"I'm in the team - can you come and watch me play?" If you will be cheering on a rugby touch line this winter, mystified by the antics on the pitch, this is the book for you. Not only will it help to explain what is going on from the spectator's viewpoint - it will also raise you several notches in your loved one's esteem. After reading this book you will be able to talk knowledgeably about tries, conversions and scrums, and know the difference between a ruck and a maul. You might even enjoy the matches much more as a result. The author, a mother who has spent many seasons at her sons' playing fields, provides a complete guide to the intricacies of rugby for all those supporters to whom predominantly male sports are a complete mystery. She also includes valuable advice on safety issues and dealing with injuries as well as the inevitable washing mountain. This book is for all bemused supporters, male and female, who loyally turn out to cheer in all weathers.
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Rugby Made Simple
Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd.
The contents of this book were carefully researched. However, all information is supplied without liability. Neither the author nor the publisher will be liable for possible injuries or damages resulting from this book.
This book is dedicated to that hardy band of supporters – mostly parents and grandparents – who brave all the appalling weather an average winter can throw at them to watch a bunch of grubby small boys or girls doing their best to kill each other each week (or so it seems to the uninitiated).
The author would like to thank:
Caterham School, whose myriad sporting activities inspired her to write the first edition of this book as a guide for its bewildered mothers.
The late Stephen Smith, former Headmaster of Caterham School and an England scrum-half, without whose early support this book would probably never have been published.
All the Caterham School sports masters from the latter part of the 20th Century, especially Pat Lavery and John Moulton, for their help and guidance in the preparation of the original books.
Her husband David, without whom her interest in the game would never have been kindled in the first place.
Gareth and Alan, for giving her a reason to stand on freezing cold touch lines for over 10 years, through every kind of wind and weather, and still enjoy every second of it.
And last, but not least, Amanda Stiby Harris for her imaginative, amusing and illuminating illustrations. The books would be very different without her input, and the author is extremely grateful for her inspiration and talent.
Amanda also helps with the text of the books, and for this guide her brother Robert also lent a hand checking our efforts to ensure accuracy throughout. I am so grateful to have had their support.
Why write a series of books on sport for parents and others who never played the games themselves? I must have been asked that question so many times since the appearance of my first booklet on the game of rugby that was designed to inform and entertain the parents of Caterham School in Surrey, where my own two boys were enjoying multiple sporting activities in the guise of education.
There are, of course, many detailed books on the rules and techniques for playing this sport, but few of them are aimed specifically at the spectator, and none that I could find were aimed at parents or other relatives.
Any mother who has stood in the freezing cold on a rugby touch line will confirm that the more you learn about the game, the more enjoyable watching a match becomes.
So it was for me, and as my elder son’s team was supported by parents with boys higher up the school whose knowledge was greater than mine, I was only too grateful for small crumbs of wisdom that they passed on to me during the course of school matches.
As the years progressed, I gradually felt I was beginning to understand this exciting sport, and in my turn I passed on some of my knowledge to the spectators watching my smaller son’s matches. It was these good souls who kept saying, ‘Why don’t you write a book about it?’ So it was all these experiences that inspired me to complete the books.
I will be explaining the game from a parent’s point of view throughout this book, but the advice here applies equally to boyfriends and girlfriends, wives and husbands, and grandparents. Since the book was originally conceived with boys’ parents in mind, I will generally use he, his and him, but please don’t think this precludes the same information from applying to your young daughter if she’s taken up the game at her local junior rugby club or school.
Indeed I can quote the Laws of Cricket as published by the MCC which state: ‘The use, throughout the text, of pronouns indicating the male gender is purely for brevity. Except where specifically stated otherwise … this book … is to be read as applying to women and girls equally as to men and boys.’ In other words, just because I don’t say she or her doesn’t mean that I’m not including the fairer sex too throughout the book.
Words in italics in this book refer to items listed in our glossary at the back of the book, so if you want a quick explanation of a particular term, just flick to the back pages, and you’ll find it there.
The game of rugby football, so history tells us, started in 1823 when a certain William Webb Ellis (a pupil at Rugby School) picked up a football and ran with it. After crossing the goal line, he reportedly turned to his sports master and asked, ‘Is that a goal sir?’ to which the master responded, ‘No, but it’s a jolly good try.’
