What is Rugby?
Rugby is a football game in which an oval ball is kicked or carried forward down a field to score points either by touching the ball down beyond a tryline or kicking the ball through posts. The primary rule governing the game is that a pass must be lateral or backward. No blocking is allowed. Rugby is a contact sport, but it is not a brutal sport. In fact, it is a lot less violent, and less dangerous, than American Football. Rather than utilizing helmets and body armor that also serve as weapons in football, rugby players rely on hardened muscles and skillful tackling.
Rugby is a physically demanding game that requires a combination of toughness, strength, speed, agility and fitness. A team is composed of fifteen player positions, and each position caters to somewhat different skills and body type. The sport has something for everyone, and anyone can play.
History of Rugby and Grafton RFC.
As legend has it, rugby was born in the year 1823 during a soccer match at Rugby School in England. William Webb Ellis, frustrated and with a fine disregard for the rules of soccer at the time, took the ball in his arms and ran with it. Obviously, those early participants felt that carrying the ball and tackling opponents would make for a much more challenging sport, thus originating the distinctive features of rugby.
In the United States, the game emerged primarily on the West Coast. The lack of precise rules, ambiguities in the game and complexity of the sport drew a lot of American players away from the game until major changes were invoked. In 1880, the scrum was replaced by a line of scrimmage, drawing emphasis from the free-running characteristic of the game. In 1906 the forward pass was introduced to the United States game. The rules of rugby died, and the game of American football was born.
Although a handful of clubs remained in the US, rugby did not re-emerge until the 1960’s. It became popular in colleges, and then graduates introduced the game in their communities. The United States of America Rugby Football Union (now known as USA Rugby) was formed in 1975 creating added recognition and a measure of organization. A founding member of the Milwaukee Rugby Football Club, Vic Hilarov, was also a founding member of USA Rugby and served as the first president. USA Rugby now boasts of more than 65,000 members. The current structure of USA Rugby comprises 7 territorial unions and 34 Local Area Unions that compete for regional and national championships.
Inspired by local parents with an enduring love for the game, Dave Grams, with the help of his son Joe and assisted by Brad Saunders, founded the Grafton Rugby Football Club as a U-19 team in March, 2007. Many of Dave’s former teammates from Milwaukee RFC, now officers of the Badgerland conference, provided the impetus to organize. Grafton RFC is now a member of the Badgerland Conference, the Wisconsin Rugby Football Union, and USA Rugby. As a member of this conference, Grafton will compete with seven other teams for the East Division seeding. The top four teams will enter the conference championship tournament, and the winner will compete for state and regional titles.
Rugby Basic Rules.
Rugby is similar to American football in many respects, as football was derived from rugby. The field, or “PITCH,” is 100 meters long between trylines, and up to 70 meters wide (some flexibility in width is allowed for club matches). Goalposts are the same size and height as in football, but they are fixed on the tryline. The object is to carry the ball downfield and touch the ball to the ground across the goal line (TRYLINE). Such a score is called a “TRY,” and it is worth 5 points. Just crossing the tryline doesn’t guarantee a score. The ball must be touched to the ground. (The term “touchdown” in football is derived from this type of score.) When a try has been awarded, the ball is brought straight out from the point at which it was touched to the ground to attempt a “CONVERSION” kick, worth 2 points. Obviously, the conversion attempt is easier if the try is scored near the center of the goalposts.
Another type of score is made by a place kick (PENALTY KICK) from the point of a major infraction, and it is worth 3 points. A fourth type of score is a DROP KICK (through the goal posts) that can be attempted at any time, but seldom utilized. The drop kick is also worth 3 points.
The rugby game starts with a kickoff, as in football, but the ball is dropkicked from mid-field. The play continues even when the ball carrier is stopped, and possession can change at any time, similar to basketball or hockey. The ball is advanced by running with it, passing laterally, or by kicking for strategic advantage. There is never any blocking in rugby, but opposing players can drive against each other to gain possession of the ball in a RUCK (when a ball carrier is taken to the ground and must release the ball) or in a MAUL (when the ball carrier is tackled but remains on his feet) – as long as the players are not offside. The offside rule states that the player, unless he is involved in the breakdown, must remain on his side of the ball, and behind the last foot in the ruck, maul or scrum.
If the ball is thrown forward, rather than laterally, or dropped forward (called a KNOCK-ON), the referee (referred to as Sir) will call a minor penalty and award a SCRUM to the non-offending team. In a scrum, the eight forwards from each team bind together in a specific formation. The scrum half, upon receiving a signal from his hooker, rolls the ball into the tunnel that is formed in the middle of the scrum, and the hooker uses his foot to move the ball toward the rear of his side of the scrum. The ball is kept under the feet of the forwards until it makes it to the back of the scrum, where it is picked up by an unbound player, usually the scrum half or eight-man, and run or passed into play. The backs are lined up diagonally in attacking or defending positions.
When a ball goes out of bounds, it is said to have gone “IN TOUCH.” To restart play, each team of forwards form a straight line, arm’s length apart, perpendicular to the sideline (TOUCH LINE), and five meters out at the point where the touch judge rules that the ball crossed such boundary. This is called a LINEOUT. The hooker from the team that did not send the ball out, calls a play and throws the ball down the middle of the two lines. Each team attempts to gain possession of the ball. The intended recipient can be lifted and held in the air by specific teammates. Again, the backs are lined up diagonally in attacking or defending positions.
Unlike other sports such as football, all players on a rugby team have the opportunity to run with the ball, tackle, ruck, maul, play defense, kick and return kicks. A ball carrier must release the ball when tackled to the ground, and the tackler must release the ball carrier. Both players should attempt to get to their feet immediately so that they can pick up the ball. A player whose knees are still in contact with the ground cannot play the ball. If supporting players from either team arrive before a player regains his feet, a ruck has formed, and the player must get off the ground and re-enter the ruck from behind the formation on his side of the ball in order to not be offsides.