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Rugby Union: The Basics

By Fiji Airways Posted 17 Sep 2019

Rugby, as a sport, is beloved around the world. The two major variants of rugby are rugby league and rugby union though in Fiji, rugby union and rugby sevens are the major versions played (Fiji won the gold medal in rugby sevens at the 2016 Rio Olympics).

Fiji is one of the few countries where rugby union is the main sport (locally often referred to as 15s or 15s rugby). The national team is referred to as the Flying Fijians. There are approximately 80,000 registered players from a total population of around 950,000.

The Rules

A rugby match comprises a first half and second half, each lasting for 40 minutes, separated by a 10-minute halftime period.

Two 15-player teams compete against each other to secure possession of the ball and to make forward progress towards the other team’s goal-line.

A territory-seizing game,the teams seek to expand their own territory by moving towards the opposing team’s goal-line. This can be achieved either by means of individual players carrying or kicking the ball, or by teamwork (in terms of passing, and rucking and mauling).

The two team’s players alternately attack and defend, throwing themselves against each other and struggling to win possession of the ball, all the while seeking to score.

If one team manages to carry the ball past the opposing team’s goal-line into the in-goal area, then that team is awarded a “try” and scores points. A try is worth five points.

When a team has scored a try, that team is allowed to attempt a conversion to get extra points. A conversion kick can be made from any point perpendicular to where the try was scored, along a line parallel to the touchline. The ball can either be placed on the ground for a place-kick, or dropped and kicked after it hits the ground for a drop-kick. Two points are awarded if the ball passes between the goalposts and above the crossbar.

A penalty kick is awarded as a result of a foul committed by the other team, a penalty goal is scored if the ball passes between the goalposts and above the crossbar. This is worth three points.

When a dropkick (where the ball is dropped and then kicked after it hits the ground) is attempted during play, a drop goal is awarded if the ball passes between the goalposts and above the crossbar.

The Positions

There are 15 players in each team, consisting of eight forwards (numbered 1–8) and seven backs (numbered 9–15). Additionally, there can be up to eight replacement players “on the bench”. Jersey numbers 16–23 are used to distinguish them.

Players are not confined to any single position on the field, even though they mostly focus on only one or two that suit their skills and body types.

Players who train in over three positions are called “utility players”. The scrum (an assemblage used to restart play), however should consist of eight players (if a team still has fifteen on the field); three in the front row, two in the second and three at the rear.

The positions as given by the International Rugby Board are full-back, wings (left and right), centres (inside and outside), fly-half, scrum-half, number eight, flanker (openside and blindside), lock, hooker and props (loosehead and tighthead).

The backs play behind the forwards and are normally more lightly built and faster. Successful backs are skillful at passing and kicking. Full-backs need to be good defenders and kickers, and have the capability to catch a kicked ball.

The wingers are generally among the fastest players in a team and score many of the team’s tries. The centres key attacking roles are to try and break through the defensive line and link successfully with wingers.

The fly-half can be a good kicker and usually directs the backline. The scrum-half reclaims the ball from the forwards but needs a quick and accurate pass to get the ball to the backs (often firstly to the fly-half).

Forwards compete for the ball in scrums and line-outs and are predominantly bigger and stronger than the backs. Props push in the scrums, while the hooker tries to “hook” the ball.

Locks are tall and jump for the ball at the line-out after the hooker has thrown it in. The flankers and number eight should be the first forwards to a tackle and play a crucial role in obtaining possession of the ball for their team.

And there you have it. For those unfamiliar with the sport, it can seem a bit daunting but with a basic understanding of the game you are sure to have many, many enjoyable hours of rugby ahead of you!

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