Rugby for Newbies
Written by Elaine Stachera Simon
Rugby is played in more than 120 countries and is the fastest-growing team sport in the United States.
A standard rugby union game lasts for 80 minutes, divided into two 40-minute halves. One team kicks the ball toward the opposition to begin play. Teams are made up of forwards and backs, and the jersey number indicates position. In general, forwards (props, locks, flankers, a hooker, and number eight) compete with the opposing team for possession of the ball, and spend more time in rucks, mauls, and scrums. Backs (centers, a scrum half, a fly half, wings, and a full-back) generally obtain possession of the ball from the forwards and accelerate out from rucks, mauls, and scrums to carry the ball down the field (called a “pitch”) in the attempt to score.
Scoring in rugby is called a try, similar to a touchdown and worth five points. In a try, the ball must be brought to the ground in your opponent’s goal area. A conversion, which is a kick through the goalposts after a try, is worth two points, and a field goal (also called a drop goal) is worth three points.
During play, a ruck occurs when the ball is on the ground, and one or more members of each team are on their feet around the ball trying to gain possession. The ball must be brought out with feet—hands can only be used to pick up the ball when it is out of the ruck.
In a maul, the player carrying the ball is held by an opposing player, and the ball is not brought to the ground. A ball carrier’s teammate will bind the ball with the ball carrier, and other players join in. All members of the maul must stay on their feet and move toward the goal line, and players use their hands to try to gain or maintain possession of the ball.
A scrum may be called when a penalty has occurred (a forward pass, for example—in rugby the ball can only be thrown backward) or when the ball has become unplayable. All forwards participate in the scrum, binding together and to the opposition and pushing against each other until the ball is “hooked” by one of the teams out of the scrum and play resumes.
When the ball crosses the sidelines, a lineout is used to re-start play. The teams form parallel lines perpendicular to the sideline, and the hooker for the team that did not cause the ball to go out of bounds throws it down the middle. The locks can be lifted into the air by the props in the attempt to knock the ball to teammates.
See the NMSU Lady Chile Rugby team in action on Instagram @nmsuladychile