Football: Rugby 101

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For people raised in North America, the sports they think about most revolve around the ones founded here, such as football. Children grow up knowing the rules and how to play. However, to truly know and love America’s passion, it is important to know its origin.

Rugby, known as the forerunner to American football, is a difficult game to understand especially since it’s a game founded in Europe and not discovered by most until high school or college.

Historically speaking, rugby finds its roots in Rugby, Warwickshire, England, sometime between the mid-18th and 19th centuries, as a variation of soccer. The legend claims that during a game of soccer, a young boy by the name of William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it toward the goal and the other players followed suit.

Since that historic day, rugby has reached the four corners of the world and is still rising in popularity. Even though the popularity of rugby has increased, the game is still complicated for a beginner.

To keep it simple, the game consists of running, passing and kicking an oval-shaped ball to progress down the field, called a rugby pitch. The object is to place the ball past the goal line, which results in a try, similar to a touchdown in football. With few stops, the ball changes possession continuously, causing the 15 players on the field to play on both offense and defense.

These 15 players are split into two main groups: forwards and backs. Forwards claim the fame of giving rugby the common stereotype that players have to weigh 300 pounds to be useful. The weight is not the important part but rather the strength.

Eight forwards make up what is known as the pack, which are the bigger, stronger players on the team. Their main goal is to use their strength to win possession of the ball and continue progression down the field.

At many points during the game the forwards on each team line up in a set-piece contest called a scrum. To visualize this, think of the offensive and defensive lines in football going head to head after the ball is snapped.

Once the forwards win the scrum by taking control of the ball, the seven backs take over. Backs are the reason smaller athletes have the chance to compete in rugby.

The backs form a line which stretches across the pitch, with one player slightly behind the next to prevent the ball from traveling forward. Because the backs spend the most time controlling the ball, they tend to score most of the points.

There are several ways to score in rugby, the first dealing with a try worth five points. A try is earned by placing the ball across the goal line. Following a try, a conversion goal worth two points is earned by kicking the ball through the goal.

A second way to score is off a goal kick during the match. Instead of scoring a try, the ball is kicked through the goal for three points. But the catch is, before the ball is kicked the player must bounce the ball on the ground first.

The final way to score is on a penalty kick. If an intentional foul is called a penalty kick is awarded for another chance at three points.

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