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Rugby union (often referred to as simply rugby or union) is a sport played by teams of 15 players with an oval ball. It is one of the two main forms of full-team rugby, the other being rugby league. There is also a quicker seven-a-side sport called rugby sevens, which exists in both rugby union and rugby league derived forms.
The game was developed from the rules used to play at Rugby School in England, hence the name. The crucial differences from association football (soccer) are that in rugby the ball is a prolate spheroid instead of a sphere and that the players are allowed to pick the ball up and run with it. The players are also allowed to throw the ball from player to player, but unlike American football they are not allowed to throw it forwards; i.e. the ball must only go sideways or backwards when thrown.
Rugby union has established itself as a popular sport, particularly in Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, Tonga, and Wales. Rugby union is also gaining popularity in Italy, following its acceptance into the Six Nations, and Japan, despite their unsuccessful bid to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which went to New Zealand.
The International Rugby Board (IRB), founded in 1886, governs the sport and also publishes the game's laws. There are currently 95 full members and eight associate member countries. According to IRB figures, rugby union is being played in over 100 countries spanning five continents by men and women of all ages. The IRB controls the Rugby World Cup, the Women's Rugby World Cup, Rugby World Cup Sevens, IRB Sevens World Series, Under 21 World Cup, Under 19 World Championship, and the Super Cup. It holds votes to decide where all of these events shall be held, except in the case of the Sevens World Series. For that competition, the IRB contracts with several national unions to hold individual events.
A rugby union match lasts for 80 minutes (two halves of 40 minutes each) and is controlled by a referee, two touch judges, and in most professional matches, a television match official (TMO), commonly called the video referee. Each team alternately attacks the opposition goal or defends their own. These goals are marked at each end of the pitch by a pair of tall (typically 10 m or more) posts set 5.6 m apart, and connected by a cross-bar at 3 m above the ground, the whole forming the approximate shape of a letter H. The attacking team may score by kicking the ball between the posts and above the cross-bar. The ball may only be kicked from the ground: either from a place kick following the award of a penalty or from a drop kick in open play. A successful kick at goal is worth three points. The area behind each set of goal posts is called the "in goal area" and the attacking team may also score by grounding the ball in this area. This is called a "try" and is worth five points. After scoring a try, the attacking team are awarded a free kick at goal, called a conversion, worth two points, from directly in line with where the try was scored, and any distance away from the posts.
A try is the main form of scoring, and the primary aim of most teams is to score tries. Drop goals and penalty kicks are usually augmentors, a safer option against a steadfast defence or to punish ill-disciplined opposition.
Rugby Union, Rugby League, Rugby Sevens, American football and Canadian football are all descended from Rugby Football. Rugby League and Rugby Sevens are most closely related to Union, with Rugby Sevens and Union sharing the same governing body, the IRB. Rugby League and Rugby Union have diverged considerably over the years. Their main differences are the number of players per side (League has 13, Union 15), the scoring system, and the means of securing and retaining ball possession. In Union, both teams may contest possession at a tackle or set piece; in League one team retains possession for six tackles. The use of contested scrums and lineouts in Rugby Union adds dramatically to the tactical variety of the modern game.
Game laws and methods
Rugby union differs from association football in that the hands can be employed to move the ball. However, a player can only pass the ball backwards or laterally (i.e. not forward) to another player, or kick it. This means that the majority of progress made by an attacking team occurs through a leap frog cycle of passing the ball, running to make ground, being tackled and repeating this process. Each of these cycles (greatly simplified) is called a phase of play.
A rugby union field, known as a pitch, consists of a maximum playing area of 144x70 m on a grassy flat surface. The fields are normally wider than rugby league. Lines are painted on to the field at regular intervals; dead ball line, goal line (usually called the try line), 22-m line (before the metric system was introduced, this was the 25-yard line), 10-m line (broken line) and half way. This is mirrored on the other side of the field. Lines are also located 5 m away from the goal line and touchline and 15 m from the touchline. The length from goal line to goal line is usually 100 m, although the IRB rules merely stipulate this is a maximum. It is more usual for the width of the playing field, and the distance from goal line to the dead ball line to vary from pitch to pitch. Interestingly, there is no rule to say that the pitch needs to be flat or level.
