a waiting game for some very minor penalty infringement. Bring in 4 points for a drop goal, 6 for a try and 1 for a penalty.
    No comparison with Thugby Loig in my view, proper scrums for a start, plusplusplus

  12. Cheika I believe was a NSW (Randwick) hooker whose ears probably spent more time in Scrums than Nick Kyrgios’ spends in overly expensive earphones.

    Beale is only playing because there’s only room for 1 X-Factor player to introduce from the bench and nobody really trusts Quade Cooper (although with Izzy Folau injured Beale starts and Quade is on the bench for the QF)

    The noise about the pack all stems from destroying England’s scrum when they (along with assistance from the always whistle happy Northern Hemisphere referees) have often used the scrum to basically dominate us.

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