|Originated||1845, Rugby, Warwickshire, England|
|World Governing Body||International Rugby Board|
|Major Competitions|| The World Cup|
A rugby union match lasts for 80 minutes, (plus stoppage time), with a short interval (no more than 10 minutes) after the first 40 minutes; at under-19 level and below, games are limited to a maximum of 70 minutes, with an interval after 35 minutes. A match is controlled by a referee, who is assisted by two touch judges or assistant referees. For professional matches, a television match official (TMO), commonly called the video referee is often employed, usually to advise the referee on matters pertaining to the scoring of tries and dropped goals.
The object of the game is to score as many points as possible. The team that scores the greater number of points is the winner.
Points are awarded for scoring a try or kicking a goal. A try, which is worth 5 points, is scored when the ball is grounded by a player on the attacking team within the opponent's in-goal area. A goal is scored by kicking the ball over the crossbar of the opponent's goal while remaining between the posts.
There are three ways to score a goal: (i) a dropped goal (scored in open play where the ball must hit the ground immediately before it is kicked); (ii) a penalty goal (awarded after the opposing side infringes against the laws of rugby and may be kicked from a stationary ground position or by drop kick); and (iii) a conversion (awarded after a try is scored) by either a drop kick or a place kick. A penalty or dropped goal is worth 3 points; a conversion is worth 2 points.
The pitch must be no more than 100 meters in length, not including the in-goal area. The depth of the in-goal area can vary but must be at least 10 meters (where practicable) and no more than 22 meters. The width of the pitch may also vary but must be no more than 70 meters wide. The goal posts are situated on the centre of the goal line with the upright posts placed 5.6 meters apart and the crossbar is placed 3 meters above the ground in an "H" shape. The overall height of the goal posts must be over 3.4 meters.
A typical passage of rugby takes the following form: the team in possession of the ball moves the ball up the field in an effort to ground the ball over the opponents' goal-line in order to score a try until such time as the ball carrier is tackled. They then form a ruck in order to win the ball back. This process repeats until one team loses possession, makes a mistake that violates the laws of the game, moves off the field of play or a try or goal is scored.
The team in possession may choose to advance by kicking the ball forward. The ball may be passed from one player to another as long as the ball is not thrown forward. Rugby union is one of the few ball games where the ball cannot be passed forward. Any team mate nearer the opposition goal than the ball-carrier is off-side and must not interfere with play, meaning that American football–style blocking is forbidden.
The team not in possession attempts to stop the ball carrier by tackling him, which consists of grabbing hold of him and bringing him to ground. A tackled player must pass or release the ball, allowing the opposition to contest possession of the loose ball. Play does not stop unless there is an infringement of the laws, or the ball/ball-carrier leaves the field of play.
If the ball goes into touch the game restarts with a line-out. If the game stops because of an infringement, play restarts with either a scrum, free kick or penalty kick (depending on the severity of the infringement) awarded to the non-infringing team.
Tries are the main form of scoring, and the primary aim of most teams is to score tries. Drop goals and penalty kicks are usually augmenters, a safer option against a steadfast defense or to punish ill-disciplined opposition. On some (usually rare) occasions, a team may be awarded a penalty try, if their opponents commit a foul which is deemed by the referee to have prevented a probable try, for example collapsing a scrum or maul close to the try line.
Six regional associations are members of the IRB; these are:
National unions oversee rugby union within individual countries. These are affiliated both with the IRB and with their respective regional association.
Rugby union has established itself as a popular sport, particularly in Australia, Argentina, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Georgia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Romania, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, Tonga and Wales. Other countries with a long tradition of rugby, although as a minority sport, include the USA, Sri Lanka, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Netherlands, Belgium, Russia, Moldova, Portugal, Spain and numerous African countries. For example, the USA are the reigning Olympic champions, from the Paris Olympics in 1924 (the last year rugby was played as an Olympic sport), when they beat France in the final. Rugby union is gaining popularity in Italy following its acceptance into the Six Nations. Japan unsuccessfully bid to host the 2011 World Cup losing to New Zealand. Rugby union also has a following in North America, with both Canada and the USA regularly qualifying for the World Cup. One of the attractions of rugby union is the great diversity in playing styles that have been adopted by the various countries that play the game. This diversity of styles of play is partially due to the varying interpretations of the laws of the game. Perhaps the greatest influence on styles of play is the playing environment which can vary according to the local climate.
