Rugby is an international sport, second only to soccer, with more than 100 countries worldwide competing at all levels. The competitive nature of the sport ranges from non-contact, touch rugby for players generally younger than 10 years old, to full competitive, professional rugby at the Men’s Club and International level. The sport is extremely popular in the southern hemisphere (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, South America) and Europe, and is growing in popularity in North America.
There are two variations of rugby, one called 15-aside and the other 7-aside, both with essentially the same rules and regulations, just with different numbers of players on the field (15 per team or 7 per team, respectively). Rugby 7-aside will be an introductory sport in the 2016 Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. Generally people are more familiar with the 15-aside version of the game, which is what is mainly played in North America, although 7-aside is growing in popularity.
An interesting fact is that the United States was the last Olympic Gold Medal winner of the 15-aside rugby competition in 1924. It was, unfortunately, discontinued as an Olympic sport in 1928. However, it is making a resurgence. Since 1987 there have been five Rugby World Cups, drawing over a billion spectators, and as was stated previously, is schedule for the 2016 Olympic Games.
Please take a look at the History and Spectators Guide to Rugby pages. They are very thorough and informative. In addition, many parents may have concerns about the physical contact nature of the sport, and hopefully their concerns will be lowered and their questions addressed with the published articles under Contact Sport Info.