Rules of engagement for Rugby World Cup 2011

(Rugby News Service) Thursday 25 August 2011
 
Rules of engagement for Rugby World Cup 2011
Jonny Wilkinson kicks England's extra time winner in the 2003 final

AUCKLAND, 25 Aug. - A guide to the rules and regulations for Rugby World Cup 2011.

What happens if a match is drawn?

No problem in a pool match. France and Scotland drew 20-20 in one of the most exciting matches of the first Rugby World Cup in 1987. But in the knockout stages, the match will go to extra time (two 10-minute periods), as happened in the 1995 and 2003 finals. If still level, teams play a maximum 10 minutes of sudden death, with any score sealing the contest (similar to football’s 'golden goal'), and if still tied beyond that, the winner is decided by a kicking competition. The 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final between Cardiff and Leicester is believed to be the only top-flight game in which this way of settling a match has been used.

What happens if a replacement is over-eager to get on the field?

You mean if a side has more than 15 players on the pitch at one time? That’s exactly what happened with England in their pool match against Samoa at Rugby World Cup 2003. A misunderstanding briefly left them with 16 men on the pitch, an oversight that saw England fined 10,000 pounds.

How are the qualifiers from each pool decided?

The top two teams from each pool, based on total points won, will go into the quarter-finals. A win is worth four points, a draw earns two and a point is awarded for scoring four or more tries or losing by fewer than seven points.

But third place gets nothing?

Not this time, but the third-placed side in each pool secures qualification for Rugby World Cup 2015.

This might sound mathematically improbable, but what would happen if all the teams finished level on points at the end of the pool stage?

If two or more teams are level on points, then a number of criteria are used to determine the pool rankings, beginning with the result of the pool match between the two tied teams. If that match was drawn or more than two teams are tied, it then goes to points difference, then difference in tries. If still level, it is judged by most points scored, then most tries scored and finally, the IRB World Rankings on 3 October.

How does Melbourne Rebel Adam Byrnes, who was born in Australia, qualify to play for Russia at the RWC?

A player may qualify to play for a country according to where he was born, where one parent or grandparent was born or by living in that country for three years. Byrnes has Russian grandparents.

Commentators sometimes refer to a side being two or three scores in front, but given rugby’s variety of points, is this accurate?

This considers the minimum number of 'scoring acts' required for the losing side to get level or in front. So, if a side were five points ahead, they could be overhauled by a converted try (seven points). But if they were eight points ahead, you could say they were two scores clear as the opposition would need to score twice (two tries, or a converted try and penalty). So, if a side opens a 15-point gap they are three scores clear, as the opponents would need two converted tries plus another score.

What happens if a player is sent off during the tournament? Can they return?

It depends on the severity of the offence. In 2003, Fiji's Rupeni Caucaunibuca served a two-match ban but returned for the final pool match. When South Africa’s James Dalton was sent off in a pool match in 1995, he was banned from the rest of the tournament, missing the Springboks' final win against New Zealand. There was a bizarre denouement to Australian David Codey’s sending-off in Rugby World Cup 1987. Dismissed in the third-place play-off defeat by Wales for some over-zealous rucking, he was appointed captain of the Wallabies for their first post-tournament match.

England seem to have upset a few people in New Zealand with their new black – or to use its official description ‘anthracite’ – away kit. What’s the rule on shirt colour?

Practicality, more than anything. All teams must have a change strip in case of a colour clash. England’s kit, which they will wear in their first match on 10 September against Argentina, who sport white and sky blue-hued shirts, even prompted New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to say: "There's only one team that wears black with pride and that's the All Blacks." England flanker Tom Wood said: "It has got the red rose on it and that is all that matters to us."

As for the All Blacks, when they clashed kits with Scotland’s dark blue in 1987, they switched to – you guessed it – white shirts. Australia have prepared a white change shirt, but given the only other side with colours close to the Wallabies’ gold is Romania, who are in a different pool and have never progressed to the knockout stages, Australia’s change kit will probably remain a box-fresh collector’s piece.

RNS ig/sg/mr