"Give blood: Play rugby."Rugby is one of several games that Americans, for the most part, do not get. (It's OK, people who get rugby often do not get American football.) While the two games look broadly similar there are three facts about rugby that tend to stand out:
— T-shirt slogan
- You get minimal padding.
- You have to stay on the pitch for the entire match.
- You get far fewer breaks in play. Well, time-wise...
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Anime & Manga
- In Maison Ikkoku, Godai plays rugby with his old high school team — and he ends up with two black eyes.
- Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu has the hilarious Rugby episode (pictured above) — which is something of a subversion due to the clear indication that it was excessive violence, which got Sousuke immediately kicked out. Sōsuke gives Training from Hell to a sissy team of rugby players. The ending result is... highly amusing.
- The rugby-centered manga No Side starts with the main character dying by breaking his neck against the goalpost. Then he comes back to the sport as a girl. Later chapters use war images and much violence.
- YuYu Hakusho at one point features a set of demons with a sports theme, one of them called Rugby. It's teased whether he picked the name because of the human sport, or whether humans named the sport after him. At one point he says he likes the game because it's basically organized violence.
- Parodied with Asterix in Britain: a rugby game is made more "interesting" when it turns out that the players' drink has been spiked with magic potion. It was already pretty violent without the potion, what with one player jumping up and down repeatedly on another player's head. Obelix enthusiastically comments, "We must take this nice game back to Gaul!"
Anticlimax: It's really frightfully simple. You can do almost anything to carry the bladder over the other team's goal line. Anything's allowed except using weapons without previous agreement...
- Gaston Lagaffe: Lagaffe briefly gives rugby a try but gives up after getting repeatedly and violently tackled.
- France has (at least) two comic series on rugby: one is about a rural village team (where rugby is Serious Business) and the other is on France's national team, and is titled Barbarians. Yeah. Could be a nod to the stereotypical player of the game or the name of the sport's most famous invitational side.
- Warren Ellis's word on rugby:
Doc Samson: It's better than football. No padding or helmets, no stopping every minute, none of the dumb stuff. Two teams of gnarled, scarred freaks pounding the blood out of each other with a ball somewhere in the middle. It's awesome.
- In the British Anthology Comic The Beano playing Rugby, beating up over the top tough rugby players or just scaring them by being there is a common gag used in comic strips, especially Minnie The Minx. This gag is used to show how tough the characters are.
Films — Live-Action
- Monty Python's The Meaning of Life has a scene with a pretty brutal game of rugby, and to emphasizes the violence of it all, it leads into a scene in a war zone. As if it weren't bad enough, it's a game being played by students of a private school against their teachers, and the kids are being brutally roughed up. One of the professors watching the game even trips a student has he runs by so he can be tackled.
- Invictus: Averted; the worst any player gets is a hamstring injury, and it heals up in time for the World Cup.
- The opening scene of The Four Feathers has the junior officers from two British regiments playing rugby. In the rain. And the mud. And the sweet young English girls in their white linen leg-of-mutton-sleeved dresses standing on the sidelines under their umbrellas obviously getting—in a very understated, ladylike way—quite worked up over the sight of all those big, strong, handsome, muscular men beating the stuffing out of one another.
- The Indian movie Sye: Granted, the writer was apparently a bit unclear about certain rules. He was convinced that a rugby match implied rivers of blood. The most ridiculous moment comes when the Scrum-half wiggles inside the channel between the two packs during a scrum, and starts punching the opposing team's hooker straight in the face. (If you don't play rugby, this sentence is most likely lost on you, go watch the scene from the movie if you're curious, it can be found online).
- Tuppy Glossop finds this out to his cost in "The Ordeal of Young Tuppy" in the Jeeves and Wooster book Very Good, Jeeves.
"[...] Besides," he went on, in a quiet meditative voice, "there is no power on earth that could get me off this field until I've thoroughly disembowelled that red-haired bounder. Have you noticed how he keeps tackling me when I haven't got the ball?"
"Isn't that right?"
"Of course it's not right. Never mind! A bitter retribution awaits that bird. I've had enough of it. From now on I assert my personality."
"I'm a bit foggy as to the rules of this pastime," I said. "Are you allowed to bite him?"
"I'll try, and see what happens," said Tuppy, struck with the idea and brightening a little.
- In Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) we're not sure about rugby, but scrumball apparently is. The Sisters of Battle acolytes weren't that good at it, since they preferred to take down players as opposed to scoring points, while unpopular students were regularly tackled regardless of whether they had the ball or not.
