ORIGINS OF RUGBY
– Rugby is the precursor of American football and has been played in
the United States since about 1870. American football, as well as
basketball, owes many of it’s characteristics to rugby. In fact,
basketball was invented by James Naismith as an indoor alternative to
rugby when the New England winters required an indoor game. Some of
rugby's characteristics such as quick switches between attack and
defense, ball handling and committing defenders to attack space are all
found in basketball. Some people liken rugby to tackle basketball on
grass. There are several obvious differences between rugby and American
football. Rugby is played at a fast pace, with few stoppages and
continuous possession changes. All players on the field, regardless of
position, can run, pass, kick and catch the ball. Likewise, all players
must also be able to tackle and defend, making each position both
offensive and defensive in nature. There is no blocking of the opponents
like in football and there are a maximum of seven substitutions allowed
RUGBY ETHOS - All players, coaches, officials, parents
and fans are encouraged to remember that rugby holds a unique place in
American sport. It is an international fraternal sport that is based on
hard but fair competition, and camaraderie. The International Rugby
Board (IRB), the governing body for rugby around the world, Charter
states: “Rugby owes much of its appeal to the fact that it is played
both to the letter and within the spirit of the Laws. The responsibility
for ensuring this practice lies not with one individual -- it involves
coaches, captains, players and referees. It is through discipline,
control and mutual respect that the spirit of the game flourishes and,
in the context of a game as physically challenging as rugby, these are
the qualities which forge the fellowship and sense of fair play so
essential to the game’s ongoing success and survival. Rugby is valued as
a sport for men and women, boys and girls. It builds teamwork,
understanding, co-operation and respect for fellow athletes... It is
because of, not despite, rugby’s intensely physical and athletic
characteristics that such great camaraderie exists before and after
TIME OF MATCH - A
match consists of two 40-minute halves (35 minutes for high school and
youth), and there are no time outs. Play only stops for infractions,
dead balls (when the ball is buried in a ruck or maul), or when the ball
goes out of bounds. The clock only stops for injuries.
FIELD OF PLAY - Rugby
is played on a field, called a pitch, which is longer and wider than a
football field, more like a soccer field. Additionally, there are 10
meter end zones, called the try zones or in-goal area, behind the
goalposts. The goalposts are the same size as American football
THE BALL - A
rugby ball is made of leather or other similar synthetic material and
is best described as a large, over-inflated football with no laces.
PLAYERS & POSITIONS - Rugby has fifteen (15) players on each team. Everyone on the pitch plays offense and defense, and the number of each player signifies that player's specific position. Jersey numbers above 15 are worn by substitute players. Players numbered one (1) through eight (8) are forwards, typically the larger, stronger players of the team whose main job is to win possession of the ball. They would be the equivalent to American football linebackers and lineman. Players numbered nine (9) through fifteen (15) are backs, the smaller, faster and more agile players. Their main role is to exploit possession of the ball won by the forwards. Backs may be equated to running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks in American football.
STARTING THE GAME - Just
as in American football, rugby begins with a kickoff to the opponent
from mid-field. Provided that the ball travels beyond the 10-meter line,
any player from either team may gain possession of the ball. You may
occasionally see players lift each other to gain advantage here.
MOVING OR ADVANCING THE BALL – Rugby, like soccer, is continuous. There is no blocking in rugby. Additionally, rugby does not have downs and it is not required to reach 10 yards and stop. The person with the ball leads the attack. There are only three ways to move the ball in rugby: a player may carry (run), pass or kick the ball. When a player is tackled or the ball hits the ground play is not stopped, unless there is some sort of infraction or the ball is considered dead or buried in a ruck or maul. The game is intended to be free flowing and continuous.
SCORING - There are four ways for a team to score points in rugby:
RESTARTING PLAY - There are three methods of restarting play following a stoppage caused by either the ball going out of bounds or because of an infraction of the laws.
TACKLES, RUCKS AND MAULS - Players
carrying the ball may be stopped by being tackled by the opposing team.
Players are tackled around the waist and legs, in general. Once a
player is tackled, however, play does not stop as it does in football.
A player who is tackled to the ground must make the ball available
immediately so that play can continue. Supporting players from both
teams converge over the ball on the ground, binding with each other and
attempt to push the opposing players backwards in a manner similar to a
scrum. This situation is known as a ruck. The ball may not be picked up
by any player, until the ball emerges out of the back of the ruck. A
team that can retain possession after the tackle and the ensuing ruck
has a huge advantage. A maul is formed with a similar gathering of
players, except the player in possession of the ball is simply held up,
and not tackled. The maul ends when the ball emerges.
OFFSIDE - One
of the more challenging aspects about rugby for a first time rugby
observer is the offside law. Similar to soccer, the offside line is
continually moving up and down the pitch. In most instances, the ball
creates the offside line and players are not permitted to participate in
play if they are on the opposing team's side of the ball.
ADVANTAGE - After an offense occurs, if the referee thinks the non-offending team might benefit by “playing on” they may play advantage. How much territory or opportunity is needed before advantage is gained depends on the violation.