A brief guide to RWC2011

Ok everyone, I know that BGN nation is all about the Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL and football as a whole. Following a lock-out, hectic free agency (in which Roseman et al kicked ass) and shortened pre-season, we are all looking forward to opening night, Thursday September 8th, when all eyes will be on Lambeau field where the Packers will face the incumbent Superbowl champions the New Orleans Saints. However less than 24 hours later the show piece event of the Rugby World begins, Rugby World Cup 2011.




American football and Rugby share the same roots with both games are derived from medieval mob football, a game during which 2 neighbouring villages would field teams of men responsible for bringing an inflated pigs bladder (pigskin) to the opposition town (goal). The teams would often consist of hundreds of men and any violence short of murder was encouraged. Although both Rugby and Football have evolved over time away from this medieval sport, there still remain many parallels between the sports.

Rules, Set Pieces, Positions and overview after the Jump



The scoring in Rugby is very similar to that of Football, a converted try (grounding the ball in the endzone) is worth 7 points, effectively a 5 point TD with a 2 point conversion. A penalty kick is 3 points (pretty much a field goal), and a drop goal is the same as a football drop goal. There is no equivalent of a safety in Rugby, the ball instead changes possession 5 yards from the try line (end zone).


The equipment worn by rugby players is vastly different to that worn by football players. Solid shoulder pads, facemasks, helmets and legsets are prohibited. However it is common for players to wear some sort of shoulder padding and head guards, to a certain extent similar to the equipment used in the early football days. Like football, underarmour, cleats and mouth guards are recommended.

Playing Field:

The size and layout of a rugby field is similar to that of the football gridiron. The field is 100m long (as opposed to 100 yards) with an endzone of 22m at each end (as opposed to 10 yards).

Players & Numbers:

There are 15 players fielded at any one time, with 7 replacements. Unlike football where there are Offensive & Defensive units with their own set packages no to mention special teams which results in nearly 50 players dressing and seeing the field, only the 22 players will play. As a replacement is permanent, this does not allow for specialised units and leads to players being more versatile. Unlike the NFL which is strict on shirt numbers, Rugby Union allocated a single number (1 to 15) to each position.

Open play:

The ball must be passed backwards only (lateral), and received by a player standing behind the passer. Hence the ball must be run to gain ground. Knock-ons, forward passes result in a compulsory change of possession. Blocking is illegal and results in a free punt or field goal for the other team. There is no stoppage of play between tackles. All types of tackles are legal, unless contact is made with the tackled players face. All players must be able to pass, run and tackle.

Set Piece types:


Sounds a lot like scrimmage eh? This consists of the 8 forwards (similar in build to a defensive front 7) collectively trying to push the other forwards off the ball which is fed by a back.


This consists of the 8 forwards, 7 in a line ready to catch a ball thrown in by the 8th. The two teams compete and may intercept each others throw.


Unlike the NFL where the play is stopped when the RB stops forward momentum in the middle of the pile, the members of the pile continue to push until the player goes to ground. A common technique to move the ball down the field.


When a player has been tackled to the floor, he must release the ball. The ruck is effectively the fight to gain possession of the loose ball. Teams aim to regain possession so legally block defenders from the ball.


1&3: Prop:

These guys are built very much like interior linemen on both the offense and defense. Measuring in around 250-280lbs and 6'0 to 6'4. Their prime role is to be good scrummagers (good at moving the pile), and to lift other players in the lineouts. They tend to be large players who rely on strength over speed and agility. However there are some props that can do both. Below is a video of Charlie Faumuina providing a pure highlight reel moment for any prop.


2: Hooker

A hooker tends to be slightly smaller than that of a prop (between 5'10 & 6'2 and 225-270lbs), but of similar build to the props. Similar to a combination of a LS & C. The hooker lines up in the centre of the scrum an "hooks" the ball back towards his team much like a centre snaps the ball. The hooker is also responsible for throwing in at the lineout, similar to a LS long snapping the ball.

4&5: Lock

The 2 locks are the height of an OT, but the build of a TE. They are very tall (usually between 6'5 & 6'10) and weigh 240-290lbs). They are responsible for catching the ball in the lineout (hence why they tend to be tall), being good ball carriers (gaining ground running the ball) and providing support to the props in the scrum. They tend to be faster players due to their large strides. As seen in the video below, Chris Jack (blue #4) shows a good turn of pace to score.



