New Zealand are favourites for the Rugby World Cup
Rugby union – a sport which demands unflinching strength, physicality and can occasionally boil over into brutality. 

It is now played across six continents, in 100 countries but only 20 could reach the prestigious World Cup.

Hosts France are a proud rugby nation.

Coach Bernard Laporte has recently been appointed the county's junior sports minister after leading his side to their second Six Nations title.

The French will go into the tournament full of confidence as champions of the Northern Hemisphere.

New Zealand

They're the favourites – they're usually the favourites. New Zealand have a knack of choking when it comes to the big occasions, and it doesn't get much bigger than the Rugby World Cup.

So how will they fare with so much pressure and expectation to claim the trophy for the first time in 20 years?

Wayne Hay looks at the challenge of the Southern Hemisphere tri-nations.

England have slipped to 7th in world rankings

Four years ago England lifted the rugby world cup for the first time. Within months their team had been decimated by injury and retirement.

Since then, the English have been in freefall and have slipped to 7th in the World rankings.

But a new coach, and a new impetus has given England a new hope of retaining the trophy.


In the last few years, rugby has become a big hit
with women
Womens rugby

The sport of rugby is no longer just the 'right of passage' for boys to become men.

In the last few years, rugby has become a big hit with women.

And now, more and more Asian women are scrumming down too, as Sportsworld's Joanna Gasiorowska found out.


Finally, we'll end where we started – by looking ahead to the Rugby World Cup, and a nation far more famous for its footballing prowess than its achievements on the rugby field.

Yet Argentina have been at every Rugby World Cup for the last 20 years and seem to quite relish their reputation as underdogs.

The Pumas were the first nation ever to beat France in Marseille, so Sportsworld's Brendan Connor went to meet them.

This episode of Sportsworld aired from Tuesday 3th September 2007

Watch Part One here:

Watch Part Two here:


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Source: Al Jazeera