Everything You Need To Know About The Rugby World Cup

18/09/2015 5:27 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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The Webb Ellis Cup is displayed in front of the London Eye in central London on September 15, 2015, ahead of the 2015 Rugby Union World Cup, which begins on September 18. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

The excitement is building ahead of one of the world’s biggest sporting events -- rivalled only by the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.

The Rugby World Cup begins this weekend and brings together 20 national teams competing for the prized Webb Ellis Cup over a six week period.

The 2015 tournament host is England and games will be played at stadia across England and in Cardiff, Wales. This will be the biggest World Cup yet with 2.5 million spectators expected across 13 venues.

This event is the jewel in the crown for the World Rugby organisation -- bringing in the majority of its funding to see it through the next four years of operation.

Media coverage across the world is hitting fever pitch before kick-off in the opening match between the host England, and the champions of the Pacific, Fiji.

These two teams are paired in Pool A and present a mouth-watering opener for all rugby lovers who like to see a clash between the elements of ‘expectation’ and ‘unknown quantity’.

For Fiji, it is being billed as the biggest match in the small nation’s history.

Generally, the Pool draws are evenly weighted with teams from across the rankings spread between the four pools of five, but this draw was made in 2012 - and teams have moved!

Pool A in the 2015 tournament is now being tagged as the ‘Pool of death' as it contains four of the world’s current top nine ranked nations -- England, Australia, Wales and Fiji with Uruguay rounding out the group as the rank outsider.

Arguably New Zealand and Australia, with the hopeful hosts and possibly South Africa, are the outright favorites with the pundits, but the competition is closer than ever before with improvement in form coming from all areas of the globe.

Ireland has had a very good year, rising to second in the world rankings for a brief period before the pre-tournament warm up games saw it drop a few places. Wales, also considered a possible threat early on is now straining under the uncertainty of injuries to several key players.

South Africa is one of only three teams to have won the World Cup twice alongside Australia and New Zealand.

Never to be underestimated, the Pacific nations (Fiji, Samoa and Tonga) are known for their physical and innovative approaches to the game, but opinions are mixed on the prospects of these three.

The European teams of Italy and France, once strong contenders are in the same group and may find themselves battling for the second spot on the table to progress through with an Ireland team that has performed well this year.

Then there are the improvers on the world stage such as the USA which may surprise those keeping a close eye on Pool B, thinking it will be a straight out battle between Samoa and Scotland to join South Africa in progressing through the early stages of the tournament.

Of course there are those teams that are nothing if not realistic.

This Rugby World Cup, more than any before, is throwing up prospects of close matches and surprise results that just whet the appetite in anticipation of a great display of quality rugby.

So, as with all big sporting competitions, it will be an adventure for rugby purists and interested parties alike, to see if, by the end of October, there is satisfaction or disappointment with regards to the purpose and relevance of the big sporting extravaganzas in which sport lovers invest so heavily every four years.

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