The Rugby World Cup kicks off tomorrow – and with the much-anticipated tournament being played on home soil organisers will be keen to convert plenty of new fans.
If you’re keen to get in on the sporting fun but need to prop up your knowledge, here are 10 things you need to know as you try to on get to grips with the game.
1) Stay on the level: The ball can be moved by hand or foot - but can only be played forward with the trusty boot. Forward passes by hand are not allowed.
2) The numbers game: A rugby union pits teams of 15 men (mostly grizzled, musclebound and fearsome) against eachother in a match played over two 40-minute halves.
3) In a league of their own: The cardinal sin of any rugby newcomer is to mistake union for league. While they share many fundamentals - an oval ball and a 80-minute time period - they are two different sports with their own subtle rules and loyal fanbases.
4) How to win: As with most sports, the aim of the game is to score the most points. But unlike football for example, there is more than one way to do it. Scoring a try (where the ball is grounded over the try-line) is worth five points, with an extra two points avaialble for a successful try conversion by kicking the ball through the posts and three points up for a drop-goal (kicking the ball through the posts during play) and for a set-piece penalty kick goal.
5) Collision course: Once a player in possession is tackled and successfully brought to the ground, he must immediately pass on on release the ball.
6) Lining up: It may look familiar to a football throw-in, but the rugby line-out is much more keenly-contested.
Forwards line up parallel with each other and the hooker of the team in possession throws the ball in to the playing field to be fought over.
Jumpers can be lifted by their team-mates, but players jumping must not be obstructed or pulled down by opposing players.
7) Foul play: Players who have committed a yellow card offence aren’t just walking a disciplinary tightrope. Such an offence brings with it a ten-minute trip to the sin bin, where players must sit out the game on the bench before being allowed to return to action. The most serious fouls still attract a red card - and immediate expulsion from the action.
8) Home advantage: England will be hoping the roar of fervent home crowds throughout the tournament will inspire them to a second World Cup win. The national side clinched the famous trophy with a dramatic extra-time victory over bitter rivals Australia in their own backyard back in 2003. They have reached two other finals in 1991 and 2007 but will likely have to overcome holders and heavy favourites New Zealand if they are to taste sweet success again.
9) Global gathering: Twenty teams from across the globe will be aiming to make it all the way to the showpiece final at Twickenham on October 31. They will be spread out into four pools, in which the top two teams will progress to the quarter final stage.
10) Be part of the action: The Rugby World Cup will be held in 13 venues across both England and in Wales - and north east fans can see a sporting spectacle in person. St James’s Park is hosting three games, with highly-rated South Africa taking on Scotland on October 3, favourites and reigning champions New Zealand go head-to-head with Tonga on October 9 and Samoa meet Scotland on October 10.