Rugby: An Introduction


All Blacks 2004
Rugby: An Introduction
International Rugby
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This page was written with help from my own knowledge as well as various websites, books, and players/coaches/refs.

Here's a basic guide to rugby that I have written myself. (with a little help from a marvelous little book I got at the NZ Maori vs. Canada game earlier in August)
Rugby is a game that is played with two teams made up of 15 players each and is played for 2 halves consisting of 40 minutes each half. Alternately, a version called Sevens is also played, with seven minutes each half and seven people per team.
The team is divided into backs and forwards. There are 7 backs (2 wings, fullback, scrumhalf/half back, flyhalf/first five eighths, outside center/center and inside center/second five eighths) and 8 forwards. (loosehead prop, tighthead prop, hooker, 2 locks/second row, 2 flankers/loosies, and number 8/loosie)
Typically the backs are smaller and faster than forwards, who are often bigger and stronger because they must win the ball in a scrum.
The match starts with a kickoff from one team and the reciving team tries to get the ball and move it downfield to score. The other team (usually!) tries to stop them and gain possession of the ball by tackling the player with the ball, also known as the ballcarrier. You cannot tackle a player without the ball. (unless you know the ref isn't looking)
Unlike American football, play doesn't stop after a tackle. The tackled player should try to put the ball backwards towards another teammate. However, as long as you are not coming from an offside position, the ball can be picked up by any player.
When players from both sides begin to fight for the ball when it is on the ground, this is known as a ruck.
maul is the same as a ruck but the ball is kept off the ground and the players try to pry the ball from the ballcarrier.
If there is an infraction of the rules, (usually a knockon) or if the ball doesn't seem to be coming out of a ruck or maul, the referee will stop play. The play is restarted by a scrum. In a scrum, the eight forwards from each team bind together by grabbing eachother's shirts or shorts, etc. and push against eachother while the two hookers fight to get the ball and kick it back through their players. The ball is put into the scrum by a scrumhalf who also gets the ball out from the scrum and passes it out to the backs.
When the ball is moved downfield and and forced onto the ground over the opposing team's goal line, a try is scored. A try is worth 5 points. At this point, the team has an oppurtunity to earn another 2 points in a conversion. One of the players (usually the first or second five eighths) must kick the ball from the place it was scored (but backed up to about the 22 meter line) through the goalposts at the end of the pitch. The ball must not only go through the posts, but it must go over the cross bar as well.
There. Hope that was simple enough for people to understand...

Here's an interesting Rugby Survival Guide.

Your First Game

Let's keep it simple at the beginning.

1. Hit anything that is carrying the ball.
Note: Generally you will be more popular if that happens to be a person on the other team, also the referee is not a good target.

2. When you get the ball run like hell!
Note: Your teammates would prefer that to be in the direction of your opponents goal area.

Second Game.

Mastering the pass.

1. Pass the ball backwards to a teammate that is in a better position to advance the ball.
Note: Screaming and throwing the ball up in the air to avoid being hit is considered "bad form".

2. Follow slightly behind your teammate who is carrying the ball so that you can receive a pass.
Note: If you drop the ball continuously, you will become what they call a "prop forward".

Third Game

Mastering the kick.

1. Kick the ball forward over your opponents head and catch it on the run.
Note: If you are a forward then dropping the ball near your foot and kicking anyone in the vicinity is good enough.

Subleties of the Game

Now that you have mastered running, tackling, passing and kicking we'll cover some of the finer points:

The Ruck: This is a situation where 3 to 20 people pile on top of the tackled player. The play is whistled by the the referee when all the air has been compressed out of the tackled player's lungs.

The Maul: Instead of being tackled to ground, the player is kept on his feet by the tacklers. The object is to bend as many of the ball carrier's fingers away from the ball. The play is whistled by the referee after the first cracking sound.

The Line Out: When the ball goes out of the playing area a "throw in" is awarded. The object is to elbow the opposing player's face while attempting to catch the ball.

Offside: In a ruck or maul situation you are not allowed to "steal" the ball from the opposition by running behind the play. It is mandatory that you step on or over the tackled player first.

Scrum: The eight forwards bind together and push against the other forwards. The object is to allow the forwards to beat and bruise each other and give the backs a chance to catch their breath.