Rugby is the Welsh national sport. Don't listen to football (soccer) fans who argue otherwise. Rugby always has been and always will be the primary sport of Wales. It arouses great passions and causes much pain, both physical - on the pitch - and emotional - off it.
It's played by fifteen a side who try to score by scoring a try. A try is when a player places the ball on the ground over the try line - the penultimate line on the pitch. Five points are awarded for that. The kicker can then try to 'convert' the try by kicking the ball over the cross bar of the goals. That gets two points.
|Dan Carter, All Black back|
Sometimes if someone does something naughty a penalty will be awarded and the kicker may then try to get a goal, which is worth three points. But sometimes they'll decide to kick the ball off the pitch and then throw it in again (see 'line-out' below). A drop goal, which is someone kicking at random over the crossbar, is also worth three points. Got that so far?
The eight at the front are called forwards and the other seven are the backs.
The game is mostly played by throwing the ball from player to player - at least, that's the most exciting way. Oh yes and the ball has to go backwards i.e. not in the direction of play. Unless it's being kicked, in which case it can go forwards.
When one player has the ball the opposition will try to get it from him. To achieve this they tackle him. Maybe the best way to explain tackling in rugby is to compare it with a football tackle.
You also have things called rucks and mauls. In both these you get a crowd of players piled on top of each other but sometimes the ref calls it a ruck and sometimes a maul and it seems to depend on where feet and hands are. Possibly.
If the ball goes off the pitch there is a line-out where the forwards (the eight less-attractive-looking ones at the front) line up and the ball is thrown in.
|Forwards preparing for a scrum|
Occasionally you'll hear the phrase 'handbags'. This means there is a fight. Whenever a penalty is awarded the players all call the referee 'sir' and deny any wrong-doing vehemently. They can be seen on the television shaking their heads in disbelief.
Players can be sin-binned for misdemeanours. This means the ref waves a yellow card at them and they are out of the game for ten minutes. Unfortunately there is not an actual sin-bin, which I think is a mistake. I'm sure players would think harder about their actions if they had to sit in a box with a dunce's hat on their head. Very rarely, for serious wrongdoing, the ref will bring out a red card. That means that the player must go off for the rest of the game.
If a player bleeds a lot the ref sends him off to be bandaged up before he comes back on. If a player is dropped on his head the ref sends him off for a head test before he carries on.
By the way, this is rugby union. In some places, particularly in the north of England they play rugby league. I don't know much about league but it seems a bit more of a sissy sport.
So now you know all I know about rugby.
Here's a sample from Friday night's game (with French commentary for some reason ...) and a link to another clip that shows more of the different moves.