I did not follow the tournament, but I did catch a little of it. Since it was in Northern California, there was some exposure here that I would have otherwise missed. It was fun to watch, but I had no idea what the hell was going on. Here are some questions - ignorance-fighting opportunity:
I saw guys diving over the goal line. Is this required? Is it still a goal if they run across standing up?
Point were awarded for a goal, but not sure the scoring system.
Sometimes someone would drop-kick the ball - it looked like from the sideline. Were they aiming for the uprights? How many points for missing, or getting thru? What triggers the kick?
Guy is running with the ball, is tackled by an opponent, ball comes loose. Can only his team touch the ball at that point? Can the other team pick it up and advance it the other way? Do the teams have turns with the ball/offense?
Guy is running with the ball, and passes to a team-mate. It looks like he can only pass backward? What is with the punching the ball as part of the pass?
I see the scrum part, but cannot understand what precedes it.
There are a few officials on the field using their bird-like whistles - what is considered an illegal move? What are penalties?
No - unlike gridiron, to score a ‘try’ (equivalent to a touchdown) the player has to touch the ball on the ground either on or behind the line. Just running across the line is not sufficient. So very occasionally (more often in the full 15-a-side rugby than in sevens) a successful tackle is made when the player and/or ball is already over the line, but the attacking player drops it or otherwise fails to get it on the ground.
The main method of scoring is a ‘try’, as noted above. This scores 5 points. You then get an opportunity to kick at goal (known as a ‘conversion’, or converting the try), for a further 2 points if successful. The kick must be taken in line from where the try was scored, but as far back from the posts as the kicker wishes. Obviously, the further away it is, the more difficult it is to get there, but when a try is scored near the touchline (the sideline), going backwards some distance is necessary to get a reasonable angle for the kick.
These would be conversion attempts, as above. In sevens they are done with a dropkick (in full rugby they would be place kicks off a kicking tee). 2 points if successful, no points (or penalties) for missing.
Anyone can pick it up at that point, it is known as a “loose ball”. So yes, quite often the other team will pick it up and immediately start running the other way. Unlike gridiron, there are no ‘turns’ or changing players between offense and defense.
Correct, only backward (or level) passes are allowed, a forward pass means a whistle and possession going to the other team (via a scrum). There is no punching a pass as such, but occasionally a player will just try to flick the ball across to the next team-mate very quickly when receiving a pass, if they feel there isn’t time to catch and then re-pass the ball before being tackled. A spectacular and brilliant play when it comes off. Only for the experts.
A forward pass as above, or a ‘knock-on’ - this is where someone knocks the ball forward with any part of their body other than the legs/feet.
Only one of the officials has a whistle - the referee. He is in charge. There are two touch judges, one on each touchline. These days they will have headsets to communicate with the referee about any infringements they might see, but their primary job is to indicate when and where the ball has crossed the touchline.
The most common penalties are for high tackles (you must only try to tackle below the neck), holding on to the ball having been tackled (once tackled you must release the ball, though there is some latitude for getting your body into the right position first), failing to release the player you have just tackled, and offside. The offside law is somewhat complicated and despite playing and watching the game for around 25 years, I still don’t understand it properly, so I won’t attempt to explain it here. I believe fellow doper Cumbrian is a rugby referee, perhaps he might have a go if you like?
These would be mainly for line-outs, taken whenever the ball (or a player holding the ball) crosses the touchline. Lifting players is obviously to try to gain them height advantage for receiving or blocking the throw-in. You may also see it used on kick-offs, to gain a height advantage in catching the ball over the chasing players from the other side.
A very helpful post. I’ve watched rugby on occasion and I feel like I understand parts of it. I can see that one team is trying to run the ball down the field (only passing backwards, though) and the other team is trying to stop them.
But for the team on defense, what’s their ultimate goal? It seem like the team with the ball can just keep pushing forward until they score. As long as they don’t fumble, it seems like they can just keep trying until time runs out. Is there something in the rules that gives the other team a chance to get the ball? I’ve watched games, and the ball does change hands to the other team, but it always looks like an accident. How does one team get the ball if the other team doesn’t drop it?
I haven’t watched enough games to have seen that actually happen, but I can see that it’s a possibility. It doesn’t seem like that’s typical, though. How does one team’s attack typically end, and the other team’s begin?
A fumble, as you say, is pretty common, as it usually leads to a knock-on, which is then a scrum to the defending team - so they gain possession of the ball and become the attacking team. Particularly common when the ground and/or weather is wet, of course.
The other common method of “turning over” possession is for the defending team to successfully tackle the player with the ball, and then surround the tackled player with more players from their own side than players from the attacking side. Since the rules are that the tackled player must release the ball once on the ground, this will enable the defending team to either pick the ball up themselves, or (more commonly) the attacking player is penalised for holding on to the ball. This gives a penalty kick to the other side, which they can use to attempt a field goal for 3 points (if in range), or kick to touch whereupon they retain possession of the ball for the throw in at the lineout, allowing them to gain territory and possession (normally, a kick to touch results in possession going to the opposite team from the one who last touched the ball).
