A Beginners Guide to Rugby Union

Rugby Union started at an English school (The Rugby School) when a soccer player thought the game as it stood kinda sucked, so they picked up the ball and ran with it, which was heaps more fun.

Who can play rugby?

The best thing about rugby is it’s extremely accessible. It can be played by both sexes and people of all levels of integrity, ethical and moral standing, attitude and intelligence – in fact, just about any idiot can play it, though to be fair, smart people play it better.

The common skill required to play rugby is the ability to tackle and all players are required to do this to a greater or lesser extent (though you’d be surprised how many get away with not doing it for most of their career.  They’re usually wearing No. 10, 11 or 14).

Are there different types of rugby players?

There are two types of rugby players: forwards and backs. The forwards are generally brutish oafs of limited intellect commissioned to gain possession of the ball.  The backs are generally highly intelligent and athletic and consequently score all the points.  Resilience to pain, position in the social pecking order, dumb luck, money, dominance of personality and level of intelligence all help define which players play in the forwards and which players play in the backs.

So wait…. What’s the point of rugby?

The object of rugby is to make friends and drink a crap load of beer.  It also helps to score more points than the opposition, but it’s not essential as you’re allowed to drink beer whether you win or lose.  Some see this as a fundamental flaw of rugby, suggesting people who lose shouldn’t be allowed access to the beer; but they’re idiots and should get a life, so ignore them.

How does one score tries?

Scoring tries is achieved by holding onto the ball for a long as you can. You can give the ball to your team mates if you absolutely must, but only as a last resort, as they’re usually idiots and will just drop it.

Generally rugby players shouldn’t kick the ball away to the opposition, The Wallabies however have made an art form of this in recent years. They should instead try keeping the ball in hand denying the opposition the chance to move forward. Perhaps Michael Cheika can convince them of this – we’ll see.  It is mentally and physically harder to defend than to attack and you cannot score points without possession of the ball ( another good point seemingly lost on our national side in recent years).

Dumb down the jargon: what the heck is a scrum, a line out, set pieces, a break down?

During the game there are a series of set piece plays called scrums and lineouts, generally held after some fool of a forward has spilled the footy….  again….  or kicked out on the full, or something equally inane. There are also breakdowns where people like Richie McCaw get to cheat like all buggery and generally get away with it, and where back in the good old days you used to be able to shoe (ruck) the bejesus out of people who were unfortunate enough to end up on your side of the ruck, just so they felt welcome and part of the game.  This social nicety was removed some years ago now and the sport has been poorer for it ever since.  Don’t worry too much about set pieces or the break down, the main thing to observe is which player manages to get a sneaky jab in, or quickly shoe someone without the ref seeing.

Do I really need to learn the rules?

Along the way, administrators of the game have done their best to completely root the whole thing, but we’ve managed to survive with a still pretty decent game…  just (though we continued to be towelled up by the AFL and to a lesser degree League).  You don’t really need to know all the rules to be an effective player or spectator because they change every 2 – 3 games and no-one really knows what’s on anymore anyway.  Players generally watch the ref carefully for the first quarter of a game so as to understand what the rules are this week.

If you are brave, you can throw yourself into the 900 odd kilograms of massed humanity that is an opposition of a scrum while another 800kg in your own scrum attempts to crush you from behind, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  Only the truly insane volunteer or are commandeered into these roles.  In an Orwellian future, genetically inferior specimens of the human race will probably be selected for these positions. You can, however, run into gaps – (which, while it seems completely intuitive, is quite hard to teach some people)– catch and pass (unless you’re a forward), or buy heaps of rounds and bring cases to away games. Then you will be a valued part of the rugby community.

What’s the difference between rugby league, union and soccer?

Rugby is different to Rugby League because…  well shit, if you can’t figure out how much better Union is to League, you should probably be playing League.  Basically, in Union sexual assault is pretty heavily frowned upon (as is drinking your own urine or throwing your faeces around hotel rooms).

Rugby is different to Soccer because it’s generally not corrupt and because soccer just sucks and there aren’t enough scoring opportunities.

I’m sold, when can I watch it?

Rugby is an international sport played by over 100 nations, culminating in the Rugby World Cup every 4 years.  2015 is a World Cup Year and this year the tournament will we held in England in September and October.  We will win the World Cup, right after we’ve handed the English cricket team their lily white arses on a cheese and cucumber sandwich platter* in the final Ashes Test. 

The games will generally be on late at night so you’ll need plenty of beer and happily The RUC will be showing games on the big screen.  So come and join us for a drink and something to eat and perhaps some naked table dancing and enjoy the spectacle that is Rugby Union.

*Editors Note: written prior to 06/08/2015

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