|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 isnt. Hopefully, with a little
understanding of the game, youll 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 schools 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
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.
|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.
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.
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
The playing area is the field-of-play and In-goal.
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
Dont 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.
|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
|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.)
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.
|The Conversion (goal scored after a try)
|A Goal from a Penalty Kick
|The Dropped Goal otherwise obtained