ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 34

Rudiments of rugby

Vimal Perera

The whistle is blown for the kick off of the rugby season 2007. Off the block will be the Mercantile Sevens. With it will start the followers of the game getting to their favourite places of worship to pay homage to the sport they love.

To those who don’t understand the unfailing devotion to the game the only way, is to try. The game is among fifteen powerfully built men forming each side battling on the grass field carrying and passing an odd shaped ball. This game is known to all as rugby, to the knowledgeable as rugby football.

This game once limited to a small group and thus termed elitist has spread since it found its roots at home. It is a game that is watched and played through the year whatever the weather. The popularity has spread and women too have taken on; to not only watch but also play.

Rugby, though enjoyed, is somewhat confusing to some and a mystery to others. People come to watch as well as take part in this game see challenges to physical and mental space. This requires good physical and mental health. Rugby is a game where teams work tougher to advance as well as to stop the opponents coming through. Rugby reflects the challenges of war in a way quite unlike any other. And is loved and watched. Who ever who gets involved will understand the gist of the game whilst getting confused with the rules. Irrespective of whether the rule is understood or not the spirit of the action is what it is about. This spirit is fostered by a set of rules known as the laws of the game and will ensure enjoyment. The game is about hard play and fun and enjoyment after. Building memories and friend ship that will last forever.

The game starts with a kick off at the centre. Thereafter continues with a scrum or lineout being formed to start after a break down. One may get confused on how a line out is used to win the ball. Whatever the thrower of the ball says may not mean anything to you. But has a powerful message to those who are attempting to get the ball to their side. It is only they who would understand the shout Red five-two – four. The ball is then lobbed into two lines of men who jump for possession. The line out is a means of starting a game after the ball is kicked out to the sides of the field.The other phase of the game to get the ball to your side is known as the scrummage. This happens when the ball is thrown dropped or knocked forward. This is where two groups of the largest men crash into each other and attempt to drive the other team off the ball, and not to punch each other. The appropriate behavior as guided by the laws must be followed. Punching is frowned upon and is not a part of the game.
There is always a silence and a pregnant pause as the teams in the scrum get together. It is the time for the man in the middle of the front row comprising of three to strike and win the ball. This man for whatever reason is known as ‘hooker’. It is his job to hook the ball to his side. You may begin to wonder as the heads go in and whether a head-butt is possible. The intentions of the game being to win by fair means there can be no place for foul means.

Before the players come into the scrum they crouch, touch and hold and then come together. This is the time where the participants bend over and present their behind to the sky before the front rows come together. The second rows then come between the hips of the front row. At calling of ‘engage’ the two team’s crunch together and politely fight each other like civilized men, with the flankers on the side bravely hanging on, and the number 8 at the back joining in by placing his head between the hips of the second row. The official fight begins. After the ball has left the scrummage, the player in possession runs toward the other team and will be tackled if he doesn’t offload the ball to the backs. The backs are the fast running, wily players on the team, who can tackle and pass pretty well. When tackled in possession of the ball the forwards will run over the top and vigorously defend the tackled, by fighting above and about their fallen mate in the form of either a ‘ruck’ or a ‘maul’. This is for the continuation of the game without being stopped.

A ruck takes place when the tackled player is on the floor, and the ball is down and one player from each side is bound over the ball. A maul is when player from each side is bound over the tackled person and the ball he carries is held up in the air. In a ruck, the aim is to push the other team off the ball to keep possession.

A maul is far simpler - you all try and push the tackler and the tackled person in the direction of the try-line you are aiming for and or try getting the ball to your backs.

The offside which is part of the process of control can happen during a line out, a scrum, a ruck and a maul. The other time when there can be an offside is when you play the ball in front of your team mate who last played the ball. Of course the law does not allow foul play and or ungentlemanly conduct on the field.

The game despite the opportunity does not deteriorate into violence. It provides the challenges of honorable combat. Let us all this season stand and cheer the men who are mature, intelligent and courageous enough to face each other in battle week after week for the glory of the game and themselves, and for the enjoyment of all involved and for the beer afterwards.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.