The concept of Rugby Union
Rugby Union is in simple terms a game for 15 players where they carry the ball in their hands and attempt to place the ball on the ground behind the line at the end of the pitch to score. However the game is considerably more complex and so the tactics involved can resemble a game of chess rather than the "beautiful game" football.
Methods of scoring
There are 4 possible was of scoring: Try, Conversion, Penalty and Drop Goal.
Try –A the try carries the highest number of points 5. This is because it is probably the hardest to score and normally requires a team effort to obtain. To score a try the team in possession had to place the ball on the ground behind the try-line.
Conversion – When a try is score the scorer's team has the opportunity to score a further 2 points immediately after the score by attempting a place kick in line with where the try was scored.
Penalty Kick – The penalty kick as with the conversion is where the team's kicker attempts to kick the ball from the ground through the posts; the position is defined from where the offence was committed. There are 3 points awarded from a penalty kick.
Drop Goal – "the girls try" If in open play the ball is dropped onto the floor and kicked in the instant it hit the floor and the ball then flies through the posts the kickers team is awarded 3 points. Teams often use this tactic when they can't score a try hen the title "the girls try".
Knock On –The ball has to be thrown backward or level with the player throwing the ball, if the ball is thrown forwards the opposition is awarded a scrum where the ball is thrown from. If the ball is dropped play continues as long as the ball went immediately backwards from the drop, however if the ball went forward a 'knock on' has occurred and as with a forward pass a scrum is awarded to the opposition where the 'knock on' occurred.
Advantage –Unlike football if an offence occurs, play continues until the referee deems that the team that did not commit the offence has gained a "tactical or territorial advantage", however if no advantage is gained then the referee award that offence where it was committed. One of the first things a child learning the game is taught is you "play to the whistle" meaning you play on until the whistle tells you otherwise as advantage may be gained or lost.
Ruck –A ruck is a situation where 2 or more opposing players have arrived at a tackle situation and are attempting to play the ball. This then means a whole heap of complex rules apply and you can play the game you whole life and not understand them.
In simple terms you must leave the ball alone with your hands and push the opposition of the ball so you can move forward and another player (usually the scrum half ) picks the ball up at the back behind all of the other players. Another important rule is that if you come to join a maul you must come through an imaginary 'gate' formed by the back feet of you team enter that way. Entering from the side of the ruck is illegal and a penalty will be awarded by the referee for this offence.
Maul –In essence a ruck on your feet a maul is where a tackler is tackling a play who has remained on his feet and a supporting player has arrived and has bound on, now a offside line exists for both teams along the back foot of their team and as with a ruck players must join the maul through the 'gate'. The maul is a potent attacking weapon, if organised properly the ball is at the back away from the opposition shielded by a whole group of players the team in possession can move up the pitch at a snails pace with (if they keep the ball at the back) no risk of turning the ball over.
Scrum –A scrum is a set piece formed when a 'knock on' or forward pass occurs. The team's forwards join in a bound specific formation and bind with the opposition. The ball is then rolled down the middle of the scrum by the scrum half. The hooker then hooks the ball back towards his team with his feet whilst his team attempt to push the opposition back brining the ball to the back between the No. 8's feet. The ball is then played putting it back into open play through a variety of options, including the No.8 picking it up and running with it, the scrum half picking it up and running with it and the scrum half passing to the fly half.
Line Out –When the ball goes out of play the ball has to be thrown back in, this is done (usually) through a set play called the line out. The line out is played by the forwards, who line up opposite each other 5 yards from the touch line, except the hooker who throws the ball in. A player is then lifted into the air by 2 of his team mates and the ball thrown to him. He then can catch it or pass it "off the top" to another player. This is one of if not the most complicated part of the game as a team will have a code to tell their players where the ball is going and what they're going to do with it. This can be complex as there may be as many as 200 variations, which the forwards must learn. The number of players is decided by the team with the ball choosing from 1 to 7 in the line.
Tackle –A tackle is where a player with the ball is bound to by an opposition player attempting to pull that player down (and/or steal the ball). It remains a tackle until supporting players arrive for those players when it becomes a ruck or maul, creating off side lines.
Tactics and Common Phrases
"The Blind Side"
Every break down or scrum has a blind side and an open side, the blind side is the smaller side, so called as it is blind to the majority of the defenders who are on the open side as there is more space to cover on the open side.
The blindside is usually attacked when the space is big enough to send 2 players down but is the open side is still big enough to only have one defender spare thus creating a 2 on 1 situation and a potential try scoring situation.
"The Open Side "
The opposite of the blind side, the open side is the side with the most space. This gives the attacking team more space to play the ball but more defenders cover the open side and so often cancels the space out.
"Down the Middle"
Often to tie in defenders and to free up quick ball a team will put the ball "down the middle". This involves giving the ball to a big runner to run into contact in the middle of the pitch. This will hopefully prompt some of the wide defenders to move into help with the tackle and so leaves more space on the wings to attack.
The speed of which the ball comes back from the ruck (or maul) limits what moves you can play. For example teams playing champagne or 15 man rugby will aim to move the ball quickly to expose a unprepared defence and so want quick ball, the flip side to this is teams playing 10 man rugby want slow ball so they have time to organise themselves and slow play down to catch their breath.