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Rugby Union
Guess what happened next.
- Cracked.com

In league you have six tackles (think downs) to make it to the end zone. In Union, you have as long as you can keep hold of the ball. Imagine Grid Iron played like that. There would be a lot of running the ball up the gut.

Ladies and gentlemen, Rugby.

The idea is you get the ball and run with it. You are then tackled. Then a variation upon the following happens:
You fall to the ground, and release the ball.
Your mates run in and play stacks on.
The other team runs in and plays stacks on.
This is called a "ruck".
You then try to get the ball out with your feet, assuming you are not already paralyzed from the neck down, and then throw it to your mate and keep playing.

Simple.

Only not really. Strangely there are many different ways of playing the game. You can
a) Throw the ball around and run fast. This looks cool. You can score lots of points, but it is risky. If you're not skillful enough, you'll get a neat impact crater in your sternum from someone else's shoulder. Like playing Spread Offense in the NFL.
b) Run the ball up the gut with your forwards (fat guys). Not so entertaining, but it works.
c) Either kick field goals, or rely on the other team messing up and kicking penalty goals.
d) Kick for field position by kicking the ball into the other end of the ground making the opposition play the ball out, and hope they cough it up for you.
This may not sound like much, but there are quite a few philosophical approaches to the game which can produce many different results. For newcomers, it can be quite difficult to understand, but no more so than watching NFL for the first time.

Rugby Union is a version of football supposedly started at Rugby School in Warwickshire when a player picked up the ball and ran with it. It's played in Britain, France, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, a good proportion of the south Pacific, South Africa, Japan, and even (a little) in the U.S. (A bit of trivia here: the U.S. is the reigning Olympic champion in Rugby Union, having won at the 1924 Summer Olympics, since that was the last time it was an Olympic event). However, Rugby Sevens, a shortened form of Union will be returning to the Olympics in 2016. Neither Fiji or Samoa have ever won an Olympic medal at any sport, and both are among the strongest sevens nations, so they will be amongst the most ferocious competitors in Rio de Janeiro.

The differences from Rugby League (the football code based on it) are mostly subtle to outsiders. Union has 15-player teams; League has 13-player teams. Union is traditionally the gentlemen's game (though it can be played by women); League is the working-class game. This distinction is only (if ever) true for certain regions (and the accusation is commonly used by League fans as an insult), and averted in Wales and New Zealand among other places.

The differences between both versions of Rugby and American Football are much greater: players wear no body armor, and play continues without interruption and time-outs for much longer. Also, no forward passing under any circumstances, you're not allowed to tackle someone not holding the ball and to get the points for a try (think touchdown) you must be holding onto the ball when it is placed onto the ground. (There have been numerous instances of players forgetting about this and spiking the ball.) This applies to both codes.

Also one of several proofs of the non-wussiness of the French, who love the sport and frequently dominate. Interestingly, it surpasses even (association) football in popularity in the southern part of the country (particularly the région of Midi-Pyrénées, which despite being cobbled together from disparate provinces to create a région for Toulouse to call its own has developed a strong identity around rugby).

Major international competitions
  • The Rugby World Cup — Held every four years in the year before the Summer Olympics, this is the sport's highest prize for national teams. The victors receive the Webb Ellis Trophy, named for William Webb Ellis, apocryphally credited with creating the game. New Zealand are the current holders of the trophy, having won it at home in 2011. The next World Cup will be hosted by England in 2015, with a few matches taken across the border to Cardiff in Wales. Japan will host in 2019.
  • The Six Nations Championship — Europe's premier national competition, currently involving the Northern Hemisphere's six top teams—England, France, Ireland,note  Italy, Scotland, and Wales. The event grew out of a competition informally known as the Home Nations Championship, involving the British and Irish sides only and launched in 1883. France joined in 1910, creating the Five Nations, but were kicked out after the 1931 edition. They were invited back after the 1939 edition, but World War II ended international rugby in Europe until 1947. The competition became the Six Nations with Italy's entry in 2000. Ireland are the reigning champions, winning in 2014.
  • The Rugby Championship — Created as the Tri Nations Series in 1996, shortly after the sport became professional, and initially involving South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia (the governing body of the competition, SANZAR, is a joint venture of the three nations' rugby governing bodies). In 2012, Argentina was invited to join and the competition adopted its current name. New Zealand are the reigning champions.
  • Rugby World Cup Sevens — Traditionally the top prize for national sevens teams, it was first held in 1993. The winner receives the Melrose Cup, named after the Scottish town where sevens was first played. When sevens was added to the Olympic program for 2016, it was initially decided that the World Cup Sevens would be scrapped after 2013. However, it was later decided to retain the World Cup; the next event will take place in 2018, with future editions every four years thereafter. New Zealand are the current holders, winning in Moscow in 2013.
  • IRB Sevens World Series — An annual series of nine tournaments for national sevens teams conducted since 1999–2000. Current stops on the tour are Australia (Gold Coast), Dubai, South Africa (Port Elizabeth), the USA (Las Vegas), New Zealand (Wellington), Japan (Tokyo), Hong Kong, Scotland (Glasgow), and England (London). Each tournament except for Hong Kong involves 16 teams competing for four distinct trophies, plus points toward the overall series championship. Fifteen of these teams are "core teams" that compete in each event during a given season. The Hong Kong event incorporates a separate 12-team tournament that, from the current 2013–14 season forward, is used for core team qualification for the following season. The winner of this tournament is assured a core team place in the next season, replacing the core team that finished with the fewest points at the end of the series. New Zealand, the reigning champions, have dominated this series, winning 11 times in all.

See Rugby Laws to get an understanding of how the game works.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • One episode of Full Metal Panic! has Sōsuke putting the once mellow and wimpy school Rugby team through some extreme training that turns them outright murderous.
  • The manga No Side is centered on a terrible university rugby team that has just picked up a girl as its star player. She's the reincarnation of their old captain (sorta).

Film

Newspaper Comics
  • Rob from Get Fuzzy is a Rugby Union fan, despite being American.

Video Games

Western Animation
  • Rocket Power featured a New Zealander boy named Trent teaching rugby to Otto and his friends.

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