1.2-m flags are placed next to the field for indication on the halfway line, 22, goal line and dead ball line. The goal line and dead ball line flags are put on the intersection with the touchline and are considered out if hit by a player carrying the ball, or the ball itself.
In rugby union, unlike association football, the lines bordering the field of play are regarded as completely out of play. For example, a player standing on but not over the touchline is regarded to be "in touch". Similarly the goal line (and the goalposts) are considered part of the in-goal area, so a player may score a try by grounding the ball on the goal line (or against the base of one of the posts).
Players and officials
A rugby union team consists of 15 players: eight forwards, numbered 1 to 8, and seven backs, numbered 9 to 15. Depending upon the competition, there may be up to seven replacements (substitutes or reserves). Professional rugby contains seven reserves, with a player being allowed to be substituted only once, unless they are a front-rower and are replacing an injured front-rower. Another exception to this rule is the "blood bin", where a player with a visible cut can leave the field for ten minutes and then return to continue after receiving treatment. A player sent to the blood bin may be replaced by another player during treatment; if the bloodied player returns to play within ten minutes, it is not counted as a substitution.
The main role of the forwards is to gain and retain possession of the ball. They take part in set pieces of the scrum and the line-out. Generally, forwards are larger than the backs, which makes them stronger but slower. Forwards also have a role in taking the ball forwards, but generally do so by driving into the opposing forwards.
The role of the backs is to move the game forward by running or kicking the ball. The scrum-half will gain possession of the ball from the forwards and usually feed it to the fly half (no.10) who then controls how the attacking team will proceed. The backline will tend to score its tries by focussing on the tactical placement of players, creating holes in the opposition defence line. A successful backline will cause the opposition to commit too many players at strategic points allowing for space to open up for the faster, outside backs (wingers and fullback).
The following diagram locates the various positions in the 15-man team. All members of the starting 15 wear jerseys, numbered from 1 to 15, and keyed to their positions (though alternatives exist); see rugby union positions and rugby union numbering schemes for more information). The first eight players, known as forwards or the pack, play in the scrum. The remaining seven players are the backs.
- For more details on this topic, see rugby shirt.
A traditional rugby union kit consists of a collared jersey (often imitated by fashion labels and called a "rugby shirt"), shorts, long socks and boots with studs. Some padding is allowed on the head, shoulders and collarbone, but it must be sufficiently light, thin and compressible to meet IRB standards. Players also have the option to use fingerless gloves which have been introduced to the game allowing players to better grip the ball. The invention of synthetic materials aids in keeping the players both cool and dry.
A rugby shirt has traditionally followed a style with half a dozen horizontal stripes on the shirt. This style may be replicated on the socks. Another common design is the 'Harlequin', a checkered pattern. There is a large variety of designs as there are no restrictions on design. The number of colours used on a jersey varies with the club, with the club name or location usually having considerable influence. The back of a jersey will usually have the player's position number and sometimes their surname printed above the position number (mainly on club teams' shirts; names on international shirts are rare). The team logo will traditionally be placed on one side of the upper chest. Sponsors also play a role in a jersey and are usually placed on the front, sleeve and shorts. A club competition logo may also be included in the jersey's design. The rugby jersey is a popular fashion item for both males and females. Most rugby teams will usually have at least two jersey designs, home and away, the away being of lighter colour or an inverted colour scheme of the usual team jersey, depending on whether colour clashes with the opposition occur. Traditionally, out of courtesy the home team changed if there was a colour clash - plus, in the amateur days, it was easier for them to nip home and find a different shirt.
