Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Beautiful Game All Over - Rugby

With the Rugby World Cup going on and the semi-finals happening within this week, i would like to write a bit about the game i used to play extensively for about 3 years at a competitive level before i switch sports to be an obsessed SwimBikeRunDaddy.
Many Malaysians and the world generally knows about football (or soccer if you are from US of A) but little exposure is given to Rugby. I am here to educate as much as i could on Rugby that unlike soccer (that is beautiful from waist down) is beautiful all over.
As Strong As Your Weakest Link
Rugby is not an individual game. It is a team game. Unlike football that claimed to be a team game but glorifies individual, a rugby team is only as strong as their weakest link.
A Rugby game is played on a field with size of 144m by 70m. The playing area is 100mx70m. There are 22 meters on both ends which are classified as "Touch In-Goal". Basically, any "tries" scored here is considered a "goal".
The "goal post" is shaped like a letter "H" with the height to be at least 3.4m high with the cross bar situated at 3m above ground. The distance between the two vertical post is 5.6m. Any "tries" scored under this "goal post" is considered as "under the post", which will give the scoring team an advantage on the position to perform a "conversion" goal, which is usually by placing a ball along the straight line from the place where the try was performed.
A "try" is awarded 5 points, a conversion goal 2 points, a penalty goal and a dropped goal (both usually by kicking) is awarded 3 points. England was known to play "ugly rugby" by over-relying on "dropped goal" to win the last World Cup. They should just stick to Football and being poster boys.
The game play is simple. Players move forward but ball must move backwards. Any passing parallel or in front (by hand pass) that is intentional is deemed off site and match will be stopped for the referee to decide on next course of action (usually scrum), with advantage to the opposing team. However, a player in off site position NOT receiving the ball intentionally will not be penalised and match will carry on IF the situation does not favor the usually attacking team (or team having the ball possession). Usually, a player in the off site position will raise both his hand up to his head and quickly run back behind the player with the ball. Or if the off site player stays where he is and allow the ball carrier to run past his off site line. This is to be said the player is now on site.
Must pass behind while moving forward. Something footballer can't do.
If a player carrying the ball is tackled to the ground, he must immediately let go of the ball possession and not touching it. This is to ensure fair play. Once this happen, players on both side has advantage to win over the ball. As Rugby is a team sports and the team moves in pack, when a player is tackled and the ball released, his team-mate can pick them up and continue with the game. The opposing team must step over the tackled player to be on site and only then he is allowed to take the ball. Usually, a "ruck" will form where the players from both team will physically battle it out to win ball possession.
Fantastic tackle snapped by www.snap-attack.com
A ruck was formed with the players "protecting" the ball to ensure safe capture to resume game. Photo courtesy of www.snap-attack.com
If the player carrying the ball was tackled, but failed to be brought down by the opponent, the attacking team can form a maul. A maul is formed when another player bind into the ball carrier. Usually, as the forward travels in pack, a good strong maul could be formed to protect the ball in possession and the team mate will then re-strategize to move the ball away again.
Maul formed. Never mind the player being squashed in the middle. At lease he had the ball safe!
In a scrum, the Forward pack will form a "horizontal" pyramid like formation with 3 players in the front row (middle is called the hooker, two on side is prop), followed by 2 second row (that is where yours truly played for 3 years), two players will bind with the first and second row and they are called flanker. The person that bind with the second row right behind is called the No.8. Usually, they are the "star" of the team being visionary and able to command the scrum. He is usually the leader of the pack.
In a line out or throw in, a minimum of two players can form a line out. Attacking team (i.e. the team doing the throw in) will usually strategize on the numbers on players at the line out. The opposing team will usually follow suit - matching man for man. The jumper, usually one of the tallest player and the second row, usually also the tallest and strongest would be lifting the jumper up high to win the line out, secure the ball back to the ground and form a quick maul to push/move forward. It is not unusual to have two jumpers with one set being a dummy/decoy. It is also not unusual that the jumper pass the ball from high up to any other players already on site for an advantageous quick play.
Line out practice made perfect
With the above brief intro to some of the most common items you will see in a Rugby match (that by the way, will last for 80 full minutes), i hope you now have a better understanding and appreciation to the game. Unlike boring football, Rugby is exciting the whole 80minutes.
For a complete list of the International Rugby Board Rules&Regulation, click here
One of my favourite player in Rugby is not Jonah Lomu though he can easily out sprint any football player half his weight with ease. My respect is still with Tana Umaga. He is legendary. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia on Tana Umaga that summed it all nicely:
In a test match against Wales on 21 June 2003, Welsh captain Colin Charvis was knocked out in a tackle from All Blacks forward Jerry Collins. Umaga stopped playing despite his team being in an attacking position; to check that Charvis had not swallowed his mouthguard. He placed him in the recovery position and for this act, the Council of the International Fair Play Committee awarded Umaga the Pierre de Coubertin Medal, a prestigious award for outstanding sportsmanship. Umaga was the first New Zealander to receive the award. The Welsh Rugby Union also presented him with a figurine to honour the display of sportsmanship.
One more highlight of these Rugby matches are the display of Haka or war dance. It is a display of respect and also taunt to both teams. Watch it and be in awe how these men, averaging close to 100kg could still run a 100m in less than 12 seconds. They are then brutalized by their opponents, still stand up, continue to play and work in a team. Truly, the game is fast and beautiful. It looked rough but it is a ruffian game played by gentlemen.
I will be rooting for an All Blacks - France Finale and my bet will be for All Blacks to win the Rugby World Cup 2011!


  1. Umaga? Emm err. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsXJyDHFKn0

    I'm AB but really, the video above is shameful.

  2. Lifted and crash the player at 1:13? I told you Lions are softies.

  3. I like BoD :) While AB is the best team on paper. I'm still stucked with the old guards of Merthens, Brooke, Jones, Kronfeld, Wilson. Class.

  4. Perhaps so...but at least Rugby ain't boring football where it's the same day in and day out. The unpredictability and the sportsmanship makes it more interesting that seeing underwear models running down the field chasing after a round ball.

    an oblong ball is more interesting to go after. ;-)

  5. My money is on Wales, since they knocked my favorite Irish out :) They are a very young team but the play with maturity beyond their youth.

  6. Wales stand a good chance too. I said France as they kicked Engrand's butt!