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I happened to arrive in NZ at the start of the Rugby World Cup. This is, I am told, the third most watched sporting event in the world, behind the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, respectively. (Yes, more people care about soccer than the Olympics. Go figure.) The New Zealand rugby team is the All Blacks, and as far as I can tell, they pretty much make up the entirety of New Zealand celebrity culture. Rugby is by far the closest thing to a unilateral religion here.

Not all that familiar w/ rugby? Me neither! And I’ve not only watched a few games (b/c that’s the only thing on TV), but I’ve attended one (Ireland-Russia, in which Ireland decimated Russia 63-12 full time). But did you know that America participated in the RWC, even though there is no professional rugby league in the States? So, now that you know there are at least 15 people in the States who actually play this game, let me share a few terms w/ you, to help familiarize you w/ the sport of the future.

league vs. union – All I know is the RWC is Union play. I guess not all rugbies are equal.
test – a match
cap – this one’s hard to explain… it’s basically the idea of a match that a player has appeared in, like, to say a player has been capped 25 times means he’s played 25 matches w/ his team
scrum – I need a picture for this one…
pack weight – the combined weight of a side’s players who participate in the –lineout – when the ball is thrown in from out of bounds and the players from both sides exhibit acrobatic techniques to capture the ball
try – a goal (worth 5 points; a converted try is worth 7)
hooker – the biggest, ugliest dude on the team; he’s the guy in the middle of the scrum, and it’s his job to hook the ball out of the scrum to his teammates
maul – what always looks to me like an interpretive dance rendition of a steamroller; really hard to describe, but the point is to advance the ball

ruck – basically, a dogpile
knock-on – illegally moving the ball forward
drop goal – when a player kicks the ball over the goal line w/o it being intercepted (worth 3 points)
penalty – these are awarded for things like: collapsed scrum; collapsed maul; basically, for collapsing things that endanger other players

Oh, one more thing: rugby is sometimes called “football” here, making things particularly confusing, as they also call soccer, “football.”

Got all that? Good! Go the All Blacks!

(I own the first image. Second and third are from WikiCommons. Last image yoinked from BBC.)