Rugby is a widely popular physical team sport which is played between 2 teams having 15 players each, trying to score points with an oval-shaped ball on a rectangular field with H-shaped goalposts at both the ends. The popular sport is governed internationally by World Rugby. Although World Rugby currently has 101 countries as full members and 18 as associate members, very fewer Indians are aware of anything about the sport. Here’s a beginner’s guide on how to play Rugby and some interesting information about the amazing sport.
History of rugby has always been something of a legend. It’s believed that in 1823 a young boy by the name of William Webb Ellis picked up the ball at a school football game and started running toward the opposition’s goal line. It was at this moment the sport was born. Although this story was never officially told until after Williams death. He’s recognized as the founder of rugby and a statue was erected in his honour in the town of rugby in 1997.
The game is played by people of all shapes and sizes making it incredibly accessible sport. In 2003, a set of core values were developed to enable people to understand the character of the game and what makes it different from other sports. The core values identified were integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect.
Kit for players in rugby is pretty simple and consistent for all the players. Let us make a start from the bottom and go our way up.
Rugby boots differ slightly from football boots. They have better toe protection, higher ankle support and screwing studs which allow increasing the length of the studs slightly for better traction.
Moving up we have knee-length socks. Like football, shin pads can be worn however it is less common and not mandatory.
Next up, shorts and t-shirt. Nothing special here except that there’s body protection available to rugby players. It goes under the t-shirt and is worn by players depending on their position and injury.
We then come to the gum shield and this is probably one of the most essential pieces of equipment for the rugby player. Being tackled constantly, clashing heads with one another risks getting a knock to the face. A good quality gum shield is absolutely essential.
Finally, we come to the scrum cap. Being in such a physical sport, constantly taking knocks to the head and even requires to put the head in difficult contact areas.
Rugby union team is comprised of 23 players, 15 on the field and 8 substitutes. Players can be split into two categories: 8 forwards (Hooker, Flanker and Number Eight, Second Row, Prop) and 7 backs (Fly Half, Inside Centre, Scrum Half, Outside Centre, Wingers and a Full Back). Players cannot come back to the field once substituted out unless they are out because of a blood injury occurred within 10 minutes of their return.
How the game is played
A rugby field is typically between 94 and 100 metres in length from goal line to goal line. Beyond the goal line and at each end we have the Tri scoring areas which range from 10 to 22 metres. A full rugby pitch is typically 68-70 metres in width. The line running down either side of the pitch is known as the touchline and everything outside it is known as in touch. Working from the centre we have the halfway line, a 10-metre line and a 22-metre line and various other markings such as the 5 and 15-metre line (used in plays such as scrums and line outs).
The game is divided into 2 halves of 40 minutes each, separated by a 10 minutes break time. There are no timeouts or stoppage in between unless the referee stops play during a foul or injury.
Flow of the game
We start with a kickoff, each half the match is started with a dropkick from the centre of the halfway line. The non-kicking team must be 10 meters behind the ball when it is kicked and the kick must travel at least 10 meters towards the opposition goal line before hitting the ground. From here the game moves into open play. In the open play, the ball is passed or kicked between teammates with both teams contesting for the ball.
There are two main techniques to put the ball into open space passing and kicking.
In passing, the ball must travel either directly across the field or backwards. If case a forward pass is made, the referee will stop the game and award a scrum with the throw-in going to the opposite team.
The second method is kicking in which a player kicks the ball instead of passing it and the ball can travel forwards. But the ball cannot be received by any teammates in front of the ball at the moment the ball is kicked.
Now that we have looked to open play let’s look at what happens in between. A rugby tackle is grabbing and pulling the player who has possession of the ball to the floor. A tackle cannot be made above shoulder height or else will cause the referee to award a foul. The ball carrier must release the ball immediately after the tackle and the tackler must release the ball carrier. Both players must roll away from the ball which allows other players to come in and contest for the ball.
There are 4 ways to score in a Rugby game.
- Try: When a player places the ball down in the dead ball area of the opponent behind the goal, 5 points are awarded.
- Conversion: This is basically a free kick that the team is awarded after a try. To earn 2 bonus points, the ball needs to pass between the upper posts and top bar on the goal.
- Penalty kick: To gain 3 points from opposing team’s infringement.
- Drop goal: The ball can be kicked out of hand if the ball bounces first. A successful conversion will earn the team 3 points.
- Game is judged by one referee and two touch judges. The referee keeps a note of the time record, make decisions on the field and keep order in the game. The two touch judges assist the referee with decisions notifying the referee when the players are in touch.
- The game stops if someone is fouled and the ball goes out of play. Or a chance of a try or drop goal.
- The defending team must tackle below the shoulder height otherwise it counts under foul.
- An out is called if the ball goes into ‘touch a line’. Maximum 7 players of each team can enter a line out and one of them can be lifted from both teams in order to compete the ball being thrown in.
- A successful conversion, penalty or kick at goal is when the ball passes through the top section of the goal. If it does not, the ball is still in play unless it crosses boundaries.
- Attacking players should remain behind the ball, or else run at risk of being called offside (if they gain possession). Players running ahead must get behind the ball before they interfere with play.
How to win
The team ending with more points at the end of 80 minutes wins the game. Extra time is used if the points scored are even. This is followed by kicking competition in case the score remains tied again.