Friday, May 25, 2012

Rugby for Dummies

This post is gonna be a challenge. Because when it comes to rugby, right now, I'm one of the "dummies." I've been to three BYU rugby games this year (including the national championship win!), so I know the basics, but I'm definitely not a pro. However, I really want to learn more, so that's why I'm writing this. It's gonna take a lot of research, but I'm up for the challenge. Here we go . . .

As Daily Herald BYU sports blogger Jared Lloyd puts it, Rugby is "an exciting, action-packed sport filled with the hard-hitting of football and the constant movement of basketball. Once you get the hang of what is going on, it's pretty engrossing." Very well-put and very true. Rugby is a lot of fun to watch, and I hope it catches on more in the U.S. soon.
A rugby game consists of two 40-minute halves. The team who scores the most points wins the game. (Phew! At least that's easy to understand . . .) There are 4 different ways to score in rugby: 

1. Try (worth 5 points)- Like a touchdown in football. The main difference between a try and a touchdown is that in rugby, the ball must touch the ground inside the endzone (past the "try line") to count.

2. Conversion Kick (worth 2 points)- After a try, the scoring team earns the right to attempt a conversion kick. The ball is brought back directly from the spot where the ball touched the ground in the endzone and a player kicks it through the goalpost, like a P.A.T. in football. (So when scoring a try, the players try to touch down the ball as close to the center of the goalpost as possible because kicking from the side of the field is much more difficult).

3. Penalty Kick (worth 3 points)- A team is given the option to attempt to kick the ball through the uprights following a law infraction by the other team.

4. Dropped Goal (worth 3 points)- When a player drop-kicks the ball through the uprights during regular game play. I don't think I've ever seen that happen, but I guess it's certainly possible.

A rugby team has 15 players on the field at a time- 2 props, 1 hooker, 2 locks, 2 flankers, and 1 eightman make up the "pack" or the "forwards". The "backs" or "back line" includes 1 scrumhalf, 1 flyhalf, 2 wings, 1 inside center, 1 outside center, and 1 fullback. The forwards are generally bigger and stronger, while backs are smaller and faster. There are a limited number of substitutions allowed each game, and once a player is substituted out, they can't come back in for the rest of the game.

The rules of rugby are called "laws". Once when I was talking to Chad, the guy in my ward who is on the BYU rugby team, he said that even though the laws of rugby are consistent throughout the world, they are interpreted very differently by different referees. He said the players have to adapt and change the way they play almost every game, depending on how the referees are making calls. I would think that would be super frustrating, but he said it's all part of the game and keeps them on their toes.

In a nutshell, rugby is kind of like football without any pads or helmets (scary!), and they don't stop the game after each tackle to re-set the line of scrimmage. It's just constantly going, going, going. Play doesn't stop unless the laws are broken, someone is injured, or the ball goes out of bounds (called "into touch"). Also, you can never pass the ball forward-- it can be kicked forward, but only passed backward or straight across. If the ball is passed forward or dropped forward (like a fumble in football), it is called a "knock-on" and they will receive a penalty.

The game begins with a kickoff, like football. The players then attempt to get control of the ball and run with it toward their opponents' endzone, while the other team tries to tackle them. If they are about to get tackled, they can pass the ball backwards to one of their teammates, who then takes off running. If they are tackled by the opposing team, the tackler must release the player and the ball must be released to the ground immediately. The tackled player's teammates usually gather around to try to protect the ball and make sure one of their other teammates can pick it up and continue running.

Conversion Kick
Players may also choose to kick the ball forward, although it's pretty rare. It usually sacrifices possession of the ball to the other team (since there are no players on your team in front of you down field, due to the only-pass-backwards rule), but it can give you a better field position or can be used to avoid getting tackled when no one is around to pass the ball to. If the kicked ball stays within the playing area, someone can pick it up and continue playing. If the ball goes "into touch," play is restarted with a "lineout" (I'll get to that in a minute).
Sometimes groups of players will form spontaneously and scramble for possession of the ball. If the ball is on the ground, it's called a "ruck" and players bind themselves together and try to gain possession of the ball with their feet and pass it to another player outside the ruck (the players inside the ruck can't use their hands). If the ball is not on the ground, it's called a "maul." Like in a ruck, the players must be bound together and wrestle with each other until someone comes out with the ball. A maul must always keep moving or play will be stopped. You cannot enter a ruck or a maul from the side-- only from the back.

BYU does the Haka before each home game
Serious infractions (like intentionally trying to hurt an opposing player) will earn players a trip to the "sin bin" (what a funny name!)-- like a penalty box. Their team must continue playing one player down until he is released from the sin bin. As the awesome Aussie commentator said at one recent BYU game, "He has 10 minutes to repent, and then he can return." :)

Sometimes even if a law is broken, play might continue if the opposing team has the "advantage". For example, if one team is about to score a try, but the opposing team commits a violation, it wouldn't be fair to stop play, so the ref will usually let it continue. However, if there is no advantage, the opposing team will be awarded with a penalty kick for a major infraction or a scrum for a minor infraction.

A "scrum" is when the 8 forwards from both teams crouch down, facing each other, in a big huddle. The ball is placed in the center of the group and the referee will say 4 instructions in succession, which the players must follow: "Crouch" (the players crouch down), "Touch" (the players in the middle tap the players on the opposite team), "Pause" (they hold still for a second), and "Engage" (they basically attack each other). The players try to win control of the ball and pass it to an outside player using their feet.

In rugby, pretty much anything goes. Even pulling off the other team's pants. haha.
A "lineout" re-starts play after the ball goes "into touch" (out of bounds). It's actually one of the coolest things in rugby to watch. One player stands out of bounds with the ball and throws it in toward the other players, who are lined up inside the field in 2 straight lines. They can boost each other above their heads (they get some amazing air) to try to catch it and pass it off to a teammate.

So there you have it. Basic rugby rules according to Tasha. Feel free to let me know if I got anything wrong or if there's any other super important info that I left out. And if you've never been to a BYU rugby game, I highly recommend you repent like I have and get ready to go next season!

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