Short Videos

Watching rugby is the second best way to understand it, with the first being playing in a game.  Watching Vines and Instagram videos are good ways to see snippets if you don’t have the time to sit down and watch an 80 minute game.

The vine shown is an example of a high tackle. Take note on how the tackler is grabbing onto the shoulders and the tacklee’s head and neck are going down, which could lead to neck and spinal injuries.

The video bellow is a good example of the back line having fast hands to gain as many yards as possible before getting tackled.  The back line getting steep after a ruck helped them get the ball out quicker.

In this next video, one of the players is able to get by the defense by punting the ball and running up to catch it.  He then is able to make a breakaway and score a try.

Playing on Defense Simplified

The three main things to remember when playing on defense is to get big hits in tackles, a strong ruck, and to “build the wall”.

Be aggressive when you tackle.  When the other team sees a strong tackler, their hesitation can lead to your team getting the ball.

When a ruck goes down, getting low and having a strong body position will help in gaining possession of the ball.

In a defense ruck, there are two people, one on either side of the ruck, called the guards.  These two players aren’t always the same people.  They are the ones who are closest to where the ruck formed that weren’t part of the ruck themselves.  In order to let their teammates know that the positions are filled, they raise their outside the ruck side hand and yell “guard! guard! guard!”.  Their job is to stay right on the outsides of a ruck and watch for the ball to be out.  Once the ball is out, they yell “ball’s out!” and run forward to tackle the ball carrier.  Their unofficial position is similar to that of the flankers in a scrum.

If it looks like the other team is winning possession of the ball, the team will get into a flat line behind the last foot of the farthest back person in a ruck.  Stay spread out across the field and avoid having big gaps in the line.

 

Strengthening rucks, tackles, and scrums

Having good leg muscles and a strong core will improve your rucks, scrums, and tackles.

I’m not sure if other teams use this term exactly, but one of the exercises my team does to strengthen the core is the constipated puppy.

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It is a good way to practice getting low for tackles and avoiding being too high, which can lead to a penalty.  It also reinforces strong body positions in rucks and scrums, thereby making them safer and less likely to collapse or bridge.

A constipated puppy, as shown doing by the woman in the photo above, is where your legs and knees are at 90 degree angles, your hands are about shoulder width apart, and your back is flat.  If another person were to go up and shove you and you have a strong body position, you will not move.  Imagine that you are sucking your belly button into your back and puff your chest out to help remember to keep your head up.

Doing a plank (propped up on elbows, forearms and toes with a flat back and straight legs) or a superman (balancing on your stomach with arms and legs extended in front and behind you) can also help improve core strength.

Doing these during commercials while watching TV is a great way to exercise without altering your schedule.

How to score

The most common way to score is with a try.  Worth five points, it is when you place the ball down in the other team’s try zone.

 

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Unlike in football, you have to touch it down to the ground in a controlled motion, or touch it to the uprights.  A try doesn’t count if it is held up by the other team.  That’s when they put their hands between the ball and the ground.  If that happens, there is a scrum at the five meter line.

After a try is scored, the scoring team can then attempt to earn another two points with a conversion kick and have it go through the uprights above the middle bar.

This can either be done with a drop kick, where the ball must leave the player’s hands and touch the ground before it is kicked, or off the ground with a tee.  The conversion kick is done in line from where the ball was touched down.  So if the ball was placed down near the edge of the field, you can back up as much as you want, but you have to kick it in from the edge of the field.

Another way to earn points is with a penalty, or free, kick.  This option is chosen by the team receiving the penalty if they are close enough to the uprights and they have a strong kicker on their team.  successfully making this kick is worth three points.

Game day good to haves

When game day arrives, it’s easy to forget something in the excitement. Here are some things to double check you have before you leave.

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Cleats- you can’t play without them. At all. Bring extras if you have them just in case. Break in new cleats before game day for better movement. Rugby or soccer cleats are best. But if you have softball or baseball cleats, removing the toe spikes can work in a pinch.

Water- while there are usually a set of team water bottles, you will be exerting a lot of energy and having water for after the game is better than not. Sports drinks help with electrolytes, but water is best.

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Mouth guard- keep your teeth in your mouth. There are special mouth guards for braces as well.

A snack- nice to have for between or after games. Fruit and protein bars work best.

Cash- sometimes they will have snacks and tournament tee shirts for sale.

Cellphone- not only are they good for emergencies, road trip music and post game selfies are fun as well.

Blanket- to sit on if it’s warm and to huddle inside if it’s not.

Plastic shopping bag- keep the field that sticks to your cleats from getting to everything else in your bag.

Extra set of clothes- spandex is only comfortable for so long

Hand sanitizer- if the port a potty runs out

Bandaids- for turf burns

Pads or tampons- just in case

Pain killers- this is a contact sport

Deodorant

Feel free to add what you like to bring with you to games in the comments section below!