6&7: Flankers

Flankers most closely correspond to a mix between a Fullback & a pass rush LB/DE. Ranging from 5'10 to 6'6 and 200-260lbs. They are large players responsible for making a lot of tackles, being "around the ball" a lot, and making the hard yards. Flankers tend to be good a generating turnovers and often the players to put in the big hit. Below is a video of Jerome Kaino putting a big hit on Bradley Davies (red 4) whom is himself 6'6 260lbs. This demonstrates the sort of tackles expected from the best flankers.


8: Number 8

Number 8's are the final forward, and are a combination of a Tampa 2 MLB and a TE. These players tend to be tall, fast & strong. Equally responsible for putting in the big hits as ploughing through the opposition. Number 8's tend to measure around 6'5 & 235lbs. The video below features a big hit by Henry Tuilagi very much reminiscent of the Sheldon Brown hit on Reggie Bush. Enjoy.

9: Scrum Half

Rugby does not have a direct equivalent to the QB, however the scrum half is the closest thing to it. Scrum halves are expected to be very good passers, quick & nimble (enabling them to get to the ball when it is in the ruck) and be good kickers. They are often the first recipient of the ball from any maul, ruck, lineout or scrum and start the majority of plays. Scrum halves in general tend to be the smallest players on the field, normally less than 200lbs & 5'10. However in recent years some 'mammoth' players have revolutionised the position. Below is a video showing the two extremes: Welsh Scrum half Mike Phillips at 6'3 & 230lbs lining up against all 5'9 & 196lbs of Italian Fabio Semenzato.

10: Outside Half

In Football, QB is THE glamour position. HB & WR both have their glamour, but at the end of the day there is only ever 1 QB on the team due to their importance and also required level of skill, in Rugby Outside half is the glamour position. Outside halves are expected to be good passers, runners, tacklers, kickers and most importantly decision makers. They must decide if it is worth running the ball, passing it to another player, punting the ball 50m down field, or attempting a drop goal. Outside halves are expected to score the most points for their team. In fact the top 9 points scorers of all time in International Rugby were outside halves! It is a true fact that the Miami Dolphins have tried to sign Johnny Wilkinson (England) & Ronan O'Gara (Ireland), who lie 2nd & 4th in the all time points ranking as P/K in previous seasons.

There are so many highlight videos of the great outside halves, but to show the kicking ability of these players I have selected a video showing a massive drop goal kick by South African Francois Steyn. He made the drop goal from 57m (62 yards) from the posts and the ball clears the end of the field!


12 & 13: Centres

The role of a centre would be a combination of a HB or SS. These players are expected to be larger, fast and strong. Good tacklers along with being good runners. Traditionally the centres tend to be a flash thunder combination, one being a smaller faster runner, the other a slower bruiser. Centres tend to be highly skillful players with good kicking & passing skills. The video supplied below displays some of the pure skill shown by one of the all time greats, Mr Brian O'Driscoll of Ireland. It is a classic case of creating something out of nothing.

11 & 14: Wingers

The role of wingers pretty much translate to those displayed by WR's & CB's. Wingers tend to be the fastest and most agile players on the team. Wingers tend to score the most tries (TD's) and provide the true highlight real moments. Unlike most other positions, Wingers come in all shapes and sizes. As a slight change I have put 2 videos below: The first is of Shane Williams, at 5'6 & 176lbs one of the smallest players in International Rugby proving that size isn't everything with a sublime piece of skill and finishing. The second is of USA International Takudzwa Ngwenya scoring one of the top tries from the last Rugby World Cup in 2007.

15: Fullback

The roles of a Rugby fullback could not be more different from its football namesake. A rugby fullback is effectively a FS & PR combined into one. Fullbacks are the last line of defense so must be very good tacklers, and must be adept not only at fielding kicks, but also making them. Fullbacks tend to be smaller faster players and sometimes offer themselves as an extra winger in attacking situations. The video I have chosen epitomises the defensive role of a full back. Enjoy!


I hope that this fanpost has helped inform those of the upcoming Rugby World Cup adequately enough that if they so wish to watch a game, they can appreciate what is going on in an enjoyable amount of detail. I will admit Rugby is no American football, and the World Cup is no Superbowl! But for all the big hits, massive kicks, great tries and pieces of individual skill soon to start showing on our TV's it is worth a look!



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