Ruck, Maul, Try

I've had a dormant interest in rugby for a year or two, but only as of a few days ago have I actually jumped right in and started watching videos about it. I downloaded a couple full games from the 2015 Rugby World Cup and watched them over the weekend. I read through the rules and gameplay on wikipedia. I just finished looking up USA Rugby.

I think ever since I was younger and realized that rugby players were these boulders of men who had cauliflower ears and tree trunk legs and the best jerseys of all I've sort of harbored a secret inclination toward that type of athleticism and musculature. That might seem silly since I'm sort of a wimpy dude with soft hands. Only this past weekend have I realized that these men's sizes vary quite a bit and that in spite of the brutal tackles and padless gameplay rugby is actually known as a "gentleman's sport." Which just makes it all the cooler to me.

And I noticed, even in just the two games I watched, that they are quite amiable as the "play." After they slam each other into the grass they help each other up and pat each other on the back. They respect the referee and immediately leave the field when sent to the sin bin after some kind of penalty.  (There are always exceptions and you can certainly find videos of "the worst rugby fights" and so on.) They certainly don't roll around on the field holding their shins like some other sport we all love too. If anything, they're sent off the field for bleeding until the medics can get them all wrapped up and they can resume their hunt for concussions. I think it's actually impressive that there are not more injuries, but unless you're at least a little familiar with the game, even just to the level I've hit over the weekend, you don't realize that in spite of how it appears as they play, the rules govern in such a way as to keep the game relatively safe. I won't even try to explain, because I don't fully understand the rules myself and it is probably pointless, but what little I know of the game is fascinating. Essentially, as soon as someone is tackled, they and the tacklers are basically out of the play. The just lay there under a growing pile of incoming skirmishers who wage shoulder war on each other to try to win the ball back. Those are rucks and mauls. The scrum is that fascinating contraption of hunched over men locking arms and and necks and playing the opposite of tug of war. I read that only players who have special training are even allowed to participate, because wrong moves or poor skill can result in serious neck injuries. But it's all cozy!

You can tell these guys leave all their guts on the field. They are so exhausted. It's an 80-minute game and many of them play the entire time. They may not run as much as in soccer, but they're running a lot and tackling and ramming and jumping all the time to boot. But it's incredible to watch as the camera may zoom in on a player during a lull. He's breathing hard and his mouth guard is sort of propped out of his mouth to allow more air in. He may be looking into the bleachers, but not really focusing on anything. He is weary. And then suddenly the game may pick up again, the camera zooms out to catch the whole field, and you'll notice that same player galloping toward the guy with the ball, crouching at the last second, and putting life and limb in the balance as he goes for a tackle. Then he basically goes limp and gets piled on by other 220-pound guys until that little play is done. If his arms are free he may stretch them out and keep them waving so the ref knows he's not involved with the play. And then he pops right back up as soon as he's free to do so (you have to or you risk being offsides) and at the very least will run back to his side of the line, or more likely, seek out another tackle. It's incredible. I love it.

Sports are so crazy. Right now there are twig-looking cyclists riding bicycles the weight of sandwiches up miles and miles of mountain roads in France. And there are rubbery swimmers who only eat calories and fast-twitching track sprinters who have red blood cells like bean bags trying out for those olympics. And men and women who run all day and all night at 11,000 feet elevation in Colorado. And all the other people doing all the other sports. Including breathing boulders with cauliflower ears who could tackle you to six feet under but may also pat your back after having done so.

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I decided I'd run after work today and then go to the Redlands public library and write a blog post since it's open until 9p on Mondays and Tuesdays. I got done running too late and it wasn't worth going to the library, but I am getting a dumb blog post done. Even though it's just some pointless yammering about rugby.


laSonya said...

I am so glad you are looking into rugby! Send all your helpful links to me! Since I'm going to be working with a heap of Aussies I need all the rugby explanations I can get.

Thanks for posting another "dumb blog post". It had been too long!

Anthony said...

I've heard they change and modify the rules every year! Or is that aussie football? I can't remember. When I was working with the Bear Grylls guys, there were a couple of them that played rugby in a city league. They gave us a thirty second version of how to lock into the scrum. It was intense. I do like how it is considered a gentlemen's game.