The game of Rugby is not well known in the U.S.A. but, as the immediate "ancestor" of American Football, it has been very important to us. Rugby itself is a descendant of a game similar to modern football (soccer) with deeper roots in the Roman game of Harpastum or the Tuscan game of Calico. The actual game of Rugby was originated during a "football" game in 1823 when one William Webb Ellis, allegedly after a missed kick, picked up the ball and ran with it. While this was contrary to the rules that his school, Rugby School, followed at that time it generated a fair amount of interest. This interest apparently developed into a game that was formalized in 1839 as Rugby Football.
A variety of Rugby Football was played in America during the period of about 1869 - 1900. Subsequently American Football, distinguished by blocking and the forward pass, became the most popular form of football. Rugby Football didn't return to America until about the 1920's when it was included as an Olympic sport. The U.S.A. won the only two times Rugby was included in the Olympics.
Rugby is currently played in all 50 states under the auspices of the United States of America Rugby Football Union. In the Virginia Rugby Union alone there are currently 40 or so Rugby Clubs of which 14 are men's college teams.
Rugby is played by 30 men, 15 per team, on a field that is ideally 100 meters long and 69 meters wide. There is one referee and two "touch judges" (line judges). Legally there is a maximum of seven substitutions per game but primarily for injuries. Scoring is accomplished in four ways. 1) A "Try" which occurs when an attacking team touches the ball down on or past the opponents goal line - 5 points; 2) A conversion kick after the try - 2 points; 3) A penalty goal (kick), which is similar to a field goal in football, - 3 points; and 4) A drop goal, which involves drop kicking the ball through the goal posts while running with it, - 3 points. The game normally consists of two 40 minute halves with a five minute break in between.
While all positions require fitness, good ball handling and good tackling, each position generally has some specific skills or physical characteristics that are particularly desired:
HOOKER - Generally small with a flexible body and quick reflexes. PROP - Medium height with powerful legs and upper body.
2nd Row "Lock" - Tall with strong legs and upper body.
#8 - Strong legs and upper body, fast, and very good hands.
Wing Forwards (Flankers or Breakaways) - Fast, very fit, very good tacklers and very good hands.
Scrum Half - Small, very quick, very good hands, and very resilient.
Fly Half - Knowledgeable, quick, good passer and good kicker.
Center - Good passer, good tackler, fast and straight runner.
Winger - Fast as lightning, good tackler, determined runner.
Fullback - Good kick receiver, good runner, good kicker and very good in open field tackling.
Our aim in defense is simple and that is to prevent the opposition from creating and exploiting overlaps. To do this we must normally come up fast and in a straight line (i.e. in-line with the flyhalf). Our back defense has three different parts. First, the Scrum Half (SH) who defends around the base of the scrum, with the help of the wing forwards/flankers. The second unit is composed of the flyhalf (FH), inside center (IC) and outside center (OC). This group works together under the direction of the flyhalf and provides the basic pressure against the opposition backline. They move up at the same speed as the flyhalf, which the flyhalf should occasionally vary. Any slower or faster creates gaps for the opposition to break into. The third group consists of the two wingers (W) and the fullback (FB). This group works under the direction of the fullback and provides depth and counter-attack possibilities. If the fullback must go in on defense the opposite side winger must quickly fill-in for him and provide depth. The winger must always be positioning himself to do this when the ball is on the opposite side of the field. In our defense the flyhalf will release and slide down behind the centers as soon as a wing forward comes to cover the opposition flyhalf. The centers always cover their own "zones", which is where their opposite numbers usually start. If there is an opposition cutback or extra man type play (e.g. a scissors, fullback in or weakside wing in) they must cover their zone and rely on the sweeping flyhalf and the fullback to pick the extra attackers. Our winger on the side being attacked always covers the outside man in any extra man situation. This is because it is easier to get support inside than outside.