There’s a famous saying that compares the sports of soccer, football and rugby. It suggests that football is an animal’s game played by animals, soccer is a gentleman’s game played by animals and rugby is an animal’s game played by gentlemen.
There is merit within these words. Certainly, from the outside, rugby may be the most misunderstood sport in existence. For those not familiar with how the game is played, watching burly men crash into each other in a full contact sport almost bereft of gear seems a barbaric pursuit.
North American countries are prominent in the world of rugby. Both the United States and Canada are regular participants in the Rugby World Cup, although at sports betting sites, the All Blacks of New Zealand – so-called due to their all black playing kit – are universally the betting favorites to win any major tournament.
Rugby is a sport that goes out of its way to promote civility, camaraderie and most of all, fair play. Rugby is not governed by rules. It is ruled by laws. The rulebook is referred to as the laws of rugby. And those laws are very restrictive in terms of prohibiting anything that might offer one side an unfair advantage over the other.
For instance, on any set play, such as a scrum or lineout, when the ball is put into play it must be placed right down the middle between the two teams to offer each a 50-50 chance of winning the ball. Tacklers are responsible for the well-being of the ball carrier and any unnecessary violence committed during a tackle will be punished with a penalty.
Unlike football, blocking is forbidden. The attacking team is completely forbidden from impeding the ability of the opposition from tackling a ball carrier. Even an unintentional accidental obstruction will be called a foul and penalized.
It’s About Respect
No matter how hard-fought a rugby match might prove to be, when the final whistle sounds, all is forgotten and forgiven. It’s rugby tradition for the winning side to acknowledge the vanquished by forming a passageway for them to walk from the pitch while applauding them for their effort.
Another rugby tradition is known as the third half. The host team always invited the visitors to join them in their dressing room for a post-game beverage. Often, a formal meal is put on by the home club at which the visiting club is feted.
During the 2015 Rugby World Cup in the United Kingdom, the eventual champions from New Zealand welcomed every country they faced en route to the title to their dressing room for a celebratory beer.
Player safety is of vital concern in rugby. No tackle may be made above the shoulders. Any player committing a high tackle or punching or kicking an opponent will be immediately expelled from the match and can expect supplementary discipline to follow.
Among the 15 positions on a rugby team, there are places for players of all size and shape. The small and quick are just as important in the equation as the big and brawny and the tall and lean.
Building A Sense of Community
The collective is far more important than the individual in pursuit of rugby success. An eight-player forward pack must operate as a machine of one in order to win the ball from the opposing forwards. In a ruck or maul situation, it takes teamwork to free the ball and begin another attacking run.
That camaraderie carries over into other elements of the game, and in the comportment of rugby players in general. After New Zealand eliminated South Africa during the 2015 Rugby World Cup semifinals, rather than exulting in joy, All Blacks players could be seen on the pitch consoling the vanquished South Africans.
When Typhoon Hagibis struck Japan in the midst of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, matches were postponed. With their final match in Kamaishi with Namibia was cancelled due to the storm damage caused in that city, instead of sulking, the Canadian team took to the streets to help crews clean up the damage caused in the area by flooding and mudslides.
If your child is afforded the opportunity to play rugby, don’t fret over the roughness of the game. Embrace the lessons that rugby will teach them, and the valuable character traits they will develop that will make them a better person throughout their lives.