This apocryphal tale has never been confirmed as fact, although this exchange is frequently quoted as the reason for a try being so named. However, it was some years later before the first official rules of the game were written down, again at Rugby School, in 1845.
After these rules were published, the game spread throughout England, and on 4 December 1870, Edwin Ash of Richmond and Benjamin Burns of Blackheath published a letter in The Times suggesting that ‘those who play the Rugby-type game should meet to form a code of practice as various clubs play to rules which differ from others, which makes the game difficult to play.’ On 26 January 1871, a meeting attended by representatives from 21 clubs was held in London at the Pall Mall Restaurant on Regent Street.
The 21 clubs present at the meeting were: Blackheath (represented by Burns and Frederick Stokes, the latter became the first captain of England), Richmond, Ravenscourt Park, West Kent, Marlborough Nomads, Wimbledon Hornets, Gipsies, Civil Service, The Law Club, Wellington College, Guy’s Hospital, Flamingos, Clapham Rovers, Harlequin F.C., King’s College Hospital, St Paul’s, Queen’s House, Lausanne, Addison, Mohicans and Belsize Park. The one notable omission was the Wasps. According to one version, a Wasps’ representative was sent to attend the meeting, but owing to a misunderstanding, was sent to the wrong venue at the wrong time on the wrong day. Another version is that he went to a venue of the same name where, after consuming a number of drinks, he realised his mistake but was too drunk to make his way to the correct venue.
The game continued to develop until 1895, when a major dispute over payments to players led to the formation of a rival organisation, the Northern Rugby Football Union. These two organisations competed for control of the game, but neither truly succeeded. As a result, two forms of the game, or codes, developed. One was run by the Rugby Football Union and called Rugby Union; players of this code couldn’t earn money from the game (although nowadays they can). The other was run by the Northern Rugby Football Union and was called Rugby League, and players of this code were paid to play.
The two codes have slightly different rules, with the most important differences being the way play is continued after a player has been tackled and the number of players on each team: 15 for Rugby Union and 13 for Rugby League.
Rugby Union at the top flight finally turned professional in 1995, just after the very first edition of this book was published, when the International Rugby Board (IRB), now branded as World Rugby, allowed payments to Union players for the first time in the game’s history.
Players are now able to switch between the two codes without penalty over the course of their careers. World Rugby is the world governing and lawmaking body of Rugby Union. It is made up of 102 member unions and 18 associate member unions. Rugby is now played by men and women, boys and girls, in 120 countries by more than 7.23 million players. There are 2.6 million registered players, 4.63 million non-registered players, and of those over 1.8 million are female players. These figures date from 2014 and may well be even larger now. The World Rugby website will have the latest statistics if you really want to find out how much Rugby Union is growing across the world.
While the game of rugby originally developed from football, there are major differences between these two sports, apart from the most obvious one of being allowed to handle the ball in rugby. These also include the H-shaped goalposts and the oval-shaped ball. A rugby game is made up of two halves that last 40 minutes each, with a short interval at half-time. At junior level this is rarely more than 5 minutes, but at international level, it is usually 15 minutes.
You can find a detailed map of the world showing all the member nations, the year they joined World Rugby and their current player numbers in the latest annual review. Online here:
The most recent addition to the rugby family is Costa Rica, which became an associate member in 2014.
To sum up the game, we quote the World Rugby website:
‘Players are attracted to Rugby because of its unique character-building values.’
The ‘sport is built upon the principles of camaraderie, fair play, respect and teamwork. Every player knows these principles are more important than winning or losing.
From the earliest steps in our sport, players are taught the basics of playing fair, enjoying the game and respecting the officials and opponents alike.’
Many new supporters come to the game of rugby after watching televised international matches, such as the Northern Hemisphere’s Six Nations annual competition or the World Cup. The latter competition was instigated in 1987 to bring together the leading rugby nations in a tournament that occurs every four years, timed to occur the year before the Olympic Games. Nowadays rugby playing nations from around the world compete in the early stages.
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