Give blood: Play rugby.
— T-shirt slogan
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:
- 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...
For this reason, much media depicts Rugby as an agonizing slaughterhouse masquerading as a sport. This depiction is not confined to American media either. Nations where rugby is played a lot tend to compare it to other football codes and often come to the same impressions. Furthermore, the global rugby community seems to revel in their sport's reputation, taking perverse joy in the fact that the very mention of its name is enough to make football (association
) fans squirm.
There are elements of truth in this. In every single rugby game, players have to leave the field because of an injury. There is even a system concerning bleeding players - they have to leave the field immediately to be replaced by a teammate, but the original player can return within 10 minutes if the bleeding stops without it counting as a substitution.
But in the end, the truth of the matter is that both American football and rugby are about equally as dangerous to the players per minute of the match played. It's the risks
, and the type of fitness needed, that are different. Namely, American football often revolves around players making headlong sprints into one another, which are the main reason why padding is necessary. In rugby, on the other hand, hard hits of that sort are discouraged, with tackles generally involving pulling the other players to the ground as opposed to knocking them down. The result of this is that, while rugby tends to have a higher rate of scrapes, cuts, and gashes than American football, the concussion rate is lower — a fact that isn't lost on many rugby organizers, especially those in American youth leagues seeking to market it as an alternative to football that won't cause the concussions that that sport is notorious for. That said, rugby is currently reviewing the game's concussion protocols (for identification and treatment) as new research emerges about the long-term brain damage from repeated minor head injuries.
For reference, most games that involve a ball and an attempt for a team to get it from point A to point B share the same broad origins as a medieval peasant game played, in various forms, through much of Europe that was half Capture the Flag
, half Big Ball of Violence
Ironically, despite the violence of the game and the testosterone levels of the players, who are very rarely much less than six feet tall and even more rarely weigh less than eighty kilograms, they tend to be very polite to the referee. It can be very amusing to see a pocket sized referee call over the Captains, usually two men the size of small tanks
, each of whom could probably rip him in half with only minimal effort, and give them a stern talking to while they stand looking thoroughly humble and contrite, mumbling, "Yes sir", "No sir", "Sorry sir" and "of course, sir." This is at a sharp contrast to Association Football where harassing the referee seems to be an unofficial part of the sport.
Compare Blood Sport
. For information on the game, see Rugby League
or Rugby Union
(yes, there are two different versions. League is considered to be the working man's game while Union is considered to be disproportionately dominated by people who went to Private Schools. This is a case of Truth in Television
, as approximately 50% of any given England squad went to Private School. 93% of the British population is State Educated). Non-Australians also sometimes confuse Rugby with Australian Rules Football
, which has a similar reputation. Many believe that Rugby was a major influence in the creation of Aussie Rules football, though. And believe it or not, James Naismith actually adapted some elements of rugby when he created basketball
. In the US and Canada, Ice Hockey
has a similar reputation as the most violent of the four major sports played in those countries, though the NHL
has tried to crack down on the violence and tone down this part of the sport's image.
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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 import this fun game in Gaul!"
Jolitorax: "The rules are very simple, really. The ball can be brought beyond the other team's goal line by practically any means necessary. The use of weapons is prohibited, barring prior 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.
- Get Fuzzy: Rob Wilco has been seen wearing the above-quoted T-shirt. The portrayal of the sport is a bit understated compared to the rest of these entries, but it's still fairly violent.
- Wal's dreams of rugby glory in Footrot Flats always end with him a bloodied heap being trampled into the mud.
- Warren Ellis's word on rugby:
: 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.
- Monty Pythons The Meaning Of Life has a scene with a pretty brutal game of rugby, and to emphases 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.
- Actually averted in Invictus: 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 depicts a match of rugby which is the personification of this trope. 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 goo 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.
- Discworld: 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 in Ankh-Morpork 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 pretty much just 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...
Live Action TV
- In a Friends 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 Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Giles comments about gridiron as it compares to rugby:
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?
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 figh-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 larger, better trained and much, much larger.
- City of London Boys, a well regarded and extremely old Private School, stopped playing rugby several years ago, however, 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 that, 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. Famously 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 become 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 was not helped 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)! And with 178,100 registered rugby players in New Zealand, that equates to 355 new claims per 1000 registered players!
- Not to mention the burden on the taxpayer - $79.3 million to be exact, or $18 for every man, woman and child in New Zealand!
- Another 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. But you could be forgiven for mistaking it for one.
- 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.