A Fine Day for Rugby


I just came back from a nice afternoon of rugby at the local stadium (for an introduction to the local stadium and team, see my post from last spring). Despite having read a book about it this past summer – the equivalent of “Rugby for Idiots” – I’m still quite confused about a lot of the game. Here are some interesting points I’m still trying to understand:


  • Play often proceeds even though there may be a man down on the field, even one being attended to by a trainer.  
  • As a kind of penalty against one team, the other team is allowed to kick the ball downfield and out of bounds, then keep possession of it, on a throw-in, at the point where it went out. So kicking it way down field and out of bounds is a valued tactical skill. At other times, the usual out of bounds type rules apply and cause a turnover.
  • The ball can only be passed backward by hand (the equivalent of a “lateral” pass in US football parlance), never forward. This is done over great distances and with great accuracy in rugby, and often with a pefect spiral on the ball.
  • The team who’s just been scored against kicks-off to the team that just scored. This is usually done with a high drop-kick (the equivalent of an “on-sides kick” in US football parlance).
  • After some minor penalties, the player who is awarded the ball must kick or lateral it away, however, it’s legal in this case for him to make a tiny drop kick that pops the ball up only a foot or two (satisfying the kick requirement) and then catch it himself and take off with it. 
  • Similarly, when running downfield with the ball, it’s perfectly legal to give it a little, low forward kick to get it by a defender and then scoop it up again and run with it; this is often done very successfully.
  • And, after some penalty calls that result in the ball being awarded to one team, play sometimes resumes so quickly that it appears that only half the players are aware of it. The game can move extremely quickly and I guess it’s up to each player to be paying attention at all times.

Today’s opponent was Rugby Rovigo from Italy. This illustrates the fact that teams here (in many sports) compete in a variety of leagues, including international leagues, simultaneously. So the match today, part of the regular schedule, was actually in the international league; a very interesting arrangement that promotes competition and quality play.


Unfortunately for the Italians, it was a rout. Our London-Irish team scored two tries (a try is the equivalent of a US touchdown) in the first eight minutes and it was more of the same from there on. Despite a large and vocal bunch of fans, Rovigo only scored once on a penalty kick, so the final score was a very lopsided and unusual 78 – 3. Think of such a score in US football! After scoring our third or fourth try, our team started to get cocky and we saw some extremely fancy over-the-shoulder and behind-the-back ball passing, which was a lot of fun to see. This was stuff they probably wouldn’t risk in a close game.


The weather was terrific and fans happy and respectful as always and it was a fine rugby outing.



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