About Rugby



In the US, if you mention rugby to the uninitiated and you usually hear “those guys are crazy.” If crazy is defined by the love of physical competition and the love of fun, then yes, you would be right to call them crazy. Ruggers play because they love the game and enjoy the camaraderie. Admittedly, to newcomers rugby appears to be a free-for-all. It isn’t. Hopefully, with a little understanding of the game, you’ll see why we love it.

Legend has it rugby began in November 1823 at Rugby School in England, when during a soccer match,William Webb Ellis picked up and ran with the ball. True or not, a stone on the school grounds commemorates the event and the game bears the school’s name. Today, rugby is played in over 100 countries, by men and women of every race and creed, from age 5 to well over 50

Playing the Game

The Object
If you are reasonably familiar with American Football you will be able to follow rugby football. The Object of the Game is that two teams of fifteen players each, observing fair play according to the Laws and a sporting spirit, should by carrying, passing, kicking, and grounding the ball to score as many points as possible. The team that scores the greater number of points is to be the winner of the match.

Rugby is actually a much simpler game than our brand of football. There aren't as many technicalities within the laws of the game.

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A lineout
A newcomer may be somewhat baffled by the continuous play; much like basketball, rugby action does not come to a halt until someone scores, the ball goes out of bounds (into touch), or a rule is broken. Squads do not take time in a huddle to prepare strategy. No platoons for offense and defense exist. A good side will respond instantly to a number of offensive and defensive situations, each member of the team moving independently within his role, but collectively for total effect.

Rules are few and broad enough to allow rugby players to be much more versatile than American Football players. Each side is composed of eight Forwards and seven Backs. Every man on the pitch is a triple threat to run, pass or kick.

The Game
Play begins with a kickoff; a player with the ball may run with it, kick it or pass it to any other player either laterally or behind him. His opponents may tackle the man carrying the ball at any time. Only the man with the ball can be tackled. Contact is allowed only in scrums, rucks, mauls, and tackles. Tackles must be made using an arm and shoulder. High tackles are not permitted.
Rugby Pitch
The field-of-play is an area 110 yards in length and 75 yards in width, bounded by, but not including, the goal lines and touch lines.

The In-goal is an area 25 yards in length and 75 yards in width, bounded by the goal line, touch-in-goal lines and the dead ball line. The goal line is included in the In-goal.

The playing area is the field-of-play and In-goal.

The Players
There are 15 players on each team consisting of 8 forwards and 7 backs. The forwards are involved in line-outs and scrums and have the task of winning possession of the ball for the backs. Backs play more to the open field and attempt to outmaneuver their opponents by passing, kicking, or running with the ball.
Positions on the Field
Don’t confuse rugby positions with those on an American football team. Rugby forwards often handle the ball and must be adept at passing and catching while the backs must be prepared to occasionally ruck and maul. All players are responsible for both offense and defense. There are so many variables during a rugby match, that there is a minimum of programmed play-calling. Players must think and react for themselves. In some respects a rugby match is like a dynamic chess game with constant attacks and counterattacks.
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A scrum
To the Attack
It is generally the assignment of the Forwards to secure possession of the ball and then put it out to the Backs for a successful offensive maneuver. The ball can be advanced in three ways; it can be carried forward, passed laterally or backward, or kicked.
If the Backs' offensive maneuver breaks down, rugby Forwards can handle the ball and become a dynamic offensive force themselves.
On the Defense
Stop the advance? Tackle the man with the ball. He must release the ball once held on the ground. Then obtain possession of the ball and initiate your own attack. There are no "First Downs" in rugby. Play until you score.
Penalties are assessed against players for various infractions. Blocking, offsides, intentionally throwing the ball forward, illegally playing the ball with the hands in a scrum are the most common. For these penalties, the team offended against kicks the ball from the point of the infraction. It may be a drop-kick, a punt, a place kick, or it may merely be tapped with the foot and then passed to the kicker's teammates. Field position usually dictates the type of kick taken. With a penalty kick the kicker often tries to send the ball in-touch. When the ball goes in-touch as a result of a penalty kick, the kicking team throws the ball on the line-out. (All other times, the team that doesn't send the ball in-touch gets to throw the ball in.)
Play On
Another interesting aspect of rugby that contributes to the continuous action is the principle of Law #8 known as advantage. It states that the referee should not stop the game for an infringement during play that is followed by an advantage gained by the non-offending team. The advantage can be territorial or tactical.
The scrimmage line in rugby is for the most part absent, or at least mobile. Its rugger counterpart is the offside line. It is an imaginary line that runs across the field through the ball - while it moves! To qualify to take part in the action, a rugby player must play from behind the ball, both offensively and defensively. Thus the futility of the forward pass. Likewise the stupidity of throwing a block. And finally, the criminality of a man chasing the ball when it has just been kicked from behind him by a teammate.
And so the struggle ensues. There is a kickoff from midfield that must go 10 yards. The pigskin becomes elusive and always attracts a crowd. Each side strikes up and down the field until one is fortunate and skillful enough to break through, cross the opponent's goal line, and touch the ball down onto the ground.

A player who is on-side scores a try when he carries the ball into his opponents' In-goal, or the ball is in his opponents In-goal, AND he first touches it down on the ground there.

A goal is scored by kicking the ball over the opponents' crossbar and between the goal posts from the field-of-play by any place kick or drop kick, without touching the ground or a player of the kicker's team.

Scoring Values
The Try 5 points
The Conversion (goal scored after a try) 2 points
A Goal from a Penalty Kick 3 points
The Dropped Goal  otherwise obtained 3 points

Compliments of Karin Groening of the Dayton Area Rugby Club.