The defenders, therefore, are mainly trying to do one of three things: tackle so hard that the attacking player drops the ball (resulting in a knock on if the ball goes forward), rush up fast enough that the attacking side is forced backwards (though this can create gaps in the defensive line and is therefore somewhat risky), and surround the player with the ball so they can steal possession. Occcasionally, a defending player may manage to rip the ball from the hands of the attacker, which is another way for them to gain possession. Oh, I just remembered another way - if the defending team can push or tackle the player with the ball over the touchline, they gain possession also (for the line out throw).
Note that all the above (and all my previous post) only applies to Rugby Union. The superficially similar game of Rugby League has quite a few key rules differences, which often results in completely different strategies. The best way to tell which one you are watching, if unsure, is to watch what happens after a tackle. With Union, every tackle results in a contest for possession of the ball, as I describe above. In League, after a tackle the defending side is not allowed to try and get the ball, they must let the attacking player stand up and roll the ball back to a team mate for play to begin again. However, the attacking side only gets 6 goes at this - if they haven’t scored (or lost the ball) on the sixth tackle, possession turns over to the opposition automatically, somewhat similar to a gridiron team failing to make 10yds in 4 downs (if I have that right).
So, tell me more about the scrum. It looks like the teams are lined-up and then holding onto one another. What events precede it? Does the clock stop? Does the official drop the ball in there, or? Are all the players allowed to make a grab for the ball, or just the team who is supposed to have possession (forgive the American football term)? Is there a strategy for either team for the scrum?
A scrum happens when a player drops, passes, or knocks the ball with their arm and it goes forwards. The other team gets to put the ball into the scrum (known as the “put in” - no Russia jokes please :)). This is a big advantage as it allows the player with the ball (who is the player with the position known as “scrum half”) to angle it towards their own side, making it very hard for the other team to get near the ball and win it back. Officially, you are supposed to put the ball into the scrum straight but for some reason it seems this is rarely enforced at the moment. Even if/when the ball does go in straight down the middle, the team with possession of the ball has a slight advantage, as the scrum half can communicate with his team and time the entry of the ball just right so that the player in the middle of the front row of the scrum (known as the “hooker” - yes, really) can hook it back with their foot towards their own players, thus retaining possession of the ball. It is illegal for any player to touch the ball with their hand while it is in the scrum, doing so would be a penalty kick to the other team (described in a previous post). The clock does not generally get stopped for a scrum.
The strategy for both teams is to get the ball back on their side, but for the team without the ball this is much harder, as noted above. They can generally only achieve this by massively overpowering the other side and pushing them backwards. Commonly, this will result in them winning a penalty kick rather than getting the ball directly, as it often causes the other team to collapse the scrum, which is illegal. And it’s not just about brute strength - successful scrummaging, particularly by the three players in the front row, involves a lot of experience and technique. Not least to avoid serious neck injuries. So much so that if a front row player is injured and no suitable replacement is available, scrums for the rest of the game become “uncontested”, i.e. they still take the same formation but no pushing is allowed, meaning the side with the ball at the start always ends up with it after the scrum. This is fairly rare.
In Sevens, I can’t remember if they use a 3 or 5 man scrum (per side), but in either case it’s not really proper scrummaging as I describe above, this is reserved for the 15-a-side game when they have 8-man scrums. Three in the front row, 2 second-rows who put their heads in between the first three players, then three in the back row (one either side and one in the middle). The role of the back row is slightly different from the front 5 as they are mainly looking out for when to break away (ideally as soon as the ball leaves the scrum) to support their team mates.
This just scratches the surface but has hopefully answered your questions.
I wouldn’t try to dive too deeply into the depths of the rules of rugby. There’s quite a bit of tinkering in the margins that I’m convinced even international players don’t keep up with terribly closely. But you just need to know the basics to enjoy it as a spectacle, I think.
Dead Cat knows his stuff. Perhaps a post about ruck vs maul, what can happen when kicking into touch?
Also, the end of each half of the match isn’t as strictly timed as some US sports, but it isn’t as loose as soccer either. Once the 40 or 80 minutes are up, it ends when the ball goes dead - most often when kicked into touch. But if the team needing points to win can keep the ball in play, then there’s no limit.
Agreed with the first paragraph. As to the second, you’re very kind, but I’ve almost reached the limit of what I can post without fear of contradiction. Cumbrian or indeed lisiate I’m sure would do a better job of ruck vs maul (neither of which really occur in Sevens).
Indeed. Also, if the clock has gone red (i.e. 40/80 minutes are up) and a team concedes a penalty, that is of course allowed to be taken (so that one team can’t end the half/game by deliberately conceding a penalty). And if the team gaining such a penalty chooses to kick it to touch, they are also allowed to take the subsequent lineout (this was a change for the 2017/18 season; previously, a penalty granted after time could only be taken as a ‘tap and run’, or converted into a scrum, if the team with possession wished to continue play).