May I welcome my very first “Guest Blogger”, my Dad. *applause* After hearing of my abysmal attempt to explain some of the rules of rugby to the unconverted last weekend, he has put together some basic information to help you enjoy this beautiful game a little more. He takes no responsibility for mistakes – he is only an amateur after all, although no one could question his passion (I once walked in to find him on his knees in front of the TV when England were getting particularly close to the try line. Hey, these games are exciting affairs…)

Basic rule 1: You can only pass backwards, and anyone from your team who is in front of you had better watch out as they could give away a penalty if they are in any way interfering with play (and often if they are not). So if someone kicks the ball forward, only those of his team who were behind him when he kicked it can try to catch it, or to tackle an opponent who catches it. Hence the kicker has to run forward as fast as he can to put his team mates onside.

Basic rule 2: If you’re tackled, unless you manage to get straight back to your feet, you have to release the ball immediately. But you are allowed to “place” it – that is, place it back to someone else from your team. Equally, the tackler has to release you and the ball straight away, unless he is able to stay on his feet. Either is likely to give away a penalty if they don’t. Another player from either team is not allowed to enter the ruck  except on his feet, and from “behind” the backmost player in the heap*; that means he cannot go in from the side, but only alongside someone already in there.

* “Heap” is not a recognised rugby term :)

So when you tackle someone, you try to turn them as they fall so that they’re facing your team, not their own. That makes it almost impossible for them to get the ball back and so you get a “turnover” – you get the ball.

Looks like chaos? No, I promise you there are very stringent and accurant rules guiding this group of men jumping on each other...

Looks like chaos? No, I promise you there are very stringent and accurate rules guiding this group of men jumping on each other...

Why do they all pile in? That’s to stop the opposition getting at the ball. The attackers will be defending the Scrum Half, (number 9) whose job it usually is to take the ball out and pass it to the next guy. They don’t want a defender to get over the top of the ruck (which is allowed to a point so long as they are still on their feet) and pinch the ball. The defenders meanwhile are trying to push the whole pile* over and get the ball out on their side. And even if they don’t manage that, they may be able to disrupt things enough  to slow down the extraction of the ball and give their backs more time to reform the defensive line. That’s why the commentator keeps talking about the need for “quick ball” – it makes it much more difficult to defend against each phase of attack. So the defenders try to slow it down, without giving away a penalty – which is what England are not very good at doing!

* “pile” is also not a recognise rugby term :)

Basic playing positions:

Number 1 to 8 are forwards. All over six feet tall, and heavy.

1 – Hooker. Right in the middle of the scrum, his job is to “hook” the ball with his foot when it comes into the scrum. He also throws the ball into a lineout.

2,3 – Props. Thugs, basically. Either side of the hooker.

4,5 – Lock forwards. I used to play there at school and it was called “second row”. Big guys who bind in behind the first three and provide more push (well, I’m not sure I did!)

Some Lock eye-candy for you... if HUGE, scarred, scary-looking men are your thing *grin*

Some 'Lock' eye-candy for you... if HUGE, scarred, scary-looking men are your thing *grin*

6,7 – Flankers. On either side of the scrum, they’re usually fast runners, as their job is to break off quickly, either with the ball or to get the opponent who has it.

8 – Number 8 – that’s what he’s called. Right at the back, he works with the scrum half to steer everything. Again, usually fast, which is why I wasn’t allowed to play there.

9 to 15 are backs. Often much shorter than forwards (particularly 9).

9 – Scrum half. Puts the ball into the scrum, and takes it out of the ruck. He’s key, as he has to decide where to pass the ball from the ruck; lots of tactics.

*sigh* Johnny. What a great player. *wink*

10 – Fly half. (Johnny’s position, if he ever gets back). Usually the main goal kicker, (but not always) and the next link between the forwards and backs. Another key position tactically.

12,13 – Centres. Particularly important tacklers.

11,14 – Wings. Fast runners, aim to break through the opposition or do those impressive runs down the touch line.

(Fi – here’s a little video tribute to the LEGEND that is Jason Robinson. Just look at his little legs go – it’s like a blur. This man is awesome)

15 – Full back. Much the same as wingers in some respects, but he’s the one who has to catch the high balls kicked down the pitch, and must be good at kicking them back. 11,14 and 15 are the “back three”, and are the ones usually seem hanging around at the back, but then trying to burst through to score. Ironically, it’s a game where the backs score more than the forwards, unlike football.