Monday, September 12, 2011

A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots: Part Three

Rugby was once considered a brutal and rugged game, the purpose of which was to develop character and team play in the young Fauntleroys’ of the privileged classes. However modern rugby has developed into a fast paced game of skill and determination, where mind and body are exerted to the maximum. In Rugby Union each side has 15 players and all have specific duties to perform. Team formations vary but are broken into two, sometimes three lines. The seven forwards make up the pack. The front five consist of the front role of three and second row of the two locks. The back row have the two wing forward and the number eight. Number 10 in the modern game is referred to the outside half or 1st 5/8th Traditionally the second group or backs consists of the remaining 6 players. The loose forwards and Number 9, the scrum half, form the third group, but in the formation Number 9, alone separates the seven forwards and six backs. Invariably the side possessing superior skill, and the team that plays together, will prevail over a much fitter, but less experienced side.

Time was different positions required different style boots but all modern rugby boots are low cut for all players. Forwards wear heavier boots with different stud formation than the backs. More studs ensure greater stability and help in the scrum. The backs wear lighter boots to allow them to run faster.

Number 1 Prop Props need to be able to stabilize the foot on landing, This is particularly important for second row forwards, who are hoisted into the air at the line out (by the props), and are prone to ankle injuries.

Rules of the game: The Referee, Couch and Team Captains

A singular, all-powerful referee oversees each match. Talking back to the ref is simply not tolerated. To assist with handling and kicking the ball is slightly larger and more ovoid than an American football. A match is played out in two 40-minute halves, with a ten-minute half time to regroup. Only the referee is allowed on the pitch and he keeps time. In the past there were no stadium clocks in rugby. Complete matches usually begin and end in the span of just ninety minutes. Stoppages are permitted for injuries only. As match play moves past full time, the referee may allow play to continue until a turnover or a score occurs. Up to six substitutes are allowed, but once subbed the player may not return. One exception to this rule is if a player receives a blood injury, they have to leave the field of play for treatment, and can temporarily be replaced by a player from the bench of substitutes. However, once patched up, they may return to the field of play and the replacement player has to return to the bench. Medical staff and water carriers are now allowed on the field. Play continues until an infringement or a score occurs, not a 'turnover'.

Aside from selecting substitutions, and offering a few moments of critique and direction at half-time, a rugby coach has absolutely no mechanism for input into the game once it has begun. He generally takes a seat in the stands.

The selected team captain is solely responsible for conferring with the referee, and directing strategic plays. The match is continuous, with all players committed to running, passing, kicking and tackling for the full eighty minutes.

Role of the television match official system (TMO)

The objective of the television match official system (video referee) is to ensure accurate and consistent decisions are made on the field in a timely and efficient manner. The TMOs can only be used only for four areas - determining the grounding for a try and whether the players involved were in touch before the try was scored, to check whether a kick at goal was successful, to confirm if an infringement in the build-up to a try or scoring opportunity took place and to consider an act of possible foul play. The TMO is a tool to help referees and assistant referees with their on-field calls and the referee remains the decision-maker who is in charge of the process.

Rules of the game: Scoring

The objective of the game is to gain more points than the opposing team within the allotted time of play. A tie is called if the scores are equal at the end of play.

The point score is as follows.

Try (5 points): A rugby try is similar to an American football touchdown, but with two key differences. When the ball carrier crosses the goal or tryline, play continues. The player must be seen to put downward pressure on the ball, in full view of the referee, (often in the midst of warding off tacklers,) in order for a try to be awarded.

If the referee has difficulty in making the decision, he may ask the TMO to make the decision. He does this by making an outline of a rectangle with his hands to demonstrate his request.

Conversion (2 points): The team’s goal kicker must then kick the conversion from the mark of the try along a line perpendicular to the tryline from the 22metre line or further back if desired. From there he can place or drop kick it between the posts. (Rugby goal posts are located on the tryline.)

Penalty (3 points): When a penalty is awarded, the captain may elect to "take the points" and give his kicker a shot at goal. The ball must then be kicked through the exact mark given by the referee, again as a placed or dropped kick. This could be a hard price to pay for being caught offside, playing the ball while on the ground, or being guilty of dangerous play (high tackling, etc.). When the penalty is too far out from the posts, the kicker may elect to kick to touch and take the resulting lineout or take a quick tap penalty, where the player touches the ball with his foot and runs towards the opposition half. The opposition must allow the player ten metres to run before tackling him or the referee may ask for the penalty to be taken again or award the team a further 10 metres advantage.

Drop Goal (3 points): Any player, may at any time, from anywhere on the pitch, attempt a drop kick. This same rule still exists in the NFL. Although difficult and risky (since a miss generally results in a turnover), this form of scoring has broken many a heart. Often used as a last resort in response to a solid defensive stand, an outstanding kicker can break an opponent’s back with a swift and accurate blow. Many games have been won in this dramatic fashion, often at the final whistle.

