Rugby is a collective name for the family of team sports of rugby union and rugby league, as well as the earlier forms of football from which both games, as well as Australian rules football and gridiron football, evolved.
The two variants of gridiron football — Canadian football and, to a lesser extent, American football — were once considered forms of rugby football but are seldom now referred to as such. In fact, the governing body of Canadian football, Football Canada, was known as the Canadian Rugby Union as late as 1967, more than fifty years after the sport parted ways with the established rules of rugby union or league.
Rugby football was thought to have been started about 1845 at Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire, England although forms of football in which the ball was carried and tossed date to medieval times (see medieval football). Rugby split into two sports in 1895, when twenty-one clubs split from the Rugby Football Union to form the Northern Rugby Football Union (later renamed the Rugby Football League in 1922) in the George Hotel, Huddersfield, over payments to players who took time off from work to play the sport (known as "broken-time payments"), thus making rugby league the first code to turn professional and pay players. Rugby union turned professional one hundred years later in 1995, following the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa. The respective world governing bodies are World Rugby (rugby union) and the Rugby League International Federation (rugby league).
Rugby football was one of many versions of football played at English public schools in the 19th century. Although rugby league initially used rugby union rules, they are now wholly separate sports. In addition to these two codes, both American and Canadian football evolved from rugby football in the beginning of the 20th century.
Two teams of 15 players have 80 minutes to advance the ball past their opponents' side of the field (pitch) and touch it to the ground for a score worth 5 points (try). Participants may only pass the ball backwards or sideways with no blocking allowed; using a variety of phases such as lineouts, mauls, rucks and scrums to retain possession during play. Rugby is unique in that play is continuous even after players are tackled on the field. Kicking is the only method by which both teams may move the ball forward.
After each try, worth 5 points, the scoring team is allowed an opportunity to kick the ball through the posts for an additional 2 points (conversion). Certain penalties also earn the non-offending team a kick through the posts, worth 3 points (penalty) if made. At the conclusion of the match, the team with the most points wins.
1 & 3 Loosehead and Tighthead Prop
Along with the hooker, the loose-head and tight-head props make up what is known as the front row, which refers to their rugby positions in the scrum. To be successful, both props must be extremely strong in the neck, shoulders, upper body and legs, and they should relish head-to-head competition.
While stopping their side of the scrum from moving backwards, the props also support the hooker’s body weight, allowing him or her to see and strike the ball when it is put into the scrum. In the lineout, props should be able to support or lift the jumper to prevent the opposition winning the ball.
Away from set pieces, props help to secure the ball when a player has been tackled, so it helps if they can combine their power with a degree of mobility. You’ll also often see them used as battering rams in attack, receiving short passes and hitting the opposition defence at pace in an attempt to occupy the defenders and make space for the more athletic players
Lining up in the scrum between the two props, the hooker is one of the forwards’ key decision-makers. He or she will coordinate the timing at the scrum, and is also responsible for winning possession in the scrummage by hooking the ball back through the props’ legs.
At the lineout he or she is responsible for throwing the ball in and must be able to accurately hit the lineout jumper who is expecting the ball. In open play the hooker plays a similar role to the props, securing possession at rucks and mauls, or taking short ‘crash’ passes.
4 & 5 Lock/Second Row
The second row forwards (also known as locks) are the engine room of the scrum and the target men in the lineout, meaning that they need to be tall, powerful players with excellent scrummaging technique and pinpoint timing.
If they bind to each other and the props too loosely in the scrum their pack will lose power, and if they are not accurate and dynamic with their lineout jumping, it offers the opposition forwards a chance to steal possession. In open play the second row’s duties have evolved from being support players at rucks and mauls to ball carriers.
6 & 7 Flanker/Wing Forward
Flankers are often considered to be the players with the fewest set responsibilities, but as such must be excellent all-rounders with inexhaustible energy. Speed, strength, fitness, tackling and handling skills are all vital.
Out of all the rugby positions, they are more often than not at the centre of the action – winning balls at the ruck and maul, collecting short passes from tackled players and making their own big tackles in open play. While they can rarely be blamed for a loss, they can certainly be the key to victory.
The open-side flanker plays on the far side of the scrum from the touchline and is often smaller in size than their blind-side partner, making them more mobile around the pitch. The blind-side flanker tends to have bigger, more physical role.
8 Number Eight
Support play, tackling and ball-carrying are the No.8’s areas of expertise, making his or her duties similar to the two flankers. Together the trio forms a unit called the back row.
Binding on right at the back of the scrum, the No.8 is also the only player from the forwards who are allowed to pick the ball up from the base of the scrum.
It is a move that is often used to gain vital yards when a team is scrummaging close to the opposition try line, and for it to be truly effective the No.8 must be an explosive, dynamic runner.
Acting as the link between the forwards and the backs, the scrum-half is the key rugby positions when it comes to building attacks. Playing just behind the forwards, a good scrum-half will control exactly when the ball is fed out to the backs from the rear of a scrum, ruck or maul.
The playmaker needs good vision, speed and awareness, quick hands and lightning reactions. They tend to be one of the smaller players on the pitch and so rely on protection from their own forwards. An indecisive or poorly protected scrum-half makes easy meat for a rampaging opposition flanker.
The heartbeat of the side and arguably the most influential player on the pitch. Almost every attack will go through the fly-half, who also has the responsibility of deciding when to pass the ball out to the centres and when to kick for position
A number 10 must orchestrate the team’s back line, deciding what rehearsed moves to put into action and reacting to gaps in defence. The fly-half also has to be able to relieve territorial pressure by kicking down the field into touch, and is often the team’s designated placekicker for conversions, penalties and drop goal attempts.
In defence, he or she will marshal the backs to ensure each opposition player is covered, and a strong-tackling stand off can snuff out opposition attacks before they start.
11 & 14 Wing
Playing out wide on the side of the pitch, the winger is a team’s finisher in the attack. A winger is also often the last line of defence when they don’t have the ball and as such, pace is their major resource.
12 & 13 Centre
The inside centre – who stands closest to the fly-half when the backs line up – and the outside centre tend to be strong, dynamic runners with a good eye for exposing gaps in the opposition defence. In attack they tend to run very direct lines.
The centres take on their opposite number in an attempt to either break the defensive line, or draw in enough opposition defenders to create space and try-scoring opportunities for their team-mates. As such they need to be strong and powerful, and when attack turns into defence, they must also be accomplished at tackling
The inside centre is often the more creative in a centre pairing and should be able to pass and kick nearly as well as the fly-half. Meanwhile, the outside centre tends to be the faster of the two and the ability to offload the ball quickly to the wingers is also vital.
Lining up behind the entire back line, the fullback is the closest thing that rugby has to a sweeper in defence. But they also receive deep kicks from the opposition, so they must be comfortable catching high balls and launching attacks from the resulting possession.
This high-pressure rugby positions is not for the faint-hearted, but those who can combine tackling, kicking, catching and running with a cool head can excel here.
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