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One newbie's view of scrums, tries and the sport of rugby

Stu Forster/Getty Images

I don't know much about rugby. Actually, I don't know anything about rugby other than the following:

• I own a New Zealand All-Blacks jersey that I bought on a vacation there. The jersey is currently collecting dust inside my closet alongside a Minnesota Twins fantasy camp jersey, Olympic T-shirts dating back to 1984, oil-stained cycling jerseys and many other souvenir shirts my wife is desperate for me to toss.

• The All-Blacks perform the intimidating Haka dance before matches.

• Matt Damon is the greatest rugby player in history, having led South Africa to victory in the movie "Invictus."

With that extensive background, I live-streamed Wednesday's Australia-Fiji match at the Rugby World Cup, partly for the pleasure but also to gain some knowledge for the 2016 Summer Games where rugby sevens will make its Olympic debut in Rio. From what I observed, rugby will be a much more exciting event to watch than other Olympic sports, such as trampoline, rhythmic gymnastics, dressage, modern pentathlon, sailing, badminton, race-walking, synchronized swimming, golf and swim heats that don't include Michael Phelps.

Seriously, rugby is confusing for the novice but seems to be a fun combination of football, soccer and the U.S. Congress. There are incredibly well-built athletes (15 on a side) running around the field, pushing, shoving, snarling and tackling one another while trying to carry the ball across the goal line. There are also offsides, kickoffs, three-point kicks through goal posts and extra points; however, there are no helmets, shoulder pads or Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.

Even the pregame festivities can be interesting. Like New Zealand, Fiji performs an entertaining dance in front of their Australian opponents. U.S. pro teams might want to copy that. Picture the New England Patriots stomping their legs and pounding their chests as Tom Brady and the equipment crew deflate the football before kickoff.

Fiji, which hadn't beaten Australia since 1954, fell behind early 3-0 after it committed a penalty -- I have no idea what Fiji did wrong -- and the Wallabies sent the resulting kick through the uprights. Fiji came back to tie the match after a great scrum.

Scrums are an odd and interesting part of rugby. Apparently, following an illegal forward pass, a scrum results with eight players from each side wrapping their arms around one another and trying to slowly push the opponent out of the way while waiting for the ball to appear behind one of the teams like a freshly laid egg.

In this particular scrum in the eighth minute, Australia and Fiji locked up and grunted and sweated and pushed and groaned and cursed and yet were unable to budge the other side so much as a millimeter. It was like watching a gripping fourth-and-goal stand in super-slow motion ... or Republicans and Democrats debate a tax bill.

Rugby is like football without huddles, which is good if you like the games to move along much faster, but bad if you want to get a beer from the fridge.

Players will run with the ball, then either flip the ball to a teammate before getting tackled; or, after they get tackled, a teammate will take the ball and continue trying to carry it farther down the field. It pretty much resembles the end to the 1982 Cal-Stanford game but without trombone players.

I learned that when a player succeeds in carrying the ball across the goal, it is called a "try" and the team receives five points. That's one shy of a touchdown score, but they also get a two-point conversion kick, albeit from different and sometimes difficult kicking spots on the field. One interesting thing I noticed from Wednesday's match: the team that scored received the ensuing kickoff, though apparently it then had to kick it back to the other team at some point. And Europeans say baseball is confusing?

Australia's David Pocock, named the player of the game, scored two tries in the first half as his team took a 15-3 lead (they missed the kick after the second try), and the Wallabies eventually took a 25-3 lead in the second half. Fiji, hampered by injuries, mounted a comeback with a three-point kick and a try but was unable to ever seriously threaten.

Still, it made for an entertaining match to watch overall. It also made me interested in seeing a match in person rather than on my laptop. Which would be way better because not only would I feel the excitement of the crowd, but I could also turn to the fan next to me and ask, "Um, what just happened?"