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The ninth edition of the Rugby World Cup begins in Tokyo on Friday, when Japan takes on Russia.
It is the first time the tournament has been held in Asia and the first time it is staged in a country that is not a traditional rugby heartland—England, Wales, New Zealand, France and Australia have all hosted in the past.
The World Cup runs for six weeks and the 48 games will be played across 12 venues, in cities including Tokyo, Sapporo, Fukuoka and Kobe.
The final is scheduled for November 2 at the Yokohama International Stadium, the same venue that hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup Final.
Here’s everything you need to know about the format and the favorites for the tournament.
How does the Rugby World Cup work?
The Rugby World Cup comprises 20 teams, divided in four pools of five teams each, who play each other once. The top two teams from each pool progress to the quarterfinals.
The quarterfinals will see the winner of Pool A (which contains Ireland and Scotland) take on the runner-up in Pool B (which contains New Zealand and South Africa), while the winner of Pool B will take on the runner-up in Pool A.
The winner of Pool C (which contains England, France and Argentina) will take on the runner-up of Pool D (which contains Australia and Wales), while the runner-up of Pool C takes on the winner of Pool D.
The winner of the latter game takes on the winner of the quarterfinal between Pool A’s winner and Pool B’s runner-up in one of the semifinals.
The other semifinal will include two between the winners of Pool B and C and the runners-up of Pool A and D.
Teams are awarded four points for a win, two for a draw and none for a defeat by eight or more points. Teams can earn a bonus point by scoring four tries in a match or losing by fewer than eight points.
If both situations apply, teams receive both bonus points.
Who are the favorites?
At least in the eyes of the bookmakers, New Zealand remains the team to beat.
According to Oddschecker, the All Blacks are 5/4 favorite to lift the Webb Ellis Cup, while South Africa and England follow at 4/1 and 9/2 respectively.
The All Blacks have won the Rugby World Cup three times and becam
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