A student’s guide to the Rugby World Cup knockout stages

By Anna Muir |

We are officially at the end of the Pool Matches and with the knockout stages just around the corner, the Rugby World Cup in Japan is sure to attract a larger audience than ever before!  

Japan RWC 2019

Here is your student’s guide to the Rugby World Cup Knockouts.

What You Need To Know:

  1. 15 players on each team, each have a specific role/position. 
  2. Always pass backwards. 
  3. The team with the most points at the end wins. 

There are 15 players on each team and 15 different positions. 1 through 8 are your forwards – they’re the big guys who tackle hard and use their muscles. 9 through 15 are your backs – they’re usually the people with the fancy footwork and quick pace. 

There are also positions which require specific skills. Your 2 (also known as a hooker) throws the balls during a line out. Locks (4 and 5) jump at the line out. Your 9 will always pass the ball out of the ruck. Your 10 is your quarterback, the person who pulls all the strings and calls all of the plays – they also usually take all the kicks. Your fullback (15) sits at the back and is responsible for scanning the field and catching high balls that are kicked their way. 

(Photo Beno1000/Wikimedia)

In rugby, scoring occurs in four ways – a try, conversion, penalty or drop goal. A try is worth 5, the conversion 2, a penalty or drop goal is worth 3. 

  • A try is when someone puts the ball down over the white line of the opposing team (it’s the white line where the goal posts are). 
  • A conversion can only occur when a try has been scored and it consists of a player (usually a 10) kicking the ball through the posts. 
  • A penalty occurs when there’s an infringement or some kind of law broken. Like a conversion, a player kicks the balls through the opposing team’s posts. 
  • A drop goal occurs when a player quite literally drops the ball onto their feet and kicks it through the posts (see Jonny Wilkinson circa 2003, the most epic one ever). 

It’s also important to note the three main ‘structures’ in a game of rugby – the scrum, the line out and a ruck. 

  • A scrum happens when the ball is either passed forward or is dropped forward. Players one through eight do a weird huddle and basically push each other. The 9 will feed the ball and your hooker will ‘hook’ the ball backwards and into the safe possession of your own team. 
  • The line-out occurs when a ball is kicked or dropped into touch or if a player touches the white line (touch basically means over the white sidelines). Your hooker will throw the ball into the middle of two lines filled with players of your team on one side and the opposing team on the other. A player is lifted into the air to retrieve the ball. 
  • A ruck occurs after a tackle, when a player is on the floor and someone goes over the ball in order to protect it. If you watch rugby, you’ll see it as these odd dog-piles after every tackle. There’s a bunch of rules involved with the ruck but they won’t do much except confuse you if you’re new to the game so either ignore them or ask the person next to you to explain! 

If all of this has piqued your interest (which I hope it has), here are my top three places to watch all of the games:

  • Jake’s (Jacob’s Ladder) — great for the atmosphere and food, the screen is huge and the staff are super fun and friendly.
  • The Games Room – big screens, large selection of drinks plus lots to do during half-time! But make sure you get there early, seats fill up quickly. 
  • At home! – With most games occurring early in the morning, sometimes day drinking just seems a bit much. So get comfy on the sofa and watch all the games on ITV!
Qualifying Countries for the RWC 2019

If you’re wondering who has made it through the dreaded pool stages, as it stands, our four quarter finals look like this:

  • England vs Australia – 8:15 on Saturday
  • New Zealand vs Ireland – 11:15 on Saturday
  • Wales vs France – 8:15 on Sunday
  • Japan vs South Africa – 11:15 on Sunday
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – NOVEMBER 28: The Webb Ellis Cup is pictured with the Burj Al Arab as part of the Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour, delivered in partnership with Land Rover and DHL ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015 on November 28, 2014 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

For avid rugby fans, the whole experience of a World Cup is like Christmas coming early. However, the knockouts are where it gets exciting for everyone! Every mistake costs and just one loss will send your chosen team packing so it’s no surprise that casual watchers of rugby will be more keen to tune in during these stages! 

The most important thing about rugby is to have fun watching and socialising. With a game so focused on respect, spectators are often good losers but more importantly, great winners! So be mindful of those around you and enjoy! 



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2 thoughts on “A student’s guide to the Rugby World Cup knockout stages

  1. Fascinating detail from the author. Super helpful for students at this time to learn the ins and out of the game. Very impressive!

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