The game is controlled by a referee, who is assisted by two touch judges. The touch judges adjudicate when the ball or ball carrier is in touch and whether a kick at goal is successful. They may also assist the referee by commenting on other infringements (such as foul play) and by confirming whether or not a try has been scored. When a match is televised, a television match official (TMO), a qualified referee, may be appointed. The primary role of a TMO is to use television replays to advise the referee whether a try is legal. The circumstances in which the TMO's advice can be sought are stipulated prior to the match by the appropriate governing body. Despite the presence of other officials, the referee is the sole arbiter of the game and is not bound to take their advice. If a referee is unable to finish the game, a replacement takes over; this is usually the more senior of the two touch judges, in which case another official will take over the duties of touch judge.
The referee may punish a player's misconduct by a caution (yellow card) or sending-off (red card). A player receiving a caution is temporarily suspended from play for ten minutes. If the same player subsequently commits a further cautionable offence, he is sent off.
Before a game commences, traditionally, a coin will be tossed to determine which side will kick off and what direction the teams will be running. This is usually performed by a referee although the laws suggest that it should be done by one of the captains. In most cases, the home side will elect what side of the coin they will choose, either heads or tails. The winner may choose to kick off or which direction they will run. A number of elements may become part of the decision-making process of a coin winner. A personal preference may be that a team wishes to start the match defending, thus will elect to receive the ball, or vice versa.
Weather can be a decisive factor, such as the possibility of having a potentially large advantage over an opponent if there is a high amount of wind, as it would aid their kicking game. Depending on the time of the game, the sun might be a factor in the decision, being a potential problem to the vision of players, depending on what way they run. The 2006 Super 14 Final was affected by poor weather, with low fog preventing players from seeing little more than 40 metres.
Depending on when the toss was performed, both sides will make their way out onto the field. Kick-off will be performed from the center of the field. Each half lasts 40 minutes, but play comes to an end only when the ball goes dead. Variations in time and extra-time apply in any number of interpretations of the game, or tournaments. 'Half-time' lasts around 10 minutes, allowing for players to recover from fatigue and for coach interaction as well as other factors, such as time for crowds to access amenities and facilities. In the second half, the teams swap the direction of running, and the team kicking off, so any possible advantage such as wind may now be in favour of the other side, although the conditions may no longer be present.
The aim of rugby union is to score more points than the opposition. Teams score in several ways:
- Touching the ground over the opponents' goal line with the ball using the hand, hands, arm or arms. Also by pressing the ball down (with controlled downward pressure) with any point on the body from the waist to the neck, over the opponents' goal line. The opponents' goal line includes the base of the posts, which is considered to be part of the goal line. Doing either of these results in a try, worth 5 points. A penalty try can be awarded if, following any infringement of the laws, in the judgement of the referee a try would have been scored had the infringement not occurred. The try got its name because originally the touching down of the ball only gave you a "try" at scoring by successfully kicking for goal, which were the only points scored if the kick was good.
- After scoring a try, the scoring team attempts a conversion: a player takes a kick at goal in line with where the touch-down occurred. Scoring the goal earns 2 points.
- Kicking the ball above the crossbar and between the uprights of a large 'H'-shaped set of posts. This may either occur from a penalty kick or kicked from the hand during play. In the latter case, the ball must strike the ground before being kicked (a drop goal). Both types of goal score 3 points.
Goal kicking is a major part of the game, with games being won and lost at these situations. An attacking team with an accurate goal kicker can punish transgressions anywhere in the defending team's half, and sometimes further out. This threat puts more pressure on the defence as they have to avoid giving away penalties.
Set-pieces are used to restart play after a stoppage. They are, principally:
At the start of each half, one side kicks off. One side, determined following the toss of a coin, takes a drop kick from the middle of the centre line to start the first half. The ball must travel at least 10 m into the opposition half. The other team kicks off the second half. The kicking side frequently kicks the ball high and aims to drop it just over the 10-m minimum, which is marked by a dashed line across the pitch. This tactic gives their players time to chase the lobbed ball and hope to catch it before the defenders can do so. Alternatively the kick may be a long kick deep into opposition territory, sacrificing the chance to regain possession for territorial gain.
