Rugby Union is a game where large men run at each other and then stomp on each other with spiked boots for 80 minutes.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. However, in England at least, it holds true at International level. In 2013, 12 of the 24 members of the England squad were privately educated, while 12 were state educated (while one player, Ben Foden, managed to be both). Only 7% of the entire British population is privately educated. By contrast, 6 of the 33 man Rugby League Squad were privately educated. This is still disproportionate, but less obviously so. The differences between both versions of Rugby and American Football are much greater: players wear no body armour, 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. It is also one of the few sports that the English can claim to be genuine world beaters at, with their making appearances in three out of seven finals and winning it once, with that famous drop goal from Jonny Wilkinson in 2003. The England rugby team is renowned both for the poshness of the players as mentioned above and for the sheer power of the forward pack (think linemen and linebackers). Whatever state the rest of the team is in, the England Scrum is generally a thing to be feared. Also one of several proofs of the non-wussiness of the French, who love the sport and on their day, dominate, challenging the likes of the All Blacks. 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). The Italians, meanwhile, were until recently the Butt Monkey of Europe, with each of the other teams in the Six Nations regarding their match against Italy as a chance to rack up points and have a bit of fun. However, after years of pushing and patiently developing a formidable forward pack, they finally beat Scotland in 2015 and ran (an admittedly very off-form) Wales close in a World Cup warm-up match later that year. In Wales and New Zealand, it is something close to a national religion, with both nations dominating their regions note despite their relatively minuscule populations. New Zealand extend this dominance worldwide, and the All Blacks have long since developed a global reputation for invincibility which is only rarely challenged, to the point where it is considered a major achievement for one of the Northern Hemisphere superpowers (England, France, Ireland and Wales) to even run the All Blacks close: France have won the most encounters with New Zealand with 12 from 55. England have won 7 from 40, Wales 3 from 30 (and they haven't won since 1963...) and Ireland have never won one at all. The Southern Hemisphere teams tend to have nicknames: South Africa are known as the Springboks, Australia as the Wallabies, Argentina as the Pumas and New Zealand, most famously, as the All Blacks. The Northern Hemisphere teams, however, don't, save for the French team called Les Bleus, and the Italians, the Azzurri (confusingly, both teams' names translate to "the blues", though for entirely unconnected reasons). Note that the official symbol of the All Blacks is a silver fern, while Les Bleus are supposedly designated by a Rooster. However, all the British teams are commonly associated with a flower - a red rose for England, a leek for Wales, a thistle for Scotland and a shamrock for Ireland. 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 and in England in 2015. The next World Cup, in 2019, will be hosted by Japan.
- 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 2015.
- 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. Australia are the reigning champions, having won an abbreviated tournament in the World Cup year of 2015.note
- 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 the USA in 2018, with future editions every four years thereafter. New Zealand are the current holders, winning in Moscow in 2013.
- World Rugby Sevens Seriesnote — An annual series of tournaments for national sevens teams conducted since 1999–2000. In the upcoming 2015–16 season, there will be 10 stops on the tour, up from nine in 2014–15: Dubai, South Africa (Cape Town), Australia (Sydney), New Zealand (Wellington), Canada (Vancouver), the USA (Las Vegas), Singapore, Hong Kong, France (Paris), 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, since the 2013–14 season, has been 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. Fiji are the reigning champions, but New Zealand have dominated this series, winning 12 times in all.
- The Lions Tour - a quadrennial tour by the British and Irish Lions (generally abbreviated to simply 'the Lions'), a squad composed of the best players in the British Isles, of one the three Southern Hemisphere nations. Traditionally, the Lions play several warm-up games against provincial sides or top club teams before taking on the national team in three matches. The results are generally fairly even, with the last two tours (of South Africa and Australia respectively) in 2009 and 2013 both ending with a series score of 2-1 in the winning team's favour. The Lions won the last tour, with the first two test matches being extremely close (23-21 to the Lions and 16-15 to Australia), before the Lions handed out a crushing 41-16 defeat to the Wallabies.
ExamplesAnime 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).
- Monty Pythons The Meaning Of Life has a Rugby game with students vs teachers.
- Invictus is pretty much about the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
- Rob from Get Fuzzy is a Rugby Union fan, despite being American.
- Blackout Rugby is an online rugby union management game.
- Rocket Power featured a New Zealander boy named Trent teaching rugby to Otto and his friends.