Piri Weepu suffered such a badly broken leg in 2010 that surgeons had to use six screws to repair the damage after ankle twisted so hard during a tackle attempt. He’s back on the field though! Tony Caine was injured so seriously and so thoroughly in 2006 (during his debut for his new team, no less) that the doctors repairing him compared him to a car accident victim. He tore ligaments galore and his calf muscle had ripped away from the bone.
Drew Mitchell was in a collision with an opponent during a rugby match in 2010 and suffered multiple leg fractures and a severely dislocated ankle. Beau Robinson had one of the grossest looking rugby injuries when his arm was twisted in ways an arm isn’t supposed to twist during a match in 2011. The surgery was simple though and he was back on the field in a month.
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There isn’t good data available but I’d be willing to bet that rugby has more serious injuries per player than any sport on the planet. Soccer rarely causes a serious injury outside of tearing something in a freakish way and the same can be said for all the American sports outside of football. That one comes with plenty of injuries too but in truth the game is built to protect the players from serious issues.
No, rugby is unquestionably the most injury-filled sport on the planet and that’s part of what makes it so appealing. The players are out there without any protection and there’s no reason not to play physical and in some cases to try and hurt the other players. A mild injury might not take someone off the field but instead slow them down and give you an advantage. Why not try for that?
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The scrum is how play is started or re-started in a rugby game. Sometimes it’s used when a ball is knocked out of bounds or when an infraction of some sort has been committed. Essentially, the rugby scrum is used when play stops and needs to get going again. It’s an amazing thing to watch. All the forwards on the field pile together in three fairly organized rows and the players’ heads are interlocked. It looks dangerous and nasty but rarely results in injury.
Once the scrum is set and the ball is dropped the players try to control it with their feet and gain possession. Whoever manages to punch it out gains possession and the scrum breaks up until it’s needed again to resume play on the rugby field. The scrum is one of the most interesting things about a game of rugby and if you’ve never watched you really should.
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Rugby players are divided into backs and forwards and within each category there are sub-categories that define a player’s role on the field. The rules apply the same to all players but they have different responsibilities to ensure their team’s success in the game of rugby. Backs are generally smaller and faster and do the creative, agile things that we all come to love when watching rugby. Their grace often drives the scoring and gets the fans wild. The forwards tend to do more of the gruntwork. They can be found in the scrum getting down and dirty with the other big guys and trying to free up the ball for the backs to work their magic. Forwards are often the larger players and can be enforcers or dole out punishment to backs that have the audacity to try and score. Everyone on the field gets to have fun though.
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If you’ve seen the Matt Damon movie Invictus then you know all about the 1995 Rugby World Cup. If not you should read on. It was the third Rugby World cup ever held and South Africa was the host country in their first ever cup. South Africa was banned from the cup and all international competitions due to Apartheid; when that ended in 1992 they were allowed to play in the next Cup. It was the first major sporting event hosted in South Africa since Apartheid ended. The meaning comes from the fact that South Africa emerged victorious in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. It was an uplifting moment for a country with deep wounds and the sight of Nelson Mandela presenting South Africa’s captain Francois Pienaar with the cup still resonates. You should see the movie if you haven’t since it’s an uplifting film.
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In 1987 the first Rugby World Cup was held and like the Olympics it continues to run every four years. It’s organized by the International Rugby Board and the winners of the competition are given the William Webb Ellis cup, named after the man purported to have invented rugby football by cheating and picking up the ball during a game.
The Rugby World Cup is competed for by twenty countries that get in through qualifying tournaments around the world in their regions. The first stage is played in groups with five teams per group that play four games each, all playing each other. The top two teams in each group then advance to the next round where they play single elimination. If you lose you’re out. The winner is determined in a championship game and goes home with the Rugby World Cup.
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There’s always going to be arguments over the best players of all time in any sport. The same is true for rugby players but I’m going to list a few guys that would be considered among the best of all time by anyone. Let’s start with Gareth Edwards, a player from Wales with an incredible talent for all aspects of the game. He played in the 1970s but his skills were so considerable that there’s no question he’d be successful if he played today.
Michael Jones hails from New Zealand and stands out as the country’s best player ever. He played defense but still managed to do some scoring, showing the world that someone on his side of the ball could be potent anywhere on the field. David Campese of Australia is one of the best winger’s ever to play the game and his field vision and passing skills are still revered to this day.
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Rugby union football is the original form of rugby that began in England in the 1800s. The first rules for this version of the game were written in 1845 and have slowly developed over the years. For most of its lifetime rugby union football was an amateur sport, which is what led to the creation of rugby league football, where players could make money based on the money their participation was generating from tickets, etc. In 1995 the International Rugby Board, which oversees rugby union football, loosened the rules on payment to players.
In rugby union football throwing the ball forward is not legal; it may only be thrown backwards or laterally. It can be kicked at anytime. Rugby union football prohibits tackling above the shoulders, largely to prevent injury as they play without pads or head protection and troubling injuries would be guaranteed.
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There are a handful of different forms of rugby, one of which is rugby league football. This is an often rough and sometimes brutal full-contact sport with 13 players per side. There are two codes of rugby football and this one began in 1895 over issues regarding payments to players. Over the years the rules have been tweaked to produce the most interesting, fastest form of rugby and it is seen as the roughest of the team sports around the world. Watching one match tells you that’s entirely true.
In rugby league football teams score points by moving the ball over the opponent’s goal line and grounding it. They call that a try and after the try the scoring team gets a free kick to tack on a few more. The amazing thing about rugby league football is that the defense is free to take down the ball carrier in any way they please, resulting in some truly brutal contact. If you like American football you’ll love this as the violence is even greater and they play with no pads whatsoever.
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The modern game of rugby we all know and love developed at Rugby School in the United Kingdom. The first written rules for the game came about in 1845 and from there have developed to the game you see today. At first there was no limit on the number of players during a game of rugby so hundreds would participate in a slow moving mass on the field with all kinds of exotic and painful industries the most frequent result of such play.
In the 1860s a rule allowing running with the ball was introduced and from there the rules that govern the modern game developed. Eventually they came up with a set number of players per side, although that number was lowered over the years to make the game more interesting to watch. In the United States the classic game of rugby evolved into what we now call football and love as a national pastime.
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