The RFU, keen to make sure novice fans are not bewildered by game's laws during the World Cup, are producing an "Idiot's Guide" to rugby. This blog has obtained exclusive extracts...
The Object of the Game: to score more points than your opposition. Don't be confused by media criticism of the England team. When David Campese, for instance, accuses of England of playing boring rugby then things are generally going well - it means that England are scoring more points than their opposition.
The Laws of the Game: don't even go there. More complicated than the self-assembly instructions for the Hadron Collider, anyone who thinks they can explain the laws (NB not rules) of rugby is simply deluded. Puntucate your spectating with cries of "offside," "forward," and "holding on" and you'll appear expert enough for most people.
Forward pass: in rugby the ball must be passed backwards. Any pass forwards results in a scrum (see later) to the opposition. You will see several passes per game that are obviously forward but are decreed otherwise and are later justified by references to the laws of quantum physics.
What is happening at a ruck? Good question. No one seems to know, least of all the players or the referee. A ruck is formed after a player is tackled to the ground. In bygone days players would stay on their feet and drive over the ball. You will notice that this never happens. Instead you will witness what at school used to be known as a "pile-up" with players launching themselves into the fray from all angles.
Scrum: the bit where 8 of the larger players on each team (the forwards) come to together for some orchestrated pushing, shoving and falling over that inevitably ends up with an exasperated referee awarding a penalty. It is not necessary to understand the scrum and it generally provides ample time to put the kettle on, have a cup of tea and call long lost relatives for a chat with no risk of missing anything significant.
Offside: if you thought offside in football (soccer) was confusing, you ain't seen nothing yet. You will hear fellow spectators shout "offside" quite a bit but, quite honestly, they are almost certainly just guessing, as is the referee. The best way of understanding what offside is to to watch what Richie McCaw does, as it is commonly accepted that offside is where he lives.
Driving maul: formed usually (but not exclusively) after a team catches the ball at a line out. Players gather around, and then in front of, the ball carrier and then drive forward with the ball carrier using them as a human shield to protect himself and the ball. To the untrained eye it looks like blatant obstruction with a whole heap of offside thrown in for good measure but, owing to an extremely liberal interpretation of the laws by most referees, is rarely penalised and is consequently largely undefendable unless you happen to be playing England (who have failed to produce a convincing driving maul since 2003).
TMO: you will notice that each game of rugby has one referee and two touch judges and yet often during a game these three people seem incapable of making a decision, even one that is blatantly obvious. Instead the decision is referred 'upstairs' to the Television Match Official (TMO), who will watch the same piece of action from every conceivable TV angle before getting the decision hopelessly wrong. Prepare to be frustrated.
Replacements: after approximately 50 minutes of each game you will notice the 3 fat lads in the front row of the scrum trundle off the pitch to be replaced by 3 other fat lads. This happens irrespective of the scoreline or whether or not the 3 original fat lads have been playing well and it often results in your team playing worse than previously. Ten minutes later 2 of your team's other big lads will have been replaced, followed by your scrum half (little gobby fella wearing number 9). It's tactical, apparently.