Rugby was invented in England but many people say it was perfected in New Zealand. Rugby plays a pivotal role in the society and culture of this country, and the national team – the mighty All Blacks – have won the Rugby Championship no fewer than 16 times – an incredible achievement for a nation of only 4.4 million people. Many New Zealanders dream of a career as a famous rugby player. For the talented ones who train seriously from a young age, there’s a chance that this dream will come true.
If you would like to be or already are a good rugby player, read on for information, inspiration and some useful tips for keeping fit in this time of the coronavirus. Gaming Club checked some fitness tips and useful training methods for you.
What are the rules of rugby union?
Rugby union, to give the game its proper name and to distinguish it from rugby league, an entirely different sport popular in Australia and New Zealand, is a full contact sport where two teams of 15 players endeavour to win by scoring the most points. Teams score points through tries, conversions, penalty kicks and drop goals.
The game begins when one team kicks off from the halfway line. The ball has to travel 10 metres or the receiving team can request a re-kick, a scrum, or a line-out on the halfway line.
The game is divided into two halves of 40 minutes each. The rectangular field is usually 100 metres long and 70 metres wide, with various lines like the halfway, 22 metre, 15 metre, 5 metre and try line, and the goalposts are shaped like the letter H, with two long uprights connected by a crossbar at least 3,4 metres above the ground. The ball is oval and players wear jerseys, socks, shorts, boots and a mouthguard for safety purposes.
The most basic rule of rugby is the forward pass rule – no player may throw the ball forward for a teammate to catch. The ball has to be passed sideways or backwards. To move forward, players have to kick the ball or run with it. Players can tackle opponents in possession of the ball by wrapping their arms around them – they can’t trip them or tackle above the shoulder.
To score a try (worth 5 points), a players needs to touch the ball down behind the try line. Tries can be converted for another 2 points by kicking the ball through the goal posts from a place kick position. Penalty kicks and drop kicks are worth 3 points each.
What are the positions on a rugby team?
A rugby team is divided into two main categories: the forwards and the back line. The forwards are responsible for taking possession of the ball during scrums and line-outs. The forwards get their names from their positions in the scrum. The front row consists of the hooker, loose-head prop and tight-head prop. Props are usually immensely strong as they go head to head with the opposition. The props support the hooker, whose job it is to “hook” the ball back through the forwards’ legs when it goes into the scrum.
Behind the front row, the two locks are known as the engine room of the scrum. They’re usually exceptionally tall and excel at jumping in line-outs.
The back row consists of the eighth man and the two flanks. The flanks are all-rounders who can break away from the scrum with exceptional speed and are usually at the centre of rucks, mauls and action in general. The eighth man binds on at the back of the scrum and is the only forward who’s allowed to pick the ball up from the scrum.
The scrum-half has a pivotal role as this player links the forwards and the back line together. The scrum-half feeds the ball into the scrum and judges when the best time is to feed the ball out to the backs.
The backs are chosen for their speed and skill in running with and kicking the ball. The pivotal player in the back row is the flyhalf, who orchestrates the back line in attack and defence. The fly-half is often the best kicker on the team and decides when to kick the ball into touch.
The fastest players on the team are usually the wings, who play on the extreme edges of the field. Many a try is scored when the ball reaches an unmarked wing who then sprints across the opposing try-line.
Speed, strength and power are the qualities of the two centres. Standing closest to the fly-half when the backs line up, the inside centre will pass and kick the ball while the outside centre helps get the ball to the wings. Both centres have the job of finding holes in the opposition’s defence and they will charge in straight lines to create space for open play.
Standing behind the back line, the full-back acts like a sweeper in defence and catches the long deep kicks that the opposition uses to gain ground. Often the full-back has to swiftly kick the ball back down the field while being charged by the opposing team!
Who are the most famous New Zealand rugby players?
Nothing is as inspiring to a rugby player as the examples set by the great players of the past. Here are some of the greatest legends in New Zealand rugby history.
Charles Monro is a famous figure in Kiwi rugby history because without him there would be no rugby in New Zealand. After learning the sport in England, where he went to study, Monro became obsessed and introduced the game to the Nelson Football club in 1870. The first rugby game in New Zealand was played between Nelson College, known as “The Gown”, and Monro’s club, “The Town”, on 14 May 1870. Monro’s passion proved infectious and the game rapidly caught on all over New Zealand.
Often referred to as the most iconic rugby player of his generation, Colin Meads was named New Zealand’s Player of the Century in 1999. Nicknamed the “Pine-tree” thanks to his stature and physical presence, Meads also figure as most famous forward of the 1960s in the International Rugby Hall of Fame and was made a New Zealand Companion of Merit in 2001.
One of the first superstars of the All Blacks team, fullback George Nepia was selected to play on the so-called Invincibles tour of the UK and France in 1924-25. He was only 19 years old at the time but he played in all 30 games of the tour. Unfortunately, as a Maori, he was barred from touring South Africa and played his last game in 1930.
