Rugby: ‘A Hooligan’s Game, Played by Gentlemen’

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Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in America. The game’s growing popularity is due partially due to the fact that it is a game for all shapes and sizes. From the tiny scrum-half to the hulking prop, there is a position for almost every type of athlete. The Rugby World Cup 2011 has generated recent curiosity about this unique sport showcasing strength, agility, teamwork and endurance.

A rugby ball is shaped like an oversized American football. It is passed backward only, moving up the field through running or kicking. ‘Ruggers’, as players are affectionately known, wear no padding or helmets, although some do wear a ‘scrumcap’ that protects the head from bumps and scrapes in the ‘scrum’.

There are several types of rugby, including league, sevens and touch. The most common form is referred to as ‘rugby union’. In rugby union, each team has fifteen players on the 100-yard long ‘pitch’ at a time. Games, called ‘matches’, consist of two 40-minute running halves. Points are scored by grounding the ball in the opponents’ ‘try zone’ or by kicking the ball through their goal posts.

A ‘try’ is similar to a ‘touchdown’ in American football; however, the ball itself must be touched, with control, to the ground within the try-lines. Tries are worth five points; another two are added if the scoring team successfully kicks their ‘conversion’. This is similar to a free-kick in soccer, and the attempt is granted to the scoring team after every try. Outside the try-zone, the field kick is a popular scoring method at higher levels and is worth three points.

While a team’s attack is limited to running with the ball and kicking, defense is allowed full contact tackling to defend their half of the pitch. Once on the ground, the tackled player must release the ball, and both teams contend for possession. A ‘ruck’ forms when two opposing players bind onto each other over the ball. Other players may join, but the ball must be moved out through the back of the ruck with the players’ feet only.

Rucking is mainly done by the ‘forwards’. These players are generally larger and slower. They form the ‘scrum’. Scrums occur after a penalty and put the ball back into play. ‘Backs’, as their name suggests, hang back and run plays once the ball is in their possession. They are often smaller and quicker than their forward teammates.

While it is well known that American football has its origins in rugby, many people are still unaware of how hugely popular this sport is on an international level. Invented at the Rugby school in nineteenth century England, rugby football was quickly spread to English colonies, many of which now dominate the International Rugby Board (IRB) rankings.

The Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand showcases the top IRB union teams in the world, and many estimates place total ticket sales for the tournament at 100,000 or more. To learn more about the Rugby World Cup or rugby in general, see the photos, articles and links on the IRB website.

This article was contributed by Sara Woods, a writer for Coupon Croc. Visit us for the latest promotions and save on everything from sports equipment to outdoor furniture and save.

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