All eyes will be on England and Wales this fall as the best wingers, props, halves and locks hit the pitch for Rugby World Cup 2015. Once again, Coca-Cola will play a major role in quenching the collective thirst of players and fans. 

Coca-Cola was named the official water, sports drink and soft drink of Rugby World Cup 2015, which will be held in September and October in 11 English and Welsh cities. All 20 squads will stay hydrated with glacéau smartwater and Powerade as they scrum for supremacy throughout a host of packed venues in one of the sport’s hotbeds.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to help bring the nation together,” said Paul Dwan, general manager of the Coca-Cola team for Rugby World Cup 2015. “The game was born in England, and it’s highly appropriate that the tournament is being hosted here. It’s a huge opportunity for us to be a small part of what will be a global story this year.”

To mark the announcement in late-2014, global rugby icon Brian O’Driscoll, Coca-Cola ‘Get Active’ ambassador for Rugby World Cup 2015, led a very special training session for London teens to inspire people to get active through Rugby World Cup.

“It will be a great tournament,” said O’Driscoll, who captained the Irish team from 2003-2012. “This will be exponentially bigger than the last tournament in New Zealand. The game has grown so much from three years ago.”

Rugby World Cup is the globe’s third-biggest sporting event, behind the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. More than 3 million fans will attend the tournament, yet here in the U.S., rugby remains a niche, if growing, sport.

O’Driscoll offered a few pointers to help fans get active and prepare for the excitement later this year.

Coke Rugby

The Game

The goal of rugby is to score as many points as possible through carrying, passing, kicking and grounding the ball. There are 15 players on a team, generally grouped into larger forwards and speedier backs. O’Driscoll, a center, used his speed and savvy to pull off some great scores, including this nifty play that has taken root in rugby lore.

“Rugby is a version of American football, minus the pads,” he said. “High skill levels and high physical specimens, but the beauty of it is you can be any shape or size and there’s a position for you. For me, it’s the ultimate team game because you need everyone in their position to do their role for the team to achieve success. And there are rarely draws!”

Rugby World Cup

The Teams

Rugby World Cup will feature the best teams on the planet battling for bragging rights, and for O’Driscoll, the team to beat is New Zealand. The “All Blacks” are the defending champions, having won the 2011 tournament on its home soil. “They are the standard bearers,” O’Driscoll says. “The way they are able to tackle, attack and defend – there’s no weakness to their side. They play the most attractive brand of rugby and are a very easy team to watch, even if you don’t fully understand the game. They are the ones to knock off the perch.”

O’Driscoll also noted that the host English will have a good shot at winning the tournament, in addition to Ireland, South Africa and Australia.

Coke Rugby

The Growth

According to USA Rugby, more than 5 million youth have been exposed to the sport over the last five years through youth programs, and participation in the United States has grown by 350 percent between 2004 and 2011. This makes the U.S. a potential sleeping giant in the field as more interest grows in the sport. The U.S. women’s team participated in the Women’s World Cup in 2014, while the men qualified for next year’s event.

And the U.S. isn’t the only place where rugby is making an impact, given further credence to the sport’s worldwide popularity.

“I believe it’s the fastest growing sport in American colleges,” O’Driscoll said. “It’s growing in Argentina, growing in Japan. It’s becoming more of a global game and reaching out further to more countries. As a big advocate for the game and a big believer of the pleasure you can get out of it, you hope it will grow year after year and World Cups bring the best of rugby out. It will be a fantastic spectacle.”