The 2019 Rugby World Cup is being hosted by Japan right now. There are 20 nations playing and there have already been two major upsets. I thought that American readers of this blog might enjoy seeing highlights of the two games below. There has been little coverage of this tournament in the major US media, which is a bit surprising given that the US is fielding a team and is currently ranked #13 in the world, which is not too shabby. They have played just one game so far, losing badly to England 45-7.
The biggest upset was by the host nation ranked #9 that beat #2 ranked Ireland, a perennial rugby powerhouse, 19-12.
This followed another major upset earlier when Uruguay (#19) beat Fiji (#10) 30-27.
In rugby, a ‘try’ is similar to a touchdown in American football except that the player holding the ball has to actually touch the ground with the ball for it to be a score. A try scores five points and a conversion following a try (a set-piece kick that passes through the uprights) gets another two points. A penalty goal (that also requires a set-piece kick that passes through the uprights but is awarded when a serious infringement occurs) gets three points. Conversion kicks have to be taken from a point along a line that runs parallel to the sidelines and passes through the point where the ball touched the ground for the try. (Think of Euclid’s parallel postulate.) This means that if a try is scored close to the sideline, the kicker has a very difficult task, since the angular width through which he has to thread the ball is so small. (Look at the conversion attempt at around 2:30 of the first video after the try scored at about the 1:30 mark.) So if at all possible, after he crosses into the end zone, the ball carrier will try to get close to the uprights before touching the ball on the ground to score the try, to make life easier for the person who has to attempt the conversion.
Rugby seems on the surface to be similar to American football but is played at a much faster pace and with far fewer stoppages and set pieces and much more opportunity for improvisation by the players on the field. Despite the fast pace and the fact that there are 30 players on the field, the game is controlled by just a single referee with occasional assistance from the two touch judges who patrol the sidelines to gauge where the ball goes out of bounds. Notice that players do not argue with the referee.