"The Game" (Part 1)
By John Phillips
August 30 2019
THE GAME OF RUGBY UNION
The aim of the game is very simple: score more points than the other team. You do this by scoring tries, conversions, drop goals and penalties in your opponent's goal area. If both teams score the same amount or no points are scored then the match is a draw
A game of rugby union happens over two halves of 40 minutes, with injury time added on at the end of each half. In between the two halves, there is a maximum 10-minute interval after which both team change ends. The referee's whistle indicates the start and finish of the half.
Before the start of the match, the referee will toss a coin to decide which team will kick-off the match. The team that wins the toss will decide which end they want to attack first and whether they or the opposition will kick off. The game is started by a place kick or a drop kick from the middle of the halfway line. But the ball must travel 10 meters from the kick off, otherwise the opposition have the choice of whether to take a scrum or a throw in on the halfway line with the feed or throw. A drop kick from the halfway line will re-start the game after a penalty or drop goal has been scored. The team that did not score will take the kick.
To understand what is what you must first understand some of the basics.
Tackling is the only way of legally bringing down your opponent in rugby union. But there are certain laws on how you can tackle an opponent which you must follow; otherwise you will give away needless penalties which your team-mates will not appreciate. If a tackler and the ball carrier go to ground, the tackler cannot handle the ball because they are not on their feet. Only players on their feet can handle the ball.
It can be tempting to bring the ball back to your side, but if the referee sees this, he'll award a penalty to the opposition. As soon as a tackle is made, the tackler must roll away from the player they have just brought down.
Referees have been clamping down on this recently because the tackler can often slow the ball up for the opposition, helping their side to re-group in defence. So if the referee believes the tackler has not rolled away quick enough, he will award a penalty to the opposition.
When you tackle an opponent, you cannot make contact with their head. This is entirely for safety reasons.
The referee will instantly give a penalty if he sees a high tackle. And he will also have a few words to say to the tackler if he thinks the challenge was dangerous.
Expect a yellow card and a spell in the sin-bin or worse, a red card and instant dismissal. So aim for your opponent's chest, waist or legs, you will make a better tackle if you aim for those areas in the first place.
A maul is formed if the ball carrier is held up after a tackle and one player from each side binds onto him and tries either to rip the ball away or push him forwards. Once a maul has formed other players may join in but, as in a ruck, they must do so from the "gate" on their own side. If the maul stops moving forward, then the referee awards a scrum to the side not in possession when the maul began.
The tactic of the rolling maul occurs when mauls are set up, and the ball is passed backwards through the players hands to one at the rear, who rolls off the side to create a new maul.
This tactic can be extremely effective in gaining ground and takes great skill and technique to both do properly and to try to prevent. It's a tactic most commonly used when the attacking side is inside their opponents' 22.
It is illegal, on safety grounds, to pull down a maul, so that players fall to the ground. Referees are aware that many sides will try to stop a maul by deliberately collapsing it and will watch carefully for this illegal tactic.
A ruck may sound like a fight in the playground, but it's a very important part of rugby union.
If a tackled player goes to ground, they must release the ball immediately. However, the opposition will want to get their hands on the ball, while the team in possession will not want to give it away.
So a ruck is formed when the ball is on the ground with at least one player in physical contact with a member of the opposition. To get hold of the ball, both sides will drive over to make it available for their nearest team-mate. But only players on their feet can handle the ball in a ruck.
If a player joins a ruck, they can only do so from behind the line of the ball. This means they cannot come in from the sides of the ruck, otherwise the referee will award a penalty to the opposing team.
Also, every player must be "bound" in the ruck. This means they must have at least one arm round a team-mate who is involved in the ruck.
If the ball does not come out of the ruck quickly enough, the referee will award the team moving forward at the ruck the feed at the scrum.
There are very strict rules for a ruck which every player must follow; otherwise they will give away needless penalties.
| The Scrum
A scrum is a way of re-starting play after:
The ball has been knocked on
The ball has gone forward
The ball has not come out from a ruck or maul
Not everyone can join a scrum. Only eight players from each team can take part, almost always the eight forwards in the side. The scrum is formed at the place where the infringement happened, they must take place at least five metres from the touch or trylines.
Forming A Scrum
The eight forwards are the players who form the scrum. The hooker, two props, two second rows, two flankers and the number 8 all bind together in a 3-4-1 formation, ready to lock heads with the opposition.
The hooker is the all important player in the scrum - it's their job to get the ball out for the scrum-half.
To make the hooker's life that bit easier are the two props. They bind on tightly on both sides of the hooker, leaving no gaps between them.
Next comes the two second row forwards. They bind tightly together and pack down behind the front row, putting their heads in the gaps between the hooker and the props.
Then come the two flankers, who bind on to both the props and second rows on either side of the scrum.
The last, but by no means least, of this exclusive gang is the number 8. They pack down behind the second row forwards, putting their head inbetween the two second rows.
And there you have the scrum - one of the most spectacular sites in rugby union.
When it comes to scrums, the hooker is the player with all the responsibility and pressure.
Their job is to strike the ball back to the number 8 once the scrum-half has feed the ball into the scrum.
But this is not as easy as it sounds. Why? Because the opposition's hooker is trying to steal the ball from you. Plus you've got eight huge forwards on the other side trying to push you off the ball.
The hooker is the only player in the scrum who can raise their feet - otherwise they would never be able to strike the ball. However, no other player in the scrum is allowed to handle the ball until the ball is free - not even the hooker.
Finishing a Scrum
A scrum is finished once the ball has come out of the scrum. Once it has, then the opposition scrum-half can tackle their opposite number for the ball.
But in some situations the number 8 may dribble with the ball, keeping it in the scrum.
This means the opposing scrum-half cannot get their hands on the ball because it's still in the scrum.
This often happens when the team in possession have an attacking scrum near their opponent's try line.
If you do not already have an account Click here to Register.