Rugby 101

Photo by W RUGBY on

Daniel McCord ’24

Would you like to play rugby at Strake Jesuit?

Those reading who may be interested in joining Rugby must have a physical on file with the Trainer’s Office and cannot be involved in another sport activity already in the same season. However, if a student wants to switch from another sport to Rugby, the change must be approved by the coach of the other sport. All potential players must contact Coach Kimball at least 24 hours before participating in practice. 

According to Strake Jesuit Rugby Coach Jason Kimball, among our crowds of new players, 95% have never interacted with the sport before. This increased level of attention on Rugby brings rise to questions: “What is Rugby? How is it even played?”

Though rugby has its roots in multiple different cultures dating back centuries, the popular story of its founding is English student William Webb Ellis picking up the ball during a soccer match in defiance of the rules. While this story has never been verified to be true, its effect on the sport cannot be understated. The name Rugby itself comes from the Rugby School in Warwickshire, where Ellis attended in 1816. The year 1845 saw the introduction of the first official rules for what was known as ‘Rugby Football Union,’ and in the years hence the sport has grown to astronomical popularity in England. Now, Rugby has become nearly a household name throughout the world. From professional international leagues to school clubs, millions both play and watch the sport every year. 

Rugby is a team-based contact sport, most often played with 15 players per team between two opposing sides. As opposed to Soccer, the ball is carried in hand, and there are no stoppages in play as with Football’s down system. Rugby has a reputation for being brutal and meant for big, burly strongmen who get injured frequently and never wear pads. While it is true that there are no pads in Rugby, the common reputation could not be further from the truth. Rugby is, as a whole, all about teamwork and technique. There is tackling, there is aggression, and there will occasionally be injuries, but Rugby is finely designed to be safe and accessible to all body types. For instance, Rugby players tackle with the shoulders, not the head, and can only tackle by pressing a shoulder into and wrapping the lower torso, waist, or legs with their arms and pushing to the ground. Altercations such as a Ruck, a fight for the ball over a tackled player, and the Scrum, a battle of attrition between eight bound-together forwards from each team, are intricately tuned to cause little to no harm to players.

Positions in Rugby are numbered 1 through 15, each with a different purpose and role in play. The 15 are split into two subgroups, “Forwards” and “Backs.” Forwards will typically be bigger players, as their job is to take control of Rucks. Forwards also are the leaders in Mauls, where a ball-carrier is bound by one or more opponent and one or more teammate. Backs, on the other hand, will typically be smaller in build and faster on their feet, and work to use open spaces in an opponent’s defense to gain yardage. A Rugby match is played on a 100 meter long pitch (Rugby uses exclusively Metric units), and, similar to Soccer, in a 40-minute half the only stoppages in play generally come from penalties, scores, or injuries. Scoring in Rugby is similar to football. When a team scores a “Try,” they gain 5 points, with the opportunity for an extra kick to gain an additional 2 points. 

Where Rugby truly differs completely from other sports, however, is in the passing and movement of the ball. Rugby is unique in that the ball cannot be thrown forward. A legal pass must be either backwards or exactly horizontal in relation to the passer. This makes offensive play distinct and dynamic, as players need to come up with intelligent methods of still gaining ground despite the apparent loss that comes with passes going backwards. One common play in Rugby is a Switch, where two players run forward in opposite but intersecting directions, and one player passes to the other as they get closer to crossing paths. This play usually can mislead defenders into following the wrong man, as the angle at which an attacker passes during a switch hides where the ball goes. Techniques such as Switches are a part of why Rugby is defined by teamwork. 

Every set piece and strategy requires every player involved to play an important role in play, and every one of those roles cannot succeed without the others. The goal of rugby at Strake Jesuit is not only to be victorious in games, but also to connect and bond with teammates, and the strong cooperation needed to succeed in matches builds this. 

Rugby is a unique sport for all ages, sizes, and skill levels, and an accessible way to learn new skills and bond with others while also growing more physically fit and experienced as teammates and leaders.