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The Rugby World Cup: What you need to know

Last updated: Sep 19th, 2019

We’ve seen some incredible moments in recent rugby history. We all remember the Jonny Wilkinson drop goal from 2003, right?

The biggest sporting events have continued to spoil us in recent years and the Rugby World Cup is no different. Although 2015 saw an early England exit on home turf, we can all agree that it was a great event for rugby fans all over the globe. The tournament in the home of rugby set the bar for World Cup tournaments, but what should we expect from Japan?

A nation known for its ancient culture, authentic cuisine and exquisite natural landscapes, Japan could be seen by some as an unusual destination to the host the Rugby World Cup – the third largest sporting event in the world.

Although Japan isn’t your typical rugby nation like New Zealand, South Africa or England, its fan base is much larger than you think. Whilst the team hadn’t won a single game in the previous 5 tournaments leading up to the 2015 World Cup, they did the unthinkable when they beat South Africa (2 time World Cup winners) in the one of the greatest matches the sport had ever seen.

Acting as the first Asian country to host a World Cup, it shows just how far the sport has grown in recent times.

When asked about Japan hosting this year’s tournament, Jonny Wilkinson said…


“Rugby is incredibly inclusive, but its boundaries in terms of World Cups has always been held to more traditional areas.


“Rugby needs to be challenged, it needs to be shown to include the different ways that people want to see it.


“It is on an exploration now, it’s heading into an area it’s never been and there’s a country that’s doing something they’ve never done. For me, that’s an awesome example for other teams to go to a tournament and leave the unknown and just have a go.”

When does it start?

The tournament will run from Friday 20th September – 2nd November.


Who’s playing?
  • South Africa
  • England
  • Wales
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Italy
  • France
  • Fiji
  • Georgia
  • Japan
  • Russia
  • Canada
  • USA
  • Tonga
  • Argentina
  • Namibia
  • Ireland
  • Scotland
  • Samoa
  • Uruguay


Where do the games take place? 

The tournament will take place in Japan, with matches being played in 12 different venues across the country. The opening game kicks off Friday 20th (11:45am GMT) between Japan and Russia and the final will be held on Saturday 2nd November at the International Stadium Yokohama (9am GMT.)

Venues range from the most northerly stadium, the Sapporo Dome, all the way down to the Kumamoto Stadium on the southern island of Kyushu. Each stadium has its own distinct character, most notably the Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium, which was was built on the site of an elementary and junior high school that was destroyed by a tsunami during the Great East Japan Earthquake.

For more info on the tournament venues, visit the official website.


How does it work?

To start there are 4 pools, each with 5 teams. The top 2 teams from each pool go into the knock out phase/Quarter Finals, whereby the runner up from one pool takes on the winner from another.


When do England play?

Playing in Pool C, England will face Tonga, USA, Argentina and France before the knockout stages begin on the 19th October.

Sunday September 22: England vs Tonga – 11.15am (GMT)

Thursday September 26: England vs USA – 11.45am (GMT)

Saturday October 5: England vs Argentina – 9am (GMT)

Saturday October 12: England vs France – 9.15am (GMT)


When’s the final?

The final takes place on Saturday 2nd November at 9am (GMT).


What should people look out for in this year’s tournament?

As normal, 20 teams will face off for the cup over 48 matches. These are scheduled to take place across 12 venues, attracting more than 400,000 international fans to Japan. With the tournament being the first of its kind in Asia, the atmosphere will undoubtedly be electric across the country. And tickets sales have been incredibly strong, with 4.5 million applications being made through lottery sales.


Who will win the tournament?

Following the last two Rugby World Cups, New Zealand is undoubtedly the favourite heading into the tournament. With that being said, teams like South Africa, England, Ireland and Wales are close contenders.

Since the disappointment of 2015, England have re-built and enjoyed a much improved Six Nations campaign. They’re also a great attacking force, strong enough to beat anyone on their day.

Wales is coming off the back of a Grand Slam and has since put together an impressive winning streak that they enjoyed earlier this year. They deserve to be treated as one of the favourites, but the injuries to Anscombe and Faletau have meant their chances of glory are somewhat diminished.

Although incredibly unlikely to win the tournament, keep your eyes on Japan. After punching well above their weight in the 2015 tournament, the squad will certainly look to build on their performance this time around. With games on their home turf, there’s no limit to what they could achieve…


For fans travelling to Japan

First things first, be incredibly excited! With almost half a million fans travelling to Japan, the atmosphere is sure to be incredible. Despite the excitement, a common worry for travellers is the language barrier, but don’t panic. Nearly all signs dotted in and around the game locations will have directions and/or instructions in English to guide fans. In addition, all train stations have English signs, meaning travel shouldn’t be an issue to and from the games.

The second thing is culture. Whilst the fan zones and stadiums may not be the most culturally diverse experiences during your time at the tournament, the wider city and town areas will be. Our advice is to take in the country’s unique and diverse surroundings; whether that be wandering around the streets of Tokyo, or sampling Kamaishi specialities like Japanese Paella or Suppuku soup. The choice is yours.

This year’s tournament is sure to be a shining example of how far the sport has grown in recent years, and the incredibly welcoming and inclusive nature of the sport has allowed it to become popular all over the world. These are exciting times for rugby and we can’t wait for the tournament to get going!

Swing low, sweet chariot…