Saturday, May 03, 2014

Rugby Tutorial

Today I spent 4 hours watching rugby.  Nathan had a game in downtown DC, at Gonzaga High School.  It was a bit tricky to find, since our GPS decided we should take the scenic route, and we meandered through the monuments and the tunnels by the Capitol for awhile, but we did indeed make it.  I watched the last half of a game that was in progress, all of the "A side" game, and then all of the "B side" game, which was the one Nathan played in.  That's a lot of rugby (and sun) for one day!  Now that I have all the experience from this season, I am taking it upon myself to explain the basics of the game for those of you who are as in the dark about this sport as I used to be.

Rugby starts off with a kickoff, like a lot of sports.  When the other team gets the ball, they run, and even when they get tackled, they just keep handing the ball off, without stopping play. The ref hardly blows his whistle!  Sometimes the play gets stopped with no penalty, and then a "scrum" happens.  Nathan is the "scrum half" for his team.  The 2 teams meet in this complicated hug sort of thing, and (if they have the ball), Nathan rolls the ball down the middle (but more to his team's side).  There is lots of grunting and pushing of the whole pile, while the players kick around at the ball with their feet (still with their arms locked together).
Nathan runs around to the back of his side, and eventually the ball squirts out (that's the plan anyhow--sometimes the other team kicks it out their side).  He grabs it, if possible, and then he laterals it slightly behind him to the backs that are waiting.  Then they start running, and the play starts again.
There is a lot of tackling, but amazingly, not too many injuries.  And none of the bone-jarring crunching you hear in football either!  Nathan says when you aren't wearing a helmet and pads, you are a lot more careful about tackling, and you definitely don't use your head as a weapon!
When someone gets tackled, the team forms a "wall" (or, if you want to be technical, a "ruck"), and the guy on the ground tries to get the ball out behind him to his teammates, who then continue the play.  No whistles!  The ideal plan is to pitch the ball to one back, who then pitches it just slightly behind himself to another waiting guy when it looks like the first guy is going to get tackled, and then on to a 3rd or even 4th guy, as they try to make the turn up field.
When the ball goes out of bounds, there is a throw-in, but unlike in soccer, the 2 teams have these "flyer" people who get hoisted up in the air by the waistbands of their shorts and try to bat the ball towards their waiting teammates.  Like a cheerleading stunt or something!
Also the above picture shows something a bit unusual about rugby--shirtless guys everywhere.  Each rugby team can only have like 15 jersey numbers, and the number you are is dependent on your position.  So when Nathan is scrum half, he is always #9, as is the scrum half on the other side.  If someone goes in as a sub, then the guy he is replacing has to peel off his sweaty jersey, and the sub puts it on.  Nice!  So waiting subs just stand around with no shirt on half the time.  I had really wondered about this whole jersey thing--I couldn't understand why the teams couldn't afford to get shirts for everyone!  Nathan had to explain it to me on the ride home today, LOL.

When someone eventually crosses the goal line (which is called a "try"--the actual score is, I mean), the team gets 5 points and a kick for 2 extra points if it goes through the goal posts.  But the kicker has to kick the ball (always just a drop kick, never with a tee or anything) from the spot where the guy who scored crossed the goal line, so if he was way off to one sideline, then the kicker has a crazy angle.  The ideal case, obviously, is to run it in right down the middle of the field!
So those are the basics of play.  It is really a fun and exciting game, especially because there is always something happening!  If one team feels like they are too close to their own goal line, then they just up and kick it away--and then the other team might catch the ball and kick it right back!  Or run with it or whatever.  Plenty of options, and the game just keeps on going.  I can't believe more people don't play/watch this game!  My friend Johanna said on facebook that she thinks it is because people don't think it is a "safe" game, since everyone isn't covered in pads from head to toe.  All I can say to that is that I've seen several very serious injuries in our years of football, but the worst I've seen this season of rugby is a guy with a bloody nose!  Not that injuries don't happen in rugby of course--Bob played intramural rugby at USAFA and crawled off the field on his elbows, needing both ACLS replaced--but I'm not seeing the concussions and other things that are making the news in football right now.  You should definitely try to watch a game!  You might get hooked!

1 comment:

Lynnea Williams said...

That is definitely helpful. It is a run game. Paul and I watched a couple of matches on TV and really enjoyed it. Great alternative to football... more fun too!