The 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off in Japan on Friday (September 20), the first time the tournament has been held in Asia.
It is the ninth edition of the event, which is held every four years, between September and November.
The opening match will see hosts Japan take on Russia in Tokyo at 12:45 CEST.
Then, over the following six weeks, the tournament will be played out at a dozen different venues across the country.
There are 20 teams from six continents, including eight from Europe: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, Italy, Georgia and Russia.
The highest-ranked team in the tournament is New Zealand, the winners of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and the lowest-ranked is Namibia.
The draw for the 2019 World Cup was made on 10th May 2017, and the 20 teams were divided into four groups (pools) of five teams each. Each team will play every other team in their pool once.
Teams are awarded four points for a win, two points for a draw and nothing for a defeat. Any team which scores four tries or more in a match is also awarded one bonus point. Meanwhile, a team that loses narrowly by seven points or fewer is also awarded one bonus point. Bonus points are not awarded in the knockout stages.
After all pool matches have been played, the teams finishing in the top two of each pool advance to the quarter-finals.
The knockout stages of the World Cup will consist of four quarter-final matches, two semi-finals, a third-place playoff, and a final.
If a match is drawn in the knockout stages, the match will be decided by extra time of 10 minutes each way, followed by sudden death, where the first team to score any points wins. If the teams are still drawing, penalty kicks will be used to decide the winner, although this is a very rare occurrence in world rugby.
Euronews' Andy Robini travelled to Yokohama, where two teams will compete in the final on November 2 at the Nissan Stadium for Webb Ellis Cup. Click on the video above to watch his report.
Known simply as rugby, rugby union is a full-contact sport involving 15 players on each team. Each team is made up of eight ‘forwards’ and seven ‘backs’.
The simple aim of the game is to score more points than the other side. A match is split into two 40-minute halves, played on a rectangular field, with goalposts at either end.
The traditional scoring system in a rugby game has not changed for the Rugby World Cup.
Teams have to down or ground the ball in the opposition’s scoring zone for a ‘try’, which is worth five points. After a try, the scoring team is allowed to kick for a conversion through the goalposts and above the crossbar, which is worth an extra two points.
If a team commits a serious infringement of the rules, the opposing team is awarded a penalty and is allowed the chance to kick for goal, to score three points.
Additionally, teams are allowed to ‘drop-kick’ the ball from open play through the goalposts to score three points.
The referee is able to refer decisions to replay, for example, if it is unclear whether a try has been scored or an infringement has been committed.
The rules of the game
The most basic law of the game is that no player is allowed to throw the ball forward to a teammate. In rugby, passes have to be thrown sideways or backwards to a teammate.
Other ways to move the ball towards the opposition’s goal line to score points is by kicking or running with the ball. If a ball does go forwards out of someone’s hands, then the opposing team is awarded a scrum to restart play.
A scrum usually involves the eight ‘forwards’ from each side, where the two sides bind arms and push against each other to compete for the ball and continue play.
To prevent the attacking side from scoring, players are allowed to tackle the opponent in possession of the ball. Players can only tackle by wrapping their arms around their opponents to bring them to the ground. Players are not allowed to tackle opponents above the shoulder, or to use their legs to tackle or trip them.
When a tackled player goes to ground, they must release the ball immediately. As soon as that happens, their teammates and opposition compete for the ball in a ‘ruck’, where players stay on their feet and try and drive the opposition players over the ball.
Another physical battle that often takes place in rugby is a ‘maul’, when three or more players, including the ball carrier and at least one other player from either side, are in contact together. The key difference from a ‘ruck’, is that the ball is not on the ground but in hand.
If a penalty is awarded and the attacking team is too far away to kick for goal, they can kick the ball out of play into touch and retain possession at a line-out.
A line-out consists of three to eight players from each side and is taken where the ball went out of play. The team in possession throws the ball into the air, and the two teams often lift players into the air to catch the ball and gain possession. A team awarded a penalty may also choose a scrum instead.
Keep up to date with all the news from the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan at euronews.com.