Once every four years, another major sporting world event rolls round. The Rugby World Cup is set to start on Sept. 18 in its birthplace, England. 20 nations will battle it out to claim the Webb Ellis Cup currently in the hands of 2011 champions, New Zealand.
In 2011 Canada surprised themselves by beating Tonga and tying with Japan, yet they ultimately left the tournament after the first round with just six points. Currently ranked 18th in the world, Canada is looking for two wins in the tournament, which would guarantee qualification in four years time.
2015 has proved troubling for the Canadian team, losing all matches in the Pacific Nations Cup. Their play has not been without optimism though; they’ve shown signs of improvement and can compete with their strong back line. Local St Albert boy, Andrew Tiedemann gave Canadian rugby’s morale a boost with his quick try in a 16-15 victory over Georgia in a warm-up game on Sept. 2.
The haka dancing All Blacks are the current favourites to repeat their 2011 victory, which saw them defeat France 8-7 on home soil. Their squad consists of 12 returning players from 2011, which gives them a leg up on other teams. Captain Richie McCaw is considered the world’s best openside flanker (No. 7), with the most international caps in the sport.
Home nation, England will battle it out in what’s been called the ‘Pool of Death’, with contenders Australia, Wales, Fiji, and 19th ranked Uruguay. Despite injuries to two key Welsh players, the rivalry between the Dragons and the English Roses will result in a tumultuous game.
What to watch out for
If you’re new to the sport and have an itching to find out what all those men in short shorts actually do, here are some key things to get you interested:
This is a must see if you’re new to the world of rugby. This traditional Maori war dance is performed by the All Blacks prior to every game. Their intimidation tactics are probably a reason why they win so many games.
The Luck of the Irish
Ireland’s world cup squad is arguably the best it has ever put forward. Coupled with the fact that their Pool consists of France, Italy, Canada and Romania, they could easily have a soft route to the semi-finals. Relish in the fact that it’s mandatory to celebrate Irish wins with a cold pint of Guinness, and watching their games could be the most enjoyable.
Fiji vs. England
The small pacific islanders are up against the host nation in the opening match. Fiji does not shy away from adversity though. This match-up poses the richest rugby union team in the world against one that holds fundraisers to pay its players. Ironically, Fiji boasts some of the most naturally talented players in the game, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they were to upset the host nation in the opener.
Where to watch
Edmonton’s vibrant expat scene means that many Brits will be braving the early mornings to enjoy the games live. Check out The Pint on Whyte Ave, who are screening all games live, if you can brave some of the 7:30am starts. The St. Albert Rugby Club also offers screenings of major games in their clubhouse.
All Canadian games will be broadcast live on TSN. The tournament wraps up on Oct. 31.