How To Get Into Rugby

There’s a prevailing perception that rugby is more of a gentleman’s sport than football or any of the other sports the English follow with such fervour.


There’s a prevailing perception that rugby is more of a gentleman’s sport than football or any of the other sports the English follow with such fervour. An amusing maxim goes thus: “football is a game for gentlemen played by hooligans, and rugby is a game for hooligans played by gentlemen”. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but it proves that at its core, rugby still has a fervent and ardent following.

If you’ve ever wanted to be part of that following but just don’t know where to start, then you shouldn’t feel ashamed for wanting to seek outside help. Rugby can still seem just as labyrinthine and difficult to understand as other sports, after all; watching a game of it can seem like the match is just devolving into a brawl every time a scrum happens, but that’s not the case. Here’s how you can get into rugby!

Learn your teams

First and foremost, you need to know about rugby teams. In all, there are 105 rugby sides, but you don’t need to know all of them; all you need to know are the big hitters like England, Scotland, Wales, France, and, of course, New Zealand. These teams participate in a number of competitions, of which arguably the two most important are the Rugby World Cup and the Six Nations Championship.

It can also pay to learn some fun statistics about these teams so you’ve got somewhere to start if a conversation breaks out. For example, knowing that rugby legend Shane Williams is the only Welshman to win the coveted IRB Player of the Year prize will stand you in good stead with Welsh rugby fans. As Williams explained to Betway, winning that award, as well as two Six Nations Grand Slams, rank in the “top, top rugby achievements”.

Grasp the basic rules

On its surface, rugby can look somewhat complex, but when you break it down, it’s moresimple than you might realize. The basics are thus: to win a game of rugby, you’ll needto score more points than your opponent. Scoring can be done by achieving tries, scoring drop goals, winning penalty kicks, or through conversions. Games are split into halves of 40 minutes each with a 10-minute half-time period.

Players can’t pass the ball forwards; they must always pass backwards or sideways. That’s why you’ll see rugby players sprinting towards the opponents’ goal; they’re passing between one another and running on the offensive. Players can tackle one another in a full-bodied way, bringing their opponent to the ground. In essence, this is the basic way rugby is played, but there are, of course, more advanced rules as well.

Learn some advanced rules too

The basics will only get you so far in rugby, especially if you’re looking to play it at an amateur level (or even hold a conversation with people who know a lot about it). For example, a scrum - one of the most iconic moments in any rugby game for those who don’t regularly watch - is started when rules are infringed. There are also specific rules around scrums and how they can be conducted.

Other advanced rules include marking, mauls, and rucks, all of which dictate whether or not play should continue and whether the players are allowed to handle the ball. It’s definitely worth taking some time out to read up on the rugby rules if you can; knowing as much as you can about the game will mean that you’re able to follow the drama of any given match much more closely.

Watch games

Six Nations rugby is broadcast on a number of different channels, both in the UK and abroad. There are always plenty of places to watch it, and that goes for the Rugby World Cup, too. Increasingly, rugby games are live-streamed, and there’s rarely any kind of pay-per-view element, either, so if you want to watch the Rugby World Cup, you’ll usually find there’s an official live stream of it available online.

Of course, there’s no substitute for actually attending a rugby match in real life. Something about the texture and atmosphere of a live game makes it much more rewarding and enjoyable than watching on a screen, so if you’re able to make it to a real game, you should definitely try. Take some friends along and make an occasion of it; you’ll find rugby fans generally far more agreeable than football fans!

Play some rugby yourself

If you’re in the right condition and you’re able, then it’s a good idea to get out onto a field somewhere and try playing some rugby. You don’t need to play by association rules; you can modify the rules to make them more convenient to you and your group, but however you decide to play, just getting a feel for how the game flows and what kind of situations players find themselves in can be hugely helpful.

If you do decide to play on a more regimented basis, you’ll often find plenty of amateur rugby leagues you can join. After all, rugby itself wasn’t a professional sport until the late year of 1995 (yes, really!), so the amateur scene is still very much alive and well. Any number of smaller Sunday league-style operations will almost certainly be looking for players, so if you love the game when you decide to play it for yourself, why not turn semi-pro?

As you might imagine, there’s much, much more to the world of rugby than what we’ve described here, but this is a primer to get you started on the basics. Read up on the rules, research the greatest players of the sport, and play as much of it as you can (or even engage with the management side of things) in order to get the most out of this fascinating sport!

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