If you last cheered for a hooker when you were watching Pretty Woman, then it's time you followed (aided by the Web sites below) the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Since Oct. 1 fly halfs, scrum halfs and hookers—players who endeavor to kick the ball backward in a scrum—from 20 nations have been competing in the quadrennial competition. The semifinals (Saturday, 10 a.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m.) and the Nov. 6 final (9 a.m.) from Cardiff, Wales, will be on pay-per-view.
The official tournament site includes archives of every match, a "Live Centre" that tracks each match in progress, rosters for and background on each team and a cool on-line store. (Team jerseys sell for $65.58.) Favorite video clip: New Zealand wing Jonah Lomu (above, with ball) steamrollering England's Tony Underwood.
If, like most Americans, you do not know the difference between a try (analogous to a touchdown) and a drop goal (like a field goal) or between a pretty boy (back) and a donkey (forward, akin to a lineman), this site's for you. A "Survival Guide" will enlighten you on the rules, lingo and history of the sport, which was invented in England by a bored teacher, William Webb Ellis, who in 1823 decided to add a little pizzazz to the afternoon soccer game at the Rugby School.
Rugby players most closely resemble NFL linebackers, and at 6'5", 260 pounds, New Zealand's Jonah Lomu is rugby's analog to the Chargers' Junior Seau. Of Samoan ancestry (like Seau), Lomu, 24, was named Player of the Tournament in the 1995 World Cup. A year earlier he had become the youngest player in the history of the renowned All Blacks. Lomu's site includes what you'd expect—a photo gallery, a bio and an E-mail forum—but no hint of New Zealand's losing him to the Dallas Cowboys next season.
New Zealand's All Blacks are rugby's version of the Bronx Bombers. This site provides history and legends pages, plus a video clip of and words to the haka, the mesmerizing Maori dance that has become the team's pregame ritual.
Rugby is the Three Stooges of sports, and this site, known as The Rugby Reader's Review, celebrates the game's comedic nature. Included are the transcript of a Monty Python skit in which British councilmen play the All Blacks, an apocryphal anecdote about the Pittsburgh Rugby Club practicing with preserved human heads and a Baedeker-style look at the town of Rugby, Tenn. (pop. 85).