Similarly, there is also a 22-m drop-out. This is awarded if the attacking side is responsible for sending the ball into the in-goal area, but instead of their player grounding the ball and scoring a try it is first grounded by a defender. If the ball is kicked into the in-goal area by the attackers and instead of being grounded there by either side it continues, under its own momentum, through the in-goal area and crosses the dead-ball line, then the defenders have the option of choosing either a 22-m drop out or a scrum at the place where the attackers kicked the ball. The 22-m drop out is taken at any point along (or behind) the 22-m line.
A scrum  is a way of restarting the game safely and fairly after an accidental infringement such as a knock-on (where a player drops the ball forwards) or a forward pass.
A scrum is formed by the eight forwards from each team binding together in three rows. The front row, consisting of the two props (loosehead and tighthead, usually the largest men on the field) and the hooker, 'prop' the scrum up and 'hook' the ball so it can get back to the scrum half or number 8. The two locks in the second row provide the power to drive the scrum forward, and the two flankers (blindside and openside) and number 8 are loosely bound, so they can support the backs when the ball gets out as fast as possible. Occasionally, all eight forwards will be called upon to drive, usually near the goal-line as the attacking team attempts to drive the opponent's scrum over the goal-line and score what is known as a "pushover try."
The two packs of forwards engage with each other so that their heads are interlocked with those of the other side's front row. The loosehead props are so called because they occupy the positions at each end of the interlocked front rows. The scrum half from the team that did not infringe stands on his team's loosehead side and throws the ball into the tunnel between the two front rows; the hookers compete for possession by hooking the ball backwards with their feet, while each pack tries to push the opposing pack backwards to gain possession easier. The side that wins possession usually transfers the ball to the back of the scrum, where it is picked up either by the number 8, or by the scrum half. Either the scrum half or the number 8 can pass the ball to the backs or run the ball at the opposing team. Normal play then resumes.
When the ball goes into touch (i.e. outside of the area of play) the referee calls a line-out at the point where the ball crossed the touchline. The forwards of each team (though not necessarily all of them) line up a metre apart, perpendicular to the touchline and between 5m and 15m from the touchline. The ball is thrown from the touchline down the centre of the lines of forwards by a player (usually the hooker) from the team that did not play the ball into touch. The exception to this is when the ball went out from a penalty, in which case the side who gained the penalty throws the ball in. There is an advantage to being the team throwing the ball as that team then knows where along the line the throw is aimed. Both sides compete for the ball, and some players may lift their teammates. (While the laws say that jumping players may only be supported, lifting is uniformly tolerated).
The aim of the defending side is to stop the player with the ball, either by bringing them to ground (a tackle, which is frequently followed by a ruck), or contesting for possession with the ball-carrier on their feet (a maul). Such circumstances are known by the collective name of "the breakdown", and each is governed by particular individual laws.
A player may tackle an opposing player who has the ball by holding him while bringing him to ground. If a ball carrier is held by an opposition player but still has forward momentum he may continue to slide over the goal-line and score a try. One knee touching the ground, or the ball touching the ground, is sufficient for a ball carrier to be deemed to be grounded. A tackled player must release the ball, either by passing to a team mate or placing it on the ground, and the tackler must release him and move away, allowing the ball to become available, or for a ruck to form. If the ball-carrier is not brought to ground, then it is not a tackle and a maul might form. Players often deliberately go to ground rather than allow a maul to form, to take advantage of the rules governing rucks.
There are a number of laws governing how to tackle, the most notable of which are that the tackler cannot tackle above the shoulder (the neck and head are out of bounds), and the tackler has to attempt to wrap his arms around the player being tackled to complete the tackle. It is illegal to trip a player using feet or legs, but hands may be used (this being referred to as a tap-tackle or ankle-tap).