- William de Worde attended a private university for Old Money, where he enjoyed great success in gesticulating wildly and expending great amounts of energy without actually approaching the ball.
- Bar brawls have existed for so long in Ankh-Morpork they've become a kind of combination of rugby and gymnastics.
- Then there's Unseen Academicals, where the form of football that exists is known for violence and the wizards are tasked with reforming it.
- Though he went to Rugby, the school where the sport was codified, Harry Flashman stayed well away from the game due to this trope. He did feature in the game in Tom Brown's Schooldays, but he and his chum Speedicut both took great care to look as though they were playing really enthusiastically while avoiding any risk of getting hurt.
- In Safehold, the main character is from a future culture, blending in with a Future Imperfect Feudal Future. They know that he's a bit better than human, so the prince wants him to play rugby on his team, but "Merlin" admits he's never played their version of the game (which is a water sport). Turns out it involves holding people underwater until they give up the ball.
Cayleb: It'll be fine!
Royal Guard: He doesn't even know the rules!
Merlin: Rules? In rugby?
Royal Guard: Well, there is that...
- Journey to Chaos: One of Eric's clients is an orc who thinks humans are fragile things and he supposes that the humans of Eric's homeworld must be even more so. Eric argues against this by saying they have many brutal, full contact, sports. The only one he mentions is Rugby.
- In episode "The One With All the Rugby", Ross plays rugby to impress Emily, and ends up in agony.
Ross: Oh, just hold on a second. I'm watching this rugby thing on ESPN. I don't know what the big deal is. I'm man enough to play this sport.
Joey: Dude, you're not even man enough to order the channel that carries the sport.
- Joey tries to explain the sport to him.
Joey: Right here, this is a "scrum," okay. It's kinda like a huddle.
Ross: And is a "hum" kinda like a "scruddle"? Heh.
Joey: Heh heh. Ross, these guys are gonna kill you.
- In episode "The One With All the Rugby", Ross plays rugby to impress Emily, and ends up in agony.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Giles comments about gridiron as it compares to rugby, summing up the traditional British view:
Jenny: I don't know what it is about football that does it for me. I mean, it lacks the, the grace of basketball, the, uh, poetry of baseball. At its best it's unadorned aggression. It's such a rugged contest.
Giles: Rugged. American football. Heh.
Jenny: And that's funny because?
Giles: No! Heh. I just think it's rather odd that a nation that prides itself on its virility should feel compelled to strap on forty pounds of protective gear just in order to play rugby.
- Harry Enfield and Chums: In the "Upper class drunks" sketch:
Drunk #1: Good game on Saturday?
Drunk #2: Bloody Good! Three tries, two conversions and twenty-two hospitalisations.
- "Jock-O-Rama" by Dead Kennedys from the album Frankenchrist describes a government-sponsored high-school American football tournament as a slaughterfield:
Now boys, this game ain't played for fun
You're going out there to win
How d'ya win?
Get out there
And snap the other guy's knee!
Beat 'em up! beat 'em up!
Ra ra ra
Snap those spinal cords
Ha ha ha
The star quarterback lies injured
Unconscious on the football field
Looks like his neck's been broken
Seems to happen somewhere every year
His mom and dad clutch themselves and cry
Their favorite son will never walk again
Coach says, that boy gave a hundred percent
What a man
- The satiric TV show Les Guignols de l'info depicts rugby players as senseless brutes whose training consists in bashing down brick walls and drinking fresh blood. A particular example come to mind: a French team had to fight-play against the "All-Black" known for being quite good. The strategy include Military support and they don't expect every player to survive. In another episode, former French coach Bernard Laporte said "The first rugby game was a wedding in Brive (that's a French city), the ball only came 30 years later."
- Bleak Expectations manages to take this Up to Eleven (and then some), with the amazingly violent Bastardball, played by the students of St. Bastards. It's rugby, but with absolutely no concern for anyones' safety or continued existence. The rules are simple; two teams with no set number of players, divided into five groups (hitters, kickers, punchers, pitchforkers and shooters) whose goal is to get the ball (i.e. the youngest person around) to the other side of the field and shove their head in a bucket of dung, which counts as one Bastard (or point).
- Blood Bowl is set in an alternate universe Warhammer, where a rugby/American football-esque sport has become Serious Business and everyone wants to play that instead of the usual Warhammer thing. Of course, it's the Warhammer universe, so they take this trope and ramp it up past eleven. Inflicting injuries on the other team is encouraged in the official rules, chainsaws and flame pits are features built into the average pitch, and players dying in the middle of games is a startlingly frequent occurrence. The rulebook itself points out that any world where this sport is popular must suck HARD.
