Fundamentals of Rugby
To the untrained eye, Rugby looks like combat soccer or football without the forward pass and all of the protective equipment. Rugby is the father of American football, but there are many differences in this fast growing sport.
- No rugby experience is necessary to start playing.
- Everyone plays offense and defense and handles the ball.
- Players move the ball down the field supporting one another with lateral or backward passes.
- Blocking is not allowed.
- Only the player with the ball can be tackled.
Rugby is a game in which the object is to carry the ball over the opponents’ goal line and force it to the ground to score. Rugby has its unique aspects, but like many other sports it is essentially about the creation and use of space.
Only the ball carrier can be tackled by an opposing player. A tackle occurs when the ball carrier is held by one or more opponents and is brought to ground, i.e. has one or both knees on the ground, is sitting on the ground or is on top of another player who is on the ground. To maintain the continuity of the game, the ball carrier must release the ball immediately after the tackle, the tackler must release the ball carrier and both players must roll away from the ball. This allows other players to come in and contest for the ball, thereby starting a new phase of play.
A ruck is formed if the ball is on the ground and one or more players from each team who are on their feet close around it. Players must not handle the ball in the ruck, and must use their feet to move the ball or drive over it so that it emerges at the team’s hindmost foot, at which point it can be picked up.
A maul occurs when the ball carrier is held by one or more opponents and one or more of the ball carrier’s team mates holds on (binds) as well (a maul therefore needs a minimum of three players). The ball must be off the ground.
The team in possession of the ball can attempt to gain territory by driving their opponents back towards the opponents’ goal line. The ball can then be passed backwards between players in the maul and eventually passed to a player who is not in the maul, or a player can leave the maul carrying the ball and run with it.
The scrum is a means of restarting play after a stoppage which has been caused by a minor infringement of the Laws (for example, a forward pass or knock on) or the ball becoming unplayable in a ruck or maul.
The ball is thrown into the middle of the tunnel between the two front rows, at which point the two hookers can compete for the ball, attempting to hook the ball back in the direction of their team mates. The team who throws the ball into the scrum usually retains possession, because the hooker and scrum half can synchronise their actions.
Once possession has been secured, a team can keep the ball on the ground and in the scrum and attempt to drive the opposition down field. Alternatively, they can bring the ball to the hindmost foot of the scrum, where the ball is then passed into the back line and open play resumes again.
The lineout is a means of restarting play after the ball has gone into touch (off the field of play at the side). “The lineout concentrates a selection of forwards in one place near to the touch line, so the backs have the rest of the width of the field in which to mount an attack. The key for the forwards is to win possession and distribute the ball effectively to the back line.
The forwards assemble in two lines, perpendicular to the touch line, one metre apart. The hooker throws the ball down the corridor between these two lines of players. Because the thrower’s team mates know where the throw is likely to go, that team has an advantage in retaining possession.
The player who successfully catches the ball can keep it and set up a maul, or can pass to the receiver (a player who stands next to the lineout to wait for such a pass) who then passes to the fly half and on to the back line.