A ruck  is a contest for possession. Once a tackle has grounded a player, he must release the ball and try to move out of the way, as must the tackler. The first player(s) arriving from either side may pick up the ball; however as soon as two players, one from each side, bind together — usually by locking shoulders as they face each other — with the ball at their feet they have formed a ruck. As more players arrive they may join the ruck, but must do so from the last or back foot (also known as the "gate") of their own side. In a ruck no player may use his hands to win the ball, instead each side attempts to push the other side back, and players use their feet to hook the ball backwards towards their own side — an action known as "rucking the ball" where it will be picked up by the scrum-half or half-back who waits behind the ruck. Players in a ruck may not deliberately go to ground themselves. If the ball becomes trapped in a ruck, the referee awards a scrum to the side going forward.
Most infringements occur in rucks. Players may seek to slow down the speed of the recycling of the opposition's ball or speed up their own by using their hands illegally, or by lying over the ball, or going to ground deliberately. Such infringements result in penalties. If the attacking team loses possession by legal means, either because of the attacking player dropping the ball or a defending player stealing it, then the ball is said to have been "turned over". After a turn over play carries on without stopping, and the attacker/defender roles of the two teams are switched.
The ruck and the maul are two phases of the game where the offside law is particularly important. Any player not taking part in the ruck and maul must retreat behind the "offside line", a notional line that runs through rearmost foot of a player in the ruck/maul, parallel to the goal lines.
A maul  occurs when a player carrying the ball is held by one or more opponents, and one or more of the ball carrier's team mates bind on the ball carrier. Once a maul has formed other players may join in but, as in a ruck, they must do so from their own side. If the maul stops moving forward, and the ball is not available to be played, then the referee awards a scrum to the side not in possession when the maul began (unless the maul was formed immediately after a player received a kick other than a kick-off). The tactic of the rolling maul occurs when mauls are set up, and the ball is passed backwards through the players' hands to one at the rear, who rolls off the side to change the direction of the drive. This tactic can be extremely effective in gaining ground and takes great skill and technique both to do properly and to try to prevent. It is a tactic most commonly used when the attacking side is inside their opponents' 22-m line. It is illegal, on safety grounds, to pull down a maul, so that players fall to the ground. Referees are aware that many sides will try to stop a maul by deliberately collapsing it and will watch carefully for this illegal tactic. On the other hand, a maul is not properly formed if the ball carrier binds on to a team-mate from the rear, and both of them then drive into one or more opponents. The player in front is either accidentally or deliberately offside and the referee awards either a scrum or a penalty to the opposing side, depending on whether the infringement was viewed as accidental or deliberate. The tactic is sometimes referred to by players, commentators, and referees by the colloquial term "truck and trailer".
Generally there are two types of boot worn: the 8 stud or the 6 stud. The 8 stud is most often worn by the tight 5 player (props, hooker and locks) to provide them with extra grip for scrummaging and mauling. The 6 stud is worn by backs as it allows for more agility, it is also lighter for quicker movement around the field. Plastic "blade" studs, common in Association Football, are an increasingly frequent choice among backs.
Padding and protective vests are now becoming more commononly worn by players. Predominantly the padding gives protection to the shoulder area, but also provides additional protection to the biceps and the chest. Padding must be approved by the IRB before players can wear it on the field, and it will carry the IRB approval stamp .
An essential part of the safety equipment needed for rugby is the gumshield. The best gumshields are made by a dentist, a mould of the mouth is first taken and then the gumshield is cast around this mould. This provides a tight fit in the mouth and around the teeth which is essential for it to work as it should.
The headguard, also called a "scrum cap", is now commonly worn throughout all levels of the game. Protective headgear which is becoming essential due to the quantity of cuts and head injuries that can occur, particularly by the boots of players involved in rucking. Headgear also helps reduce the growth of cauliflower ears.
