Introduction: Rugby for Beginners

After searching Instructables for a while, and not finding anything that was truly about the sport of rugby, I decided to take it upon myself to write my first 'ible about this great sport.

Ok, let's get one thing straight: rugby is a sport where gentlemen get to act like barbarians. That being said, let's get on with the basic rules of rugby so that those interested in picking up the sport will have a basic idea of the rules. We will also go over the positions, what they do, and those weird terms like the "ruck" and the "scrum".

Step 1: A Brief History of the Sport

Legend has it that the game originated at Rugby school (hence the name) in England, when one of the pupils, William Webb Ellis, picked up the ball during a game of soccer in 1823 and ran with it. Of course the story is most likely apocryphal, since games involving running with a ball in hand had existed for centuries before that.
Thanks to for this little paragraph on the beginings of rugby. Back then, a rugby team would take anyone they could convince to play, but as time has gone by, the pace of the game has increased. And thus, one must be in near-peak physical condition to play. But enough of that. For those of us who want to simply watch the game and be able to understand what's going on, please bear with me. We'll have to go over some terms before we can talk about what's going on. Otherwise, it would be like trying to explain the colors to a blind person. No offense meant to the blind community.

Step 2: Those Crazy Terms.....

Ok, time for those crazy terms that we'll occasionally hear come from the refs.

Ruck: the point where a tackle occurred, and players are contesting for control of the ball. When a ruck is declared, no hands can touch the ball, only the players feet can. Once the ball is out of the ruck, play continues as normal.

Maul: The maul is where there is a group of players supporting the player with the ball while players on the other team want to push the player with the ball to the ground. A common time this occurs is after a line-out (explained further down this page).

Scrum: when an offense occurs, a team may decide on having a scrum (or the ref will call for a scrum). To set up the scrum, the players wearing numbers 1 - 3 attach to each other with their arms. Numbers 4 and 5 kneel and wrap their outer arm around number 1 and 3's inner leg's thigh. Numbers 6 and 7 are the flankers, and attach themselves to the sides of the scrum. Finally, the 8-man (cleverly named by his wearing of the number 8 if he started the game) places his hands on number 4 and 5's backs. This configuration is done again for the opposite team. The ref will then say "Touch, pause, engage." Upon saying the command "engage," the two teams will collide, and the scrum-half (Number 9) will put the ball in. The forwards (numbers 1 - 8) will then contest for the ball with their feet, and push against the other teams forwards to attempt to keep the other team from getting the ball.

Line-out: When the ball goes out of bounds, the forwards line up. The hooker (yes, this is one of the position's names) goes and throws the ball in. One or two of the players in the line is lifted up and attempts to get the ball, all the while the other team is attempting to steal the ball.

The forwards: these are those big, bulky players that run around the field.

The backs: these are those skinny, fast players that run around the field.

A try: the rugby version of a touchdown, worth 5 points.

Conversion: A kick after a try worth 2 points if it's made.

More terms will be added later.

Step 3: Now, About That Field.....

Now, it would be kinda difficult to play rugby if you didn't have a field, now wouldn't it? Well, to have a proper rugby field, one must have a wide open area. The rugby field can't be wider than 70 meters, and no longer than 100 meters long (not including the try zones). Including the try zones, the field cannot be any longer than 120 meters.

Besides the touch lines (the sidelines for all of you football fans out there that are reading this), there are also the dead ball lines at the ends of the in-goal areas (a.k.a. the try-zone). The try line is generally 10 meters in from the dead ball line. The try line is the line that divides the try zone from the playing field. 22 meters from the dead ball line is the *gasp* 22 meter line. This is where a kick is taken if a team touches the ball down in it's own try line (they can't run it back into their own try-zone).

Near the half-way line (mid-field in soccer, 50 yard line in american football) are two lines (one on each side). This would be the 10 meter line. The 10 meter line marks how far the ball has to go from a kick off for it to be a "live ball" (when the other team can attempt to gain possession of the ball).

That's the field in a nutshell.

Step 4: The Different Possitions, Part 1: the Forwards

Now, even though people make fun of those fat forwards, they have a very important job in rugby: to be the people that "save the back's bacon from the grease fire". They may be huge, but they're a pain to tackle.

The loose-head prop: the player who wears the jersey number 1. He (or she) is to the right in the front row of the scrum, and is usually one of the bigger players on the field. They help the hooker (number 2) keep the scrum in place by putting pressure on the other team's forwards.

The hooker: the number 2. During a line-out, the hooker is generally the one who throws the ball back in at the line-out. The hooker is also the person in the scrum that the props hook on to (hence the position name, hooker).

Tight head prop: The number 3. Does the same thing as the loose head prop, only on the opposite side of the hooker.

The second rows: Numbers 4 and 5. These players help give the front row (the props and the hookers) apply pressure to the other team's forwards. Usually some of the taller forwards on the team.

The blind (far) side flanker: Number 6. This is the player who attaches to the scrum on the far side, by grabbing a second row's jersey. They're there in case the other team wins the ball, and the scrum-half decides to run it by the blind-side flanker, who then has to tackle who ever has the ball.

The open side flanker: Number 7. Nearly identical to the blind-side flanker, just on the open side of the field.

The 8 man: Number 8, obviously. He's at the back of the scrum, pushing everyone forward. He's generally the last to touch the ball in the scrum before the scrum half.

Now that we've talked about the forwards, time for the backs.

Step 5: The Possitions, Part 2: the Backs

If the forwards are the raw power of the team, then the backs are the finesse of the team. While they might not seem like much, the backs can be just as powerful as the forwards.

The Scrum-half: Number 9. He's more or less the utility on the team. He works up with the forwards, and he throws the ball (that was won by the forwards) out to the backs.

The Fly-half: Number 10. He's generally the first person the scrum half throws the ball to. He's the one that decides the plays that will be run (yes, even in all that chaos, they run plays).

Inside center: Number 12. He receives the ball from the fly half (generally). Nothing too big here.

Outside center: Number 13. He gets the ball from the Inside Center (again, generally). Once again, nothing big.

The wings: Numbers 11 and 14. The wingers are generally some of the fastest players on the team. They have to try to keep the ball in from touch (going out of bounds), and, on defense, keeping the other team from running straight down the lines.

The Full-back: Number 15. Quite possibly one of the most important players on the team. If the other team kicks the ball back over your teams head, it's the fullback's job to get the ball and either run it or kick that "pill" back over their heads. Otherwise, you risk letting them getting a try.

Step 6: Closing Comments

Now that we've gone over the positions..... That's really about it. Now that you know the positions, you could go out, and start a pick-up game with your friends (just make sure you wear mouth guards). Comments, and constructive criticism are welcome.