The next tournament that my team played at this season was Mudfest in Platteville, WI. This one was frustrating, both on and off the field.
It was a 7’s tournament, but we only had two matches and 21 players there, which meant that each of us got about seven minutes of playing time the entire day. In addition to that, we had our first game around 9 in the morning and our second 3 in the afternoon. It was, in my opinion, not worth waking up at 5 am for.
The weekend after was much better, thankfully. It was our home tournament, Ruck the Dub, a 15’s tournament where each team had two guaranteed matches. I played in four different matches; two for Madison and two for Whitewater.
Madison’s team didn’t have enough women for a full team, so I played with them against Whitewater for the first game of the day and again verses Stout.
I then went on to play with Whitewater against Stout, and the final game was the alumni game.
It was also where we announce rookies. Its kind of like the sibs thing that sororities do, where new girls are paired up with more experienced ones to mentor them. This year I got my second rookie, Rachel. She is being trained to play scrum half and is doing very well with the position.
The weekend after that, Easter weekend, we were going to have a friendly scrimmage with our former coaches’ women’s team, but it got canceled either from predicted rain or not enough commitment, I’m not sure.
I haven’t really been talking too much about how I’ve been doing this season, so I’m going to fix that.
As the end of the semester draws nearer, so does the college rugby season.
The first tournament that my team attended was Nash Bash in Nashville, Tennessee. Teams from all over the country went to compete. The Friday before the tournament, we had a free day to explore the city with the vans we drove up with. The van that I was in went to a museum, the Parthenon, a civil war house that was haunted, and ate some really good southern barbecue for dinner.
Our first match was almost going to be against Marquette, which would would have been disappointing since they are our, geographically speaking, closest rival during competitive fall season. We were able to switch to playing a Northern Michigan team instead.
Our next match was against UIC, who we also play during fall season, but we played against them anyway.
For our last match, I don’t know who we were supposed to play because they didn’t show up. The captains, once they found out, just celebrated the forfeit as a victory to the team and we took pictures in front of the post.
While I have talked about how rugby works in previous posts, these videos will help further understand the game. Some of these are the videos I was shown when I first started playing rugby.
The video above goes over what rugby is, who are on the teams, and stuff like that in an entertaining British accent.
This is a good video to show to someone before they go watch their first game as it gives a gist of what is about to happen within a few short minutes if you do not have a lot of time to sit down and explain the game to them.
This next video elaborates more on tackling. Focus on the hips, because they don’t lie! You will be able to tell where the ball carrier is going to go based on where their hips are pointing and you will be able to take down even the slipperiest runner.
There are many differences between full 15’s rugby and 7’s, so I’m only going to go over the general gist of how the two differ.
In 7’s, there are teams of 7 instead of 15, as the name suggests, as well as having 7 minute halves instead 40 minute halves. This is mostly because its fewer players dealing with just as much space as full 15’s. In the game, each team only has two props, a hook, a scrum half, a fly half, an inside center, and an outside center. All other positions in 15’s are dropped.
Rugby 7’s is what is currently played in the Olympics.
Rugby 7’s is a faster-paced game and is more speed and passing the ball oriented than slowing down the game and crash with the ball oriented. That, however, doesn’t mean don’t play smart rugby. Look before passing the ball, tackle low, and ruck. From my experience playing 7’s, most teams don’t ruck, so this is important in gaining and maintaining possession of the ball.
Take note of how quickly the ball is passed. Rucks have one person in them when they form. The scrum half passes it out faster than would happen in 15’s.
Getting in a solid, clean pass is still important. Sloppiness can lead to knock-ons (where the ball is knocked forward during an attempted pass and causes a scrum) and dropped balls. If a good pass cannot be completed and you don’t have anyone with you, it is OK to go down with the ball.
One of the exercises that my team does to get ready for competitive fall season is the 80 minute challenge. It simulates the intensity of a full length game of running and tackling. Within this challenge, different core strengthening exercises are performed to mimic the effort needed in tackling, rucking, and scrumming.
This is the order I like to do the challenge in, but it can be switched up if need be.
15 minutes running
15 push ups
15 sit ups
10 minutes running
5 up downs (also called burpees, where you jump up, jump down to push up position, then jump up again)
30 second plank
15 minutes running
5 minute break
15 minutes running
15 push ups
15 sit ups
10 minutes running
5 up downs
30 second plank
15 minutes running
This is called the 80 minute challenge because it includes 80 minutes of running. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to do this. It took me about two hours to finish it.
This is both a physically and mentally challenging challenge, and is best done with up beat music and an encouraging running buddy. Being an endurance exercise, don’t worry about speed. Many rugby players have difficulty completing this challenge, so feel free to take breaks when necessary. Just make sure to stop the time when you do.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Feel free to add what you like to bring with you to games in the comments section below!