- In the Schlock Mercenary universe, where all sports from Deathball to Ballet are unified in the same league with the teams choosing which to play, Rugby is not on the list because it is too dangerous.
- And this is in a universe where they allowed to put high explosives in a football and deliberately aim for an interception.
- The "Rule Brittannia" arcs of Witchprickers concern an extremely brutal sport known as "Scrumby", all that has been revealed about it is that the death toll is extremely high and it's popular everywhere but America.
- Mr. Barken plays Rugby in Kim Possible. In one episode he gets glued to Ron and, well, Barken enjoys himself...
- Back during the 2007 Rugby World Cup, one French player (Sébastien Chabal), nicknamed "The Caveman" when playing in England, went through Memetic Mutation as a violent, hairy lunatic who ate babies and wore a Badass Beard.
- Truth in Television for anyone in the UK who wasn't built like a brick shithouse during their school years and had to face down a squadron of their classmates who were in enforced physical education lessons.
- Just watch the ball and stay away from it.
- This is particularly true for the Private Schools, many of which have a proud rugby playing tradition (7% of the British population is privately educated. So is 50% of the England Rugby Squad. This is probably the reason for the quote "Football is a game for gentlemen played by hooligans and Rugby Union is a game for hooligans played by gentlemen"). The main difference is that the players tend to be better trained and thanks to better training facilities and dietary guidance, much, much larger.
- City of London Boys, a well regarded and extremely old Private School, stopped playing rugby after one boy was killed. The scrum collapsed and his neck snapped. The South African headmaster, though from a culture where Rugby is Serious Business, immediately stopped the game. Considering the size of the players in the modern game (supposedly 14 year old players have been known to comfortably top six feet and be similarly wide), it was far too dangerous.
- Buck Shelford famously had his scrotum ripped in a ruck, playing for New Zealand against France in 1986. It is "famous" because, with one testicle dangling free, he calmly asked the doc to stitch him up and went back out to play. He ended the game with four teeth knocked out and a concussion, and has no memory of the match.
- John Sattler in the 1970 Grand Final for the Australian Rugby League. Suffered a broken jaw only ten minutes in, to which he reacted to be refusing to be taken for treatment or even be shut out of plays to avoid further injury. He finally agreed to go to hospital, after remaining on-field for most of the match, accepting the winner's trophy and making the acceptance speech.
- Gordon Brown became blind in his left eye after he was kicked in the head during a rugby union match when he was a student.
- Sadly, people (often younger players) sustaining crippling injuries (such as broken necks, fractures resulting in permanent damage) is an uncommonly common occurrence in Rugby.
- A rather popular joke is "There are no winners in rugby, only survivors".
- As mentioned above, for non-Australians, Australian Rules Football sometimes gets confused with rugby, and has a similar reputation. This made worse by an exhibition match in London in 1987 between Carlton and North Melbourne, dubbed "the Battle of Britain", which is still infamous for the brawling that occurred today. Apparently, an ad campaign in England in the leadup to the game emphasised the game's violence.
- In New Zealand, the Accident Compensation Corporation (the government-owned universal accidental injury insurer) received 336,990 new claims for sports-related injuries in the year to June 2011 - of which 63,260, or 18.8 percent, were from playing rugby (both league and union)! With 178,100 registered rugby players in New Zealand, that equates to 355 new claims per 1000 registered players!
- An infamous example is the fate of Max Brito, a winger for the team of Côte d'Ivoire in the 1995 World Cup, who was crushed under a ruck of Tonga players and ended up paralyzed below the neck.
- Technically the Haka performed by New Zealand's national team, the All Blacks, just before a match starts is not a war dance. However, you could be forgiven for mistaking it for one. Tonga, Samoa and Fiji have their own versions.
- The Paralympic sport of wheelchair rugby is also known as murderball and yes, it's for a very good reason. Let's just say that the special wheelchairs have to be made of titanium.
- There were enough wheelchair-bound rugby-enthusiasts to warrant creating the sport in the first place. Make of that what you will.
- Rugby has had its particularly painful moments with a controversial tactic known as the "squirrel grip". All Black legend Buck Shelford suffered a ripped scrotum during the 1986 "Battle of Nantes" after an opposing player carried it out, and Australian NRL player Haydn Peacock had his penis torn during a similar tackle in 2016.