Lineout

A lineout is what happens when the ball goes out of bounds. This could happen if the ball is kicked or thrown out of bounds, or the ball carrier runs or is tackled to out of bounds. It takes place at the point where the ball or ball carrier went out of bounds.

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In a lineout, the forwards form two pods of three people, two lifting and one jumping, to catch the ball being thrown in through the gap. the two pods then step in together and lift the jumper in order to catch the ball. While the jumper is in the air, she can not be tackled until she is back on the ground.

However, she wants to pass the ball to the waiting scrum half, who will them pass it to the back line, as soon as possible. This will give them more time to gain yards before meeting the other team’s defense.

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The team that the lineout is to sets how many pods the lineout has, and the other team matches their numbers. The team that the lineout is to also is the one to throw the ball in, giving them the advantage of knowing how high the ball will go.

Tackles

In rugby, one is only allowed to tackle the player carrying the ball.  There is a slight exception, where if the person just passed the ball, but there is too much momentum, it is safer to complete the tackle.

When you hit the other person at or above the shoulders, it is considered a high tackle. Don’t do these. This is where a lot of injuries happen. The lower the tackle, the better. Getting low also makes it harder for the ball carrier to prevent being tackled.

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Pictured above is a good example.  She is getting low, wrapping up, and popping up a little to give it some oomph. She also made sure she had her teammates with her to ruck over her when she goes down.

Wrapping up (wrapping you’re arms around the person getting tackled) is a good way to make sure you go down to the ground with them. Popping your shoulder into her gut knocks her breath away and makes her think twice the next time she sees you running at her when she has the ball.

Do not panic and do not hesitate, whether you are the ball carrier or the tackler. This is also a way that injuries happen. Limbs flail and are more likely to get injured. Players don’t fall correctly.

Kick off and Rucking

At the beginning of the game, there is a coin toss between the two teams’ captains.  The winner of the coin toss decides if her team will start the game kicking (on defense) or receiving (on offense).

During the kick off, the team that is kicking stays in a straight line behind the kicker’s last foot. As soon as the ball leaves her foot, the team runs up and attempts to tackle whoever caught the ball.

The team that is receiving the ball is in a formation called the exploded scrum.  This formation ensures that the receiving team is spread out enough to catch the ball wherever it goes and close enough that when someone gets tackled, she has teammates nearby to ruck.

When a player is tackled, a ruck is formed. The one tackled only has a few seconds to place the ball towards her team before she has to release it.  She then wants to roll or crawl away from it as soon as possible to avoid getting stepped on by either team.  The players in the ruck try to keep possession of the ball by having it stay between her feet until the scrum half is able to pick it up and pass it to her team.  The other team tries to do the same.  When rucking against someone, one wants to get lower than the player she is rucking against with knees slightly bent and a straight back, one foot in front of the other.  Other players from her team then support her by  placing her shoulder on the first rucker’s behind and pushing until the ball on the ground is between her feet.

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The ruck is over when the ball is out.  A good way to tell is that if a hypothetical bird can poop on the ball because it is not being contained by a player, then the ball is out.

Positions

In a traditional game of rugby, there are fifteen players on both teams; eight forwards and seven backs.

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Image from http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/rugby_union/rules_and_equipment/6332057.stm

The forwards, numbers 1 through 8, are typically the bigger players who scrum, do line outs, and the bulk of the tackling.  The only time time the positions have a specific task are in scrums.

1 and 3 are the two props.  In a scrum, they provide the driving power and support the hook.

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2 is the hook, who is supported in the middle between the two props, tries to rake back the ball with her feet to get it to her team’s scrumhalf.  The hook also jumps during a line out.  This is the position I hope to play in the upcoming season.

4 and 5 are the locks.  They provide stability and extra power to the scrum.

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6 and 7 are the flankers and are located on the outsides of the scrum.  Their job is to, as soon as the ball is out, run up and tackle the scrumhalf (or whoever has the ball).

8 is the eighth-man.  She goes behind the locks and adds extra weight to the push.  She also controls the direction of the scrum.

9 is the scrum half, and can be considered a forward or a back.  This position can be considered the quarterback of rugby, and is the most mentally demanding position on the team.  She decides where the ball will go and what play to do.  Only the scrum half can pick up the ball from the ground (unless they have been tackled, where you will hear “scrummy in”).

The back line, numbers 10 through 15, are are the quick ones who do more passing and score a majority of the tries.

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10 is the fly half and communicates with the scrum half to decide what the back line does.

11 and 14 are the wings.  They stay on the very edges of the field and tackle the other team or get them out of bounds when they try to run past that way.

12 and 13 are the inside and outside center, respectively.  They run and pass the ball in an attempt to get the ball to the other side of the field and score a try.

15 is the full back.  She stays far behind the back line and keeps an eye on where the game is going and communicates that to her team.  She also is there to catch the ball if the other team kicks it.