Rugby 101

A beginners guide

The Basics of Rugby.

To an American who is new to it, rugby might seem like a combination of other sports. The similarities aren’t a coincidence: Other sports take their queue from rugby. Both American football and basketball trace their roots to rugby, which began in England in the 1820s. Today, the excitement and rich community found in rugby make it one of the world’s most popular sports. Only the World Cup draws a larger audience.

Gameplay is continuous, like soccer. Teams use a mix of creativity, speed, and power to move the ball forward. A player can score a “try,” worth five points, by touching the ball to the ground of the opponent’s “try zone,” similar to scoring a touchdown. However, unlike American football, forward passing is forbidden: Passes can only go backwards. Defenses attempt to stop the player with the ball by tackling him or her. Once a player is tackled, he or she must let go of the ball, and play continues immediately. After a try, a team can place kick the ball through goalposts for two extra points. At any time, a player may drop-kick the ball through the goalposts, worth three points. Rugby’s most unique scenarios occur during group-oriented situations, like a maul, ruck, or scrum. In these situations, the rules mandate teammates must “bind”—literally come together, arms often around one another.

The most popular version of rugby is called fifteens, or union, with 15 men or women on each team. “Sevens” is a faster variation with seven players on each side, and debuted in 2016 as a new Olympic sport in Rio de Janeiro.

Rugby’s tough-yet-elegant ethos is its most defining characteristic. The game is notably inclusive, welcoming men and women, young and old, to watch and to play. Around the world, fans treat one another as family. Players at every level display respect for the game, themselves, and their opponents — something that’s part of the game’s DNA.

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Rugby 101 Booklet