Rugby has now become quite a popular sport. After decades in which the general public could hardly even distinguish it from American football, today everyone has seen at least some action and recognizes the main teams. At least at the national level, thanks to the charm of teams like the New Zealand All Blacks. Furthermore, some rituals, such as that of the “third time”, are now proverbial.
This does not mean, however, that everyone understands the game. Also, looking at it as a layman, rugby is not a very simple sport. After all, it has counterintuitive rules, such as that of having to go backward in order to move forward. But also in other cases, the doubts are legitimate. We are here to tell them. Here are five basic rules of rugby but explained in a simple and clear way.
And a word about the offside
Let’s start with the passages, which are the most noticeable thing when watching a rugby match. Also because they are one of the most complex technical gestures, considering that the ball is oval and difficult to handle. From a technical point of view, the good pass is the one that rotates the ball making it keep a low and fast trajectory. In this way it becomes relatively easy to grasp and difficult, instead, to intercept.
The most fundamental of the rules is that you can never, under any circumstances, pass the ball forward. Forget the American football you’ve seen in the stars and stripes movies: there is the quarterback who throws the ball at his players. In rugby, on the other hand, handpasses are always and only backward. If for some reason the ball is passed or falls forward, an infraction called “forward” is committed which the referee punishes promptly, awarding a scrum.
However, there is a case in which the ball can leave a player’s hands and be sent forward: when it is kicked. Even in this case, however, we must be careful. The ball after a kick can only be picked up by a player (of the kicker’s team) who was behind the ball line at the time of the kick. Or at least by someone who has returned to the game after being overtaken by their teammates.
When for some reason you are beyond the line of the ball, in fact, you are offside, offside. And you must not interfere in any way with the action, under penalty of the referee’s whistle. Thus, it is not uncommon to see players who raise their hands and try to stand aside, disinterested in the development of the game even if they seem in a good position, in a move that seems strange to the eye of those who are not used to it.
A somewhat particular lineout
Another thing that often amazes the layman is the way in which throw-ins are made. With football, we are used to seeing a player who takes the ball with his hands and, with a particular gesture, throws it towards his teammates who are trying to distance themselves. It is always the team that did not cause the ball to go out.
In rugby, things are quite different. The lineout is called touche, a word that comes directly from the French. The ball is put back into play by the team that did not cause it to go out unless the kicker was not taking a free-kick. In that circumstance, whoever took the penalty also puts the ball back into play.
THE STRIKE POINT
Differences are also foreseen regarding the point of execution of the touch. It is in fact carried out at the point where the ball came out except in some cases. For example, if he comes out less than five meters from the goal line, the touch out is always compulsory at a distance of five meters from it.
If, on the other hand, the person who kicked the ball sent it out directly, without the oval touching the ground before exiting, then the touch is done at the point from which the ball was kicked, and not where it came out. This last consequence, however, occurs only in the event that whoever kicked the ball had not just recovered the oval within its 22-meter area.
The touch is then performed in a particular way. The scrum players of both teams must stand in front of each other at a distance of one meter, perpendicular to the batting line, at a distance of between 5 and 15 meters from the batting line. The ball is thrown between the two sides by the hooker of the throwing team. Generally, it is easier for the ball to remain in possession of the thrower because the hooker directs the oval to a specific point, previously agreed with his teammates. They usually lift one of their own to get to harpoon the ball.
The three lines, one against the other
Certainly, however, the most emblematic and famous moment in the game of rugby is the scrum. Let’s clarify immediately: there are two types. There is the ruck or open scrum, which occurs spontaneously during game action, and there is the closed or ordered scrum, which is called by the referee. We will talk about the latter case.
The orderly scrum is used to restart play when an irregularity has been committed, such as the aforementioned forward pass. It is put in place by the so-called “scrum package”, which is 16 players – 8 for one team and 8 for the other – who arrange themselves frontally to each other so as to then come into contact shoulder to shoulder. Once the scrum is in place, the ball is thrown in by the scrum-half.
PYLONS, HOOKERS …
The 8 players arrange themselves on three lines. The first, the one that comes into contact with the opponent, is made up of two props on the sides and the hooker in the center. The second is made up of two players who fit into the spaces between the three as if to shore up the first line. The third is again made up of three players, two sides and one central.
The aim of the team in possession is to get the ball out – without using the hands – from the back of the scrum itself, where it will then be picked up by the scrum-half. Opponents will try to prevent this, even by spinning the scrum itself. When the latter rotates by 90 °, in fact, the existing scrum is dissolved and a new one is formed, in which the ball is however inserted by the opposing team.
How Points are Counted
How much is the goal worth and in what other ways you can score
When watching a sport for the first time, the most important thing is to understand how points are awarded. In some disciplines it is relatively easy, since every time the ball enters the opponent’s net, for example, a goal is signed. In others, such as rugby, things are a little more complicated.
The goal, which is the most spectacular mode, is worth 5 points. It is scored when you manage to cross the opponent’s goal line and hit the ball on the ground. A try also gives the right to a conversion kick, i.e. a shot that is kicked at the point where the try was scored (i.e. sideways if it was scored close to the edges of the pitch, or centrally in other cases) and that must hit the goalposts. If he succeeds, he gets another 2 points.
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Also, the free-kick that passes between the goalposts is worth 3 points, while any drop is worth another 3. What is a drop? A kick that is carried out during the course of the action and that goes to slip, even in this case, between the posts.
When players break the rules
In rugby, as in all contact sports, there are various types of fouls. Let’s try to see the most common and important ones. The first is the uneven tackle. We understood, from the points, that the purpose of every action is to get as close as possible to the opponent’s goal area and there to look for a raid or the realization of some football. To do this you have to move forward, and the advancement – since the steps are always backward – can only be achieved by running with the ball.
So what can the defense do to defend their own in-goal? Obviously, try to block the opponent running with the ball. And he can do it in the first place through a tackle, that is, a hold that makes the player fall to the ground. The tackle is regular when the grip does not exceed the line of the shoulders. However, if this happens, the referee calls a foul. However, the player who is properly tackled and falls to the ground must immediately release the ball, under penalty of another infringement.
HURDLES AND IRREGULAR TACKLES
Furthermore, the tackle cannot be brought to an opponent in flight and more generally cannot be unnecessarily dangerous. Finally, you cannot hinder your opponents without the ball and obviously, you cannot commit misconduct outside the spirit of the game.
Before closing, the penalties that the referee imposes are interesting. The team that is fouled, in fact, can choose four different ways in which “to have satisfaction” of the injustice suffered. The first is the easiest to understand and is the action in hand: simply the action restarts from the point where the foul was committed, with a pass or a run.
The second is football: if close enough to the posts, the player can in fact try to kick the ball through, which, as seen, if successful, gives 3 points. The third is the kick in touch, also already seen: the ball is sent in a lateral foul with a kick and from there it resumes with the throw-in, keeping possession. The fourth, finally, is the ordered scrum.