Rugby union fans around the world will gather together on 18 September to watch the 2015 Rugby World Cup taking place in England and Wales. Twenty countries will be competing to reach the final in London on 31 October.

Whether you can’t wait until kick-off or are new to the sport, here's a closer look at seven of the leading nations taking part.

New Zealand

The All Blacks performing the haka at Eden Park.
  • What’s the lowdown? First played by British settlers in the 1860s, rugby has developed to become New Zealand's national sport, and the All Blacks are the game's most well-known and successful team.
  • Home turf? The All Blacks' impregnable fortress is Eden Park in Auckland. They haven't lost there since 1994, and the last Auckland victory by arch-rivals Australia was almost 30 years ago.
  • What’s their style? The number one-ranked All Blacks play with power and pace, all grounded in the best all-round rugby skills on the planet.
  • Finest hour? The courage of skipper Richie McCaw, who led the All Blacks to victory in the last Rugby World Cup in 2011, despite having a broken foot.
  • Any local slang? ‘Feed the backs!’ is the classic Kiwi exhortation to get the ball quickly from the forwards to the All Blacks' traditionally speedy wingers.
  • One to watch? Keep an eye out for the barnstorming runs of winger Waisake Naholo.


The bronze statue of a line-out by British sculptor Gerald Laing outside Twickenham Stadium
  • What’s the lowdown? Rugby was allegedly invented when Englishman William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it during an 1823 game of football at Rugby School. Similar ball sports have also been played in other countries for centuries.
  • Home turf? Twickenham in leafy southwest London can hold over 81,000 fans, making it Europe’s fourth largest stadium.
  • What’s their style? The English style is based on powerful forwards and a strong kicking game, although the team has been more expansive recently.
  • Finest hour? Jonny Wilkinson coolly kicking a drop goal in extra time to win the 2003 Rugby World Cup against Australia.
  • Any local slang? English fans refer to Twickenham as ‘Twickers’, and will be ‘chuffed’ if their team do well.
  • One to watch? Sam Burgess, a tough-as-nails recent recruit from 13-player rugby league to 15-player rugby union.

South Africa

South Africa's Willie le Roux of South Africa going over for a try
  • What’s the lowdown? Rugby was introduced to South Africa by British settlers in the mid 19th-century, and has traditionally been popular with the country’s Afrikaner population.
  • Home turf? At an altitude of 1724m, Ellis Park in Johannesburg is always a stern test for teams playing South Africa's Springboks.
  • Finest hour? Played in front of Nelson Mandela, the Springboks' victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup helped to unite South Africa after the divisive years of apartheid.
  • What’s their style? Big-boned forwards coupled with a good kicking game have traditionally defined South Africa's effective style of rugby.
  • Any local slang? While they're watching the games, South African fans will be grilling boerewors (spicy sausage) on their braais (barbecues).
  • One to watch? Willie le Roux is a speedy and talented fullback who is most dangerous when he is counter-attacking.


The Wallabies celebrate winning a match against the Springboks at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.
  • What’s the lowdown? Australian rugby's first club was formed at Sydney University in 1864, and in a golden decade, the national team – the Wallabies – won the Rugby World Cup in 1991 and 1995.
  • Home turf? Queensland is the traditional heartland of Aussie rugby, and the Wallabies enjoy a formidable record at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.
  • What’s their style? Ball-snaffling loose forwards, a powerful scrum, and speedy outside backs combine for Australia's brand of rugby.
  • Finest hour? Australia's 35-12 victory over France in the 1999 Rugby World Cup final is the highest winning margin in the tournament's finale to date.
  • Any local slang? Good old Aussie confidence means most Wallabies fans will claim ‘No worries mate’ when quizzed about their team's chances.
  • One to watch? Formerly successful in NRL (rugby league) and AFL (Australian Rules Football), Israel Folau is Australia's immensely talented fullback.


Members of the French rugby squad warming up before a match at the Stade de France, Paris.
  • What’s the lowdown? Introduced by British residents in the 1870s, rugby is more popular than football (soccer) in the south of France.
  • Home turf? With a capacity of over 80,000, the Stade de France in Paris is one of the sporting world's most imposing national stadiums.
  • What’s their style? It depends on which French team shows up. At their best, France play an exciting game. On other occasions they can be lacklustre. Cue Gallic shrugging of shoulders.
  • Finest hour? France have yet to win a Rugby World Cup, but their unexpected victory over favourites New Zealand in a 2007 quarter-final is one of the tournament's most famous games.
  • Any local slang? ‘Allez les Bleus!’ (C'mon the Blues!) is the traditional way for passionate French fans to get behind their team.
  • One to watch? Inspirational captain Thierry Dusautoir almost led France to another famous victory over New Zealand in the 2011 final. The All Blacks held on to win 8-7.


An aerial view of Wales' Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
  • What’s the lowdown? The first clubs were established in Wales in the 1870s, and rugby is now regarded as the country's national sport.
  • Home turf? With a capacity of over 74,000, Cardiff's Millennium Stadium is one of the sporting world's biggest venues with a retractable roof. For pre- and post-match drinks, there are more than 70 bars within a 400m radius.
  • What’s their style? Wales play a straightforward game based around the power and strength of 110kg centre Jamie Roberts.
  • Finest hour? Wales' best result is a third-place victory over Australia in the first Rugby World Cup in 1987.
  • Any local slang? 'What are you drinking boyo?' Wales have been inconsistent across recent seasons, but opposition fans are guaranteed a warm welcome in the pubs of Cardiff.
  • One to watch? After being sent off in the 2011 semi-final against France, Welsh captain Sam Warburton is determined to make amends in 2015.


The Fijian rugby team taking part in an international match against Canada in London.
  • What’s the lowdown? Fiji's first international match was against Pacific neighbours Samoa in 1924. The game started at 7am and halfway was marked by a small tree.
  • Home turf? Tropical humidity and passionate local crowds make Suva's ANZ Stadium an imposing venue for opposition teams.
  • What’s their style? Arguably the best natural athletes in world rugby, the Fijian game is high-speed, high-risk and highly entertaining.
  • Finest hour? Fiji edged Wales 38-34 in an epic encounter to reach the quarter-finals in 2007. Both teams have been drawn to play in the same group again in 2015. Bring it on.
  • Any local slang? ‘Bula!’ (Hello!) The rugby world's friendliest fans offer sparkling South Sea smiles as wide as the Pacific Ocean.
  • One to watch? Left wing Nemani Nadolo is a deceptive and dangerous attacker.

To find out more about the 2015 host cities, download our free Tackling the UK ebook.

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