Post By: Jason Gatties
My wife's uncle, who lives in Australia, once joked "the stork must have been confused and dropped you off in America rather than England." I'm 100% American, so much so that if you try to put Swiss on my hamburger rather than American cheese, I will throw a fit. That being said, my two favorite sports are soccer (I'm American, it's soccer here, don't get your knickers in a twist) and rugby. I love the history of both sports and the joy it brings millions of people across the globe.
While soccer is pretty straight forward, rugby can get complicated, which can make any Yank's head spin. I choose to blog about rugby because I feel the sport could really take off in this country, especially given the increased television coverage over the past five years or so. However, before the sport (or sports, we'll get to that in a moment) can take off in this country, I feel education is needed. This is where my "Rugby 101" series of posts comes into play. While I advocate studying the various rugby "codes" & rules on your own, I hope I can shed some light on the sport(s).
"So wait, what do you mean by "sports." Isn't rugby a single sport?"
Rugby is a sport which features multiple codes, rules & competitions. Hmm, let's see...the codes include:
Rugby Union (what most of you think of when you think of "rugby" and the most popular code in the United States)
Rugby League (the other major code)
Rugby Sevens (rugby union & to a lesser extent, rugby league)
Rugby Nines (mostly played using the rugby league code)
Flag or Tag Rugby (played by kids who follow both major codes & adults too afraid to get hurt)
Gridiron Rugby (a hybrid of rugby league, featuring 11 players, using American football fields)
And yes, each of these "codes" have their own unique rule tweaks which makes it different from other codes.
In this installment, we'll focus on Rugby Union vs Rugby League, the similarities between the two and how they are different.
-Rugby Union features 15 players per side
-Rugby League features 13 players per side
-Rugby Union was an amateur sport until 1995
-Rugby League has been a professional sport since it's birth in 1895
-Rugby Union's pitch (field) is roughly 144 meters long by 70 meters wide. There are 100 meters between try lines (think goal line in football). There's various markings on a rugby union pitch that I will explain at a later time. Seriously, it's a post by itself
-Rugby League's pitch is set up much like an American football field, with the difference being the lines are marked off in meters rather than yards.
-Rugby Union tends to be more about field position than possession, yet a team can possess the ball as long as they want, until they either kick the ball away or commit a turnover or penalty.
-Rugby League tends to be more like American football in that a team with possession of the ball has 6 tackles (downs) to score a try (touchdown). When a team reaches the 6th tackle, they can either attempt to score a try (depending how far away they are from the try line), go for a drop kick goal (think field goal) or kick (punt) the ball to the opposing team.
-In Rugby Union, a try is worth 5 points, a conversion worth 2 points and drop goals/penalty kicks are worth 3 points
-In Rugby League, a try is worth 4 points, a conversion worth 2 points, drop goals are worth 1 point and penalty kick is worth 2 points
-Rugby Union has featured a "world cup" since 1987 and is the third most watched sporting event in the world behind the FIFA World Cup & Olympics. USA's national team is known as the "Eagles" and has featured in all but one world cup (1995). The next world cup will be held in England in 2015.
-Rugby League has featured a "world cup" since 1954 but isn't as popular internationally as their union counterparts. USA's national team is known as the "Tomahawks" and will compete in their first world cup in 2013, which is being hosted by...wait for it...England!
Those are some of the basics. I could sit here all day breaking down both codes, but as I stated earlier, I would encourage you to read up on both codes and more importantly, watch both codes on tv or online in order to learn the rules.
Where to watch in the United States?
-Fox Soccer Plus (available on DirecTV, Dish Network & many cable providers) is probably your best television option. They feature the Aviva Premiership (England's professional rugby union competition), Rabo Direct Pro12 (Professional rugby union featuring clubs from Wales, Scotland, Ireland & Italy), Heineken Cup (European Rugby Union tournament), Amlin Challenge Cup (Europe's secondary union tournament), National Rugby League (Australia's popular rugby league competition), Super League (England's rugby league competition) & various international tournaments/friendlies.
-DirecTV has exclusive rights to rugby union's Four Nations (New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina & Australia), Currie Cup (South Africa's domestic rugby union competition) & Super Rugby (featuring rugby union teams from South Africa, Australia & New Zealand).
-ESPN3.com offers the French Top 14 (rugby union) & occasional international rugby union friendlies.
-Universal Sports/UniversalSports.com is your home for the USA Eagles (union), Rugby World Cup 2015 (union) & IRB Sevens World Series (sevens rugby)
-BBC America has the annual 6 Nations tournament (Rugby union featuring national teams from England, Scotland, Wales, France, Ireland & Italy)
-NBC & NBC Sports Network will broadcast the upcoming Collegiate Rugby Championship in June (sevens rugby)
As you can see, you have plenty of television options. Americans can learn more about both codes by visiting :
International Rugby Board
American National Rugby League
United States Rugby League
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