I recently attended my first rugby match! The Flying Fijians took on the New Zealand All Blacks at the national stadium. Not only was it a highly-anticipated game, it was also the centennial match marking 100 years of the Fiji Rugby Union. Fiji dominated pulling out a 33-14 win over New Zealand! Go Fiji!
Now, I’m generally not a huge sports fan. For me the allure of sports goes slightly beyond the joy of watching fit, handsome and aggressive men compete against other fit, handsome and aggressive men. Luckily Fiji is a country where the national sport features all of that and more.
I don’t know all of the rules and regulations of rugby, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to research a bit and learn more about it. You learn, I learn, we all learn! If only there were a fit and handsome man to teach us. Isa!
Our first scholarly source is a respected lexicon of information- what some people (no one, actually) consider to be a respectable and acclaimed compilation of knowledge: Urban Dictionary.
Rugby is elegant violence
“Rugby is a fast, skilled, team-oriented game combining the tactical complexity and physical brutality of American football (only without the padding) with the continuity and pace of soccer and the scoring rate of lacrosse.
Unlike many other sports, rugby has succeeded in maintaining as part of its culture respect for both the opponents and the referee. Players are seldom heard to argue with the ref and after the game, both teams and the ref can usually be found drinking and socializing together in the clubhouse.
There are two distinct types of rugby: union and league. They play to separate systems of rules and both have their merits. The split dates back to 1895 when the game was unified and amateur. The sport’s governing body (the RFU) refused to allow a number of clubs in the North of England to pay their players (many of whom were miners) for time lost from work in their services to the club. The RFU even threatened to ban the players for life if they were found to have been paid – they saw professionalism as an evil threat to the values of the game (read: the big, poor, burly miners would beat up the rich wimps if they played on a level footing). So the Northern clubs seceded from the Rugby Football Union to form the Rugby Football League and made rules changes to speed the game up.
League is a simpler, faster game than Union. The pitch is the same size as Union, but teams consist of only 13 players, so there is effectively more space. Contest for the ball at the tackle is not permitted – instead a team has only 6 tackles worth of possession before the ball is turned over (a bit like downs in American football, but without stopping after every play). This leads to the tactic of teams kicking the ball upfield after their 5th tackle in order to give their opponents as poor a field position as possible.
Union is a much more complicated game than League. Contest for the ball is permitted and encouraged at every phase of play – tackle, scrum, ruck, maul, line-out, the lot – leading to a greater number of turnovers and hence a more fluid game. There are 15 men on a Union team, so space is more limited, meaning there is less opportunity for individual brilliance and a greater reliance on the team to function as a unit, and consequently more obvious player specialization.”
The rugby ball is an oval ball usually made from leather or other types of treated synthetic material.
There are two types of games: 7s and 15s. 7s rugby has 7 players on the field while 15s has 15 players. A normal 7s match consists of two-halves of seven minutes with a one minute half-time break. A normal 15s match consists of two-halves of 40 minutes with a ten minute half-time break.
The ball is kicked to start the game. The ball must be bounced before you kick it. It’s called a drop kick.
During general play the team with possession of the ball are allowed to carry, pass or kick the ball.
The ball can be carried in two hands (called it a two hand carry), or one hand or arm (called a one arm carry).
There is no restriction on the number of steps you can take.
Players kick the ball forward to avoid being tackled if they are isolated from supporting team mates and likely to lose possession deep in your own territory.
If the ball is on the ground it’s called a ruck and players must bind together and attempt to gain possession by pushing and stepping over the ball (rucking).
If the ball is off the ground it’s called a maul. Players must be bound together. They push and grapple, attempting to gain control of the ball (mauling). A maul must keep moving or play will be stopped.
A scrum is when the 8 forwards from each team pack down, head to head in one mass. The ball is put into the centre of the mass and the players attempt to win control with their feet and legs.
Play also stops when the ball goes out of play over the touch-lines. It is restarted with a lineout where the ball is thrown in beteen the two lines of opposing players who leap to catch it.
There are a number of ways to score points in rugby. These are:
-Try (5 points): Grounding the ball over the try line.
-Conversion (2 points): Kicking the goal over the goal posts if a try has been scored.
-Field Goal (3 points): A drop kick over the goal posts when in the field of play.
-Penalty (3 points): Kicking the ball over the goal posts when a penalty has been awarded following an infringement.
As mentioned above, the Fiji national team is called the Flying Fijians. During matches they sport black and white uniforms on the field. The Fiji Sevens side is one of the most popular and successful 7s teams in the world and has won the Hong Kong Sevens a record twelve times since its inception in 1976.
One of the most awesome parts of watching New Zealand or Fiji play is a warrior dance they perform seconds before kick-off. In Fiji this warrior dance is called the Cibi (pronounced: Thimbi). In New Zealand it’s called the Haka. The Cibi is said to have originated back during the war period and was performed during inter-tribal warfare and conflicts with other Pacific countries. Similarly, New Zealand’s haka is a tribal war dance rooted in Maori culture and performed before battle.
Hopefully you can get a sense of how intense and powerful this dance can be from the words they chant. Here’s a Fijian and English translation:
Ai tei vovo, tei vovo
E ya, e ya, e ya, e ya;
Tei vovo, tei vovo
E ya, e ya, e ya, e ya
Rai tu mai, rai tu mai
Oi au a virviri kemu bai
Rai tu mai, rai ti mai
Oi au a virviri kemu bai
Toa yalewa, toa yalewa
Veico, veico, veico
Au tabu moce koi au
Au moce ga ki domo ni biau
E luvu koto ki ra nomu waqa
O kaya beka au sa luvu sara
Nomu bai e wawa mere
Au tokia ga ka tasere
Make ready, make ready,
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,(spoken like warning in a cry before war)
Make ready, make ready
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Look here, look here,
I build a war fence for you,
Look here, look here,
I build a war fence for you
A rooster and a hen,
They attack, attack, attack
It is forbidden for me to slumber
Except to the sound of breaking waves
Your ship is sunk below,
Don’t think I’m drowned too.
Your defence is just waiting
To crumble when I pick it
Hope this helped to explain rugby a bit! I’m looking forward to attending more games in the future to enjoy watching the players…I mean the game! (No, I really mean the players ;-))