I joined the UConn Men's Rugby Club my freshman year. I had never played rugby before, but soon enough it became one of my favorite sports. It’s a great source of camaraderie, competition, and brotherhood. However, one downside is constantly having to explain it to people who do not know what rugby is, which, in America, is quite a lot of people.
When someone sees that I play rugby, the conversation usually starts with “That's like football right?” I assume this connection is made because of the physical nature and similar ball shapes of both sports. Rugby can be explained in relation to football to a point. In both football and rugby the goal is to get the ball into the end zone (football) or try zone (rugby). Unlike football, though, rugby is a continuous play sport without downs and stoppage.
I usually give this quick explanation: Rugby is 15 vs. 15; you can only pass the ball sideways or backwards; a player can kick the ball whenever they like and in any direction; and to score, you have to touch the ball to the ground in the try zone. A try (the “touchdown”) is worth five, and a conversion (the kick) is worth two. Even when trying to simplify the game, it is confusing. When a sport has words like scrum, ruck, drop goal, line out, maul, try, and knock-on, it’s hard to explain quickly and easily.
The positions in rugby don’t help explain the sport either. Positions include prop, hooker, lock, flanker, center, scrum half, number 8, fly half, wing, and fullback. To the uninitiated, all of these words mean nothing. When I tell someone my position, I am met with confused looks.
People also assume rugby is extremely dangerous because you do not wear any pads or helmets like in football. This is only partially true. Every contact sport is dangerous, but as long as you play smart and within the rules, you reduce your chances at being hurt.
While rugby is currently not a major sport in the U.S., that is changing. In the US kids grow up playing baseball, football, and soccer, when in other countries kids grow up playing rugby. But rugby viewership and leagues are becoming more and more popular here.
There’s not many other sports that are an all out war with literal blood, sweat, and tears. (I told you, rugby’s not extremely dangerous.) In the moment the other team is the enemy who you are trying to destroy, but as soon as the final whistle blows, it stops. Off the field you turn into friends and maybe even have a beer. It's truly a sport in its own. It’s a community of players who all are there for the camaraderie, respect, and inclusiveness that this sport offers.
The best way to understand rugby is to just watch it. Once you seen it in action, it begins to make more sense. Or you could just go out and play, but then you might die.