On The Sideline: Rugby

Rugby is referred to by some as “the game for animals, played by gentlemen.” The origin of the game is unknown, some claiming it comes from Greece with others tracing its roots back to a Celtic game. With the discrepancy, it has taken a good deal of time to formulate a common code of rules.

There are two brands of rugby: Rugby Union, which is played throughout most of Europe, and Rugby League, which is played in Australia and New Zealand. The few club teams and high schools in the U.S. that have a team have, for the most part, adopted Rugby Union rules.

In Union, each team has fifteen players. There are eight forwards who receive possession of the ball while the seven remaining players, referred to as backs, are the ones who move the ball up field.

Play starts in much the same way as it does in American football, with the defensive team kicking the ball and the offense running with it until tackled. The ball may be passed or kicked to a teammate but it cannot be passed forward.

When tackled, the teammate must release the ball, allowing anyone to take it. A “ruck” occurs when two opposing players reach for the ball. Play will stop during a “ruck” or if the ball goes out of bounds.

Play is resumed with a “scrum.” The teams’ forwards huddle together and fight for the ball with their feet.

Much like soccer, if the ball goes out of bounds, it will be thrown in by the opposing team, who will have to compete for possession with the other forwards.

Five points are scored for a “try” when the ball is carried across the opposition’s goal line and touches the ground. A kick is then awarded, which, if successful, earns an extra two points. One can score a three-point goal by kicking the ball through the posts during play.

While rugby may seem simple, it is a fast-paced game that requires a great deal of focus and strength.

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