The International Rugby Board (IRB), founded in 1886, governs the sport worldwide and also publishes the game's laws and rankings. There are currently 95 full members and eight associate member countries. According to IRB figures, rugby union is played in over 100 countries spanning six continents by men and women of all ages. The IRB controls the Rugby World Cup, the Women's Rugby World Cup, Rugby World Cup Sevens, IRB Sevens World Series, Junior World Championship, Junior World Trophy and the Super Cup. It holds votes to decide where all of these events shall be held, except in the case of the Sevens World Series. For that competition, the IRB contracts with several national unions to hold individual events.
Records of women's rugby go back over 100 years - the first mentions of the game being in New Zealand in 1891 and France ten years later. In the past 30 years, however, the game has expanded massively and (according to the RFU) it is now played in over 80 countries worldwide.
The most important tournament in rugby union is the Rugby World Cup, a men's tournament that takes place every four years between the elite national rugby union teams. South Africa are the current world champions, winning the 2007 tournament held in France. They beat England, who were attempting to become the first country to retain the title, having won it in 2003. The fact that four different countries have won the World Cup confirms the level of competition in the tournament, creating intense interest from supporters, the media and major sponsors. Major international competitions in the northern and southern hemisphere are the Six Nations Championship and the Tri Nations Series, respectively.
The Six Nations is an annual competition involving northern hemisphere teams , , , , and . Each country plays the other five once, the modern tournament traces its roots to the first ever international game, when England lost by one goal to Scotland at Inverleith Park, adjacent to Raeburn Place, Edinburgh in 1871. In the 1880s, Wales and Ireland joined to create the Home International Championships. France joined the tournament in the 1900s and in 1910 the term Five Nations first appeared. However, the Home Nations (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) excluded France in 1931 amid a run of poor results, allegations of professionalism (rugby union was officially amateur until 1995) and concerns over on-field violence. France then rejoined in 1939-1940, though World War II halted proceedings for a further eight years. France has played in all the tournaments since WWII, the first one of which was played in 1947. In 2000, Italy became the sixth nation in the contest. Argentina have long been rumoured to be interested in joining the 6 Nations but their geographical location and various other factors combine to make it look extremely unlikely, in the near future anyway. Since their strong performances in the 2007 World Cup a number of commentators believe they should join the Tri-Nations with New Zealand, Australia and World Cup champions South Africa.
The Tri Nations is an annual international rugby union series held between the southern hemisphere teams of , New Zealand and . The series was initially played on a home and away basis with the three nations playing each other twice. In 2006 a new system was introduced where each nation plays the others three times rather than two. In 2007 the teams played each other only twice, as it was a World Cup year. The IRB had been brokering a deal which could have seen admitted to the competition in 2008, but it was later confirmed that the Tri Nations would not be expanded until at least 2010. Amidst all the rugby union competitions are also the autumn and summer Tests, which take place between September to December and June to August. These are played by the major rugby union nations on a home or away basis.
Rugby union was played at the Olympic Games in 1900, 1908, 1920 and 1924. As per Olympic rules, the nations of Scotland, Wales and England were not allowed to play separately as they are not sovereign states. Rugby Sevens has been played at the Commonwealth Games since 1998.
Women's international rugby also has a Six Nations competition. Recently, there has also been a movement to include a Nations Cup Championship for the Senior Women's sides. The inaugural event takes place in August 2008 at Esher RFC in London, England. The tournament features England, USA and Canada. The inaugural U20 Women's Nations Cup took place in Oakville, Ontario and included Canada, Wales and England, with a Canada 'A' also playing supplemental matches with the two Home Nations countries. The England U20's took the tournament in the final game during an unabated, 90 minute, torrential downpour.
The Royal Navy and in particular the British Army did much to spread rugby worldwide as it did for two other sports of English origin; cricket and football. Army regiments stationed throughout the British Empire had regimental teams who played locally. Whilst serving in India the 3rd (East Kent) Regiment (The Buffs) and the 62nd (Wiltshire) Regiment (Duke of Edinburgh's) both had a hand in the conception of the Calcutta Cup, the oldest trophy in the history of international rugby.
In 1905 the Royal Navy Rugby Union (RNRU) was formed and the Army Rugby Union the following year (1906), both service unions were affiliated to the Rugby Football Union (RFU) on their formation.
Women's rugby was introduced into the British Armed Services in the early 1990s.