The Kiwi player with the most caps and test appearances is Richie McCaw, who first played for the All Blacks in 2001. Captain of the All Blacks for many years, McCaw led the team to victory in two World Cups and played no fewer than 148 test matches.
One of the greatest fly-halfs of all time, all-rounder Dan Carter played for the All Blacks between 2003 and 2015. Named World Player of the Year three times, Carter is a legend among Kiwi rugby fans for scoring 1598 test points, the most in All Black history, and was instrumental in defeating the Australian Wallabies in the 2015 World Cup final.
For many, though, the title of greatest New Zealand rugby player of all time goes to the late Jonah Lomu. A giant of a man with incredible strength, speed and courage – he thought nothing of charging directly into the opposing side – Lomu attracted the fear and admiration of opponents right from his debut in 1994. It became clear that here was a force to be reckoned with when he tore through the entire English team at the 1995 World Cup and scored what remains one of the most memorable tries ever. With a score of 37 tries throughout his career and 63 test caps to his name, Lomu is a national legend whose untimely death in 2015 robbed rugby of one of its greatest players.
Is there a strategy in rugby? What is the best?
One of the simplest and most effective attacking moves is called the cut play. This happens when the first player to receive the ball engages the opposition defender by dragging them across the space between them. This creates a gap in the defence. Then the cutter, who could be one of the centres or a winger, charges through the space that’s been created – preferably as straight as possible. This enables the cutter to stay in touch with the other backs who come up to provide support.
What are the best movies about rugby?
Movies can be a great source of inspiration for aspiring rugby players, especially if they are isolated at home. One of the most successful movies about rugby was Invictus. Meaning “unconquered,” this 2009 sports drama film, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon and directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood, focused on the events taking place in South Africa before and during the 1995 World Cup. South Africa had just come out of apartheid so the national team – the Springboks – were pretty rusty and weren’t expected to do very well. However, because the country was hosting the World Cup, the Springboks automatically qualified. The story revolves around the relationship between South African president Nelson Mandela (Freeman) and Springbok captain François Pienaar (Damon) as the underdogs train, build up spirit and go on to capture the hearts of the international rugby community – and win the World Cup against all odds.
For sports fans who like the rugby depicted in movies to be real, Old Scores is a classic television movie that features many famous Welsh and New Zealand international rugby players in supporting roles. The story is about a fictional rugby match between Wales and New Zealand that Wales won after a controversial referee decision. When the touch judge confesses on his death bed that he should have disallowed the winning try, the Welsh Rugby Union president announces a rematch between the two teams. However, it’s 25 years later and the players are all getting on a bit. Not only that, but former friends have become enemies as two Welsh star players Bleddyn Morgan and David Llewellyn have fallen out over a woman. These ingredients make for a gripping blend of comedy and drama.
A must for New Zealand rugby fans, The Kick is a great tale of redemption through rugby. All Black player Stephen Donald, played by David de Lautour, has a shocker of a match during the national team’s dreadful defeat at the hands of the Wallabies in Hong Kong in 2010. Specifically, he misses a penalty-kick that would have given the All Blacks an unbeatable lead and also fails to kick the ball into touch as the game is about to end. As a result, he is dropped from the squad and widely mocked by Kiwi fans. Donald loses his mojo completely and goes out to the country to catch whitebait, far away from the field of glory. When the 2011 World Cup comes around, his name doesn’t feature on the squad – but then players Dan Carter and Colin Slade get injured in training and Donald is called up to play for his country. In the end the All Blacks win the World Cup – which is bound to give New Zealand rugby fans a big kick!
How can rugby players keep fit while self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic?
Never has there been a more challenging time for New Zealand rugby players to stay in condition. Not being able to get out there on the field and train is tremendously galling – and what if you don’t even have a home gym? Fortunately, nature has provided the human body with the tools for a home workout that will prevent players from going soft and flabby during the lockdown period.
Believe it or not, but dance provides a fun warm-up or even a full-body workout, making the heart pump faster, increasing the breathing rate and working the muscles. A 30-minute dance session is a great alternative to a jog.
Another fun warm-up, jumping jacks can also be used to strengthen the muscles and condition the cardiovascular system. This improves performance, health and coordination. Players might want to think of themselves in the line-out while doing their jumping jacks.
For slightly more serious exercise, jumping rope is a great form of cardio exercise. It works the lungs, tones the legs and lower body, and also improves speed, balance, agility and body alignment – perfect for rugby players to keep in shape. The only requirements are a long enough rope and a flat surface.
To get the blood pumping and the lungs and heart racing, jump squats are an excellent option that only require enough space to perform. Jump squats tone and strengthen the calf muscles, help keep the hamstrings supple, and keep the body core stable and balanced. This is a great exercise for rugby players who want to maintain or even increase body mass.
Finally, the king of the indoor exercises – the mighty burpee. Feared by slackers around the planet, burpees are fantastic for taking cardiovascular fitness to the next level. These high-intensity exercises are especially good in getting the heart rate up for people who are already fit, like rugby players. Burpees work the arms, chest, abs, hamstrings, quads and glutes with every repetition – and they don’t require any equipment at all.