Open and Set Play

During the game play must not take place in front of the ball and subsequently players are penalized for passing the ball forward in the direction of the opposite goal. There are stringent offside rules to prevent this. If the ball is accidentally fumbled forward, a minor infraction called a "knock on" has occurred. At the referee’s discretion, however, play does not stop should the other team gain an advantage from the miscue.

The ball can be advanced by: running it forward, kicking it forward, or passing it laterally until an open running space can be found and exploited. Field position can be dramatically enhanced with tactically accurate kicking. Balls are usually kicked to a part of the field left undefended, leading to a frantic foot race for possession.

A mystery to may strangers to the game is the scrummage (or scrum). The referee awards scrums after minor infractions arise (such as a forward pass or knock on). At the given mark each forward pack of eight players interlock, binding together, about an arms-length apart. As the two front rows engage, a tunnel is created. All 16 forwards push in unison. On a hand signal from his hooker, the scrum half-back for the side awarded the scrum rolls the ball into the tunnel. The ball is then "hooked" back with a well-timed foot strike (as hands cannot touch the ball in a scrum formation), or by sheer force one pack may push the other over and past the ball to gain possession. The ball is picked up when it emerges at the last scrummager’s foot.

A lineout occurs when the ball travels over the sidelines, or "into touch". Play is resumed from the mark where the ball went into touch, by the side not handling it last. That side calls out a coded play and attempts to direct the ball to their assigned jumper. The ball is thrown down the middle of two parallel rows of opposing forwards, standing a yard apart. The advantage to the throwing side comes in knowing which jumper to favour often hoists him to breathtaking heights. The ball may be caught or tapped back, with creative attacks sometimes coming from a quick, unexpected tap.
Scrums and lineouts are all about possession of the ball. The forward pack with dominant skills can overcome one of greater size. A dominant forward pack can win most set pieces (scrum and lineout), and in so doing, neutralize an extraordinary runner or kicker in the opponents back line, by keeping the ball out of his hands. As the ball readies to emerge from the base of a set piece, a platform for transition into an attacking play exists. That play may come from the forwards, or the scrum half may elect to spin the ball out to his backs. A scrum half is the play maker, quick, and always elusive, crafty and tough. His underhand pass out to the back line may be a 15-meter bullet thrown while diving in the direction of his pass, fully stretched out and perhaps in the grasp of a desperate defender. The swift and strong running back line then attacks the defence in an attempt to find open space, as in a 3-on-2 or 2-on-1 break in basketball. A well-executed back line movement can be graceful, powerful and astonishing all at once.

The following technical terms may help better understanding the commentaries of rugby union.

Advantage: The referee allows the game to proceed uninterrupted as long as the ball is in play and there are no major infractions. Play can continue after an infraction if the non-offending team gains an advantage.
Blind Side: The side nearest to the touch line.

Drop Kick: A kick technique where the ball is dropped to the ground and as it bounces back up it is kicked.

Field or pitch: The length of the field cannot exceed 100 meters (110 yards) and the width cannot exceed 69 meters (75 yards). Each try zone cannot exceed 22 meters (25 yards)

Dummy: A technique where one pretends to pass the ball.

Free Kick: Kick where a score may be made. Can be taken as a place kick, drop kick or if no score is attempted, a punt.

Grubber Kick: A kick technique where the ball bounces along the ground.

Knock-on: Where a player propels the ball toward the opponent's goal line. If this is deemed accidental then a scum results, when it is deliberate then a penalty is awarded.

Line-out: A play where two single file lines are formed by both teams after the ball goes out of touch. A player from the team that did not take it out throws the ball back in from the touch line between the two lines. This brings the ball back into play and determines which team receives the ball.

Maul: A loose formation brought around a player who is still in possession of the ball and has not been brought to the ground.

Obstruction (also called blocking): Where a player gets in the way of an opponent who is chasing after the ball. This results in a penalty.

Off-side: Generally when a player is in front of the ball when it was played last by a team member. A penalty occurs if a player is off-side and obstructs an opponent, plays the ball or is within 10 meters (10 yards) of an opponent playing the ball. This law is the most controversial as any cubists with the decision cannot be referred to the TMO. Only where there is foul play suspected or doubt over a try being scored, may the referee contact the TMO.

Accidental offside: Accidental offside results in the reward of a scrum to the opposition.

Penalty kick: Kick awarded to the non-offending team after a penalty occurs.

Place Kick: A kick technique where the ball is place on the ground before being kicked.

Punt Kick: A kick technique where the ball is dropped and kicked before it touches the ground.

Ruck: A loose formation created around a free ball or a player who has been brought to the ground with the ball.

I would like to thank Alistair "Come on, Scotland" McInnes for his patience and help trying to explain (to me) the finer points of rugby.

Read more
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part One: Introduction
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part Two: History of the Games
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part Three: Rules of the Games
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part Four: Rugby Boots
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part Five: Studs or Cleats
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part Six: Flower of Scotland
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part Seven: How to choose rugby boots
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part Eight: The Haka
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Nine: Rugby Injuries

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