Nice cleats – want to ruck?
Rules of the Game: Women’s rugby is mentally and physically challenging, exciting, and a lot of fun. The sport has experienced tremendous growth in recent years, especially at the collegiate level. Roughly 90 percent football rushing and 10 percent soccer footwork, rugby is attracting participants with varied skills and backgrounds.
While youth programs continue to proliferate nationwide, most women are introduced to the game during college. Since most women did not grow up playing—or even watching—rugby, the learning curve can be rather steep. Most clubs welcome new players and women of all athletic backgrounds and body types can learn and love the sport.
Each rugby team puts 15 players on the “pitch” ( field) at a time—though there are some popular variations of the sport that feature seven to 10 women per team. Uniforms consist of sturdy rugby shorts and jerseys; knee-high socks; cleats (“boots”); mouthguards; and, in some cases, some pre-approved soft padding like thin shoulder pads and scrum caps.
The pitch is roughly the same size as a soccer or football field.
Players advance the ball up the field using a combination or running, passing and kicking. However, rugby has stringent off-sides laws and, unlike most popular sports, all play must happen behind the line of scrimmage and behind the ball—that is, players may not pass the ball forward, nor may they tackle or otherwise act ahead of the ball.
Points are scored in several ways: A try, worth five points, occurs when a player runs the ball past a designated line and places the ball down in a controlled manner in the try zone (similar to the end zone in American football). After the try is scored, the scoring team can attempt a two-point conversion (a kick through a set of uprights). Players may also attempt to kick through the uprights during regular play or a penalty to earn three points.
Despite some popular misconceptions, rugby is not an inherently violent sport. Stringent rules are in place to ensure that contact is safe and controlled.
First and foremost, only the ball carrier may be tackled, and “blocking” is prohibited. All tackles must be controlled. Tackles cannot be made “high” (above the shoulders). The tackler must also make an effort to “wrap”—she cannot simply throw her body at the ball carrier. The tackler must make an attempt to wrap her arms around the other player, which helps ensure a controlled, fluid movement.
Once a player has been tackled to the ground, both the ball carrier and tackler must release the ball and roll away.
Scrums, the eight-on-eight formations that happen whenever certain minor infringements occur, are also controlled movements. During a scrum, teammates will hold on to one another in a pre-established formation. Each team’s scrum will push against the other until the rugby ball is placed between the two teams. At the point, each team will attempt to gain possession of the ball by tapping it to the back of the scrum with their feet.
Rucks and mauls are like scrums that occur in open play. During rucks and mauls, teammates hold on to one another and attempt to drive the other team off the ball. The referee ensures the rucks and mauls are safe, controlled and stable and will stop play if the contact appears dangerous.
The benefits of playing rugby are immeasurable. Women who pick up the sport will frequently say they’ve become “addicted” or that the sport changed their lives. Regardless of athletic history, body type or experience level, rugby can provide women with new leases on their athletic lives or, in some cases, the chance to participate in a competitive sport for the first time.
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