Possible alterations to the laws
Alterations to the laws of rugby union are currently being trialled by students of Stellenbosch University in South Africa though no changes are expected to be made before 2008. 
Rugby is a very complex attack and defence stategy game involving highly developed skill and tactics. The origin of Rugby football is largely credited to a young man named William Web Ellis who "took the ball in his arms [i.e. caught the ball] and ran" while playing a form of football at Rugby school in 1823. Historians have questioned the authenticity of the story, beginning with an official investigation by the Old Rugbeian Society in 1895. However, the trophy for the Rugby World Cup bears the name of "Webb Ellis" in his honour, and a plaque at the school commemorates the "achievement". Playing football has a long tradition in England, and football games had probably taken place at Rugby school for 200 years before three boys published the first set of written rules in 1845. However, the game they presented resembled "Hurling to Goal" a variant of the Celtic sport of hurling, described by Richard Carew in his 1602 work, 'Survey of Cornwall'. Cornish hurlers travelled to London to player 'demonstration matches' of the sport several times in the seventeenth century.
Until the formation of the Football Association (FA) in October 1863 opposing football teams agreed on a set of rules before each match. Teams that competed against each other regularly tended to agree to play a similar style of football.
Rugby football has a claim to the world's first "football clubs": the Barnes Club (as it was known), formed in London in 1839, and Guy's Hospital Football Club (1843). However the continuity of these two clubs has not been established by documentation. Dublin University Football Club is the world's oldest documented football club in any code, having been formed in 1854; it currently plays rugby union in the All Ireland League Division Two. Likewise Edinburgh Academical Football Club was formed in Scotland in 1857-58. Blackheath Rugby Club was founded in 1858 and is the oldest documented rugby club in England. It was a founding member of The Football Association. When it became clear that the FA would not allow "hacking" (kicking opposition players' legs, a feature of the rugby game at the time), Blackheath withdrew from the FA, just over a month after the initial meeting. Other rugby clubs followed this lead and did not join the FA.
For the next few years rugby clubs continued to agree on rules before the start of each game as they had always done, but on January 26, 1871, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) formed, leading to the standardisation of the rules for all clubs in England that played a variety of the Rugby school laws. Soon most countries with a sizeable rugby community had formed their own national unions. In 1886, the International Rugby Board (IRB) become the world governing and law-making body for rugby. The RFU recognised it as such in 1890.
The introduction of rugby into New Zealand was by Charles John Monro, son of Sir David Monro, then speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives. The younger Monro had been sent to Christ's College, East Finchley, in north London, England. That school had adopted rugby rules and Monro became an enthusiastic convert. He brought the game back to his native Nelson, and arranged the first rugby match, between Nelson College and Nelson Football Club, on May 14, 1870. In North America, rugby developed into American football and into Canadian football.
The 1890s saw a clash of cultures within the game, between working men's rugby clubs of northern England and the southern clubs of gentlemen, a dispute revolving around the nature of professionalism within the game. On August 29, 1895 22 clubs split from the RFU and met at the George Hotel in Huddersfield to form the Northern Rugby Football Union, commonly called the Northern Union. NRFU rules gradually diverged from those of rugby union, although the name rugby league did not become official until the Northern Rugby League formed in 1901. The name Rugby Football League dates from 1922. A similar schism opened up in Australia and other rugby-playing nations. Initially, rugby league in Australia operated under the same rules as rugby union. But after a tour by a professional New Zealand team in 1907 of Australia and Great Britain, and an Australian Rugby League tour of Great Britain the next year, rugby league teams in the southern hemisphere adopted rugby league rules. For clarity and convenience it became necessary to differentiate the two codes of rugby. The code played by those teams who remained in national organisations which were members of the IRB became known as "rugby union". The code played by those teams which played "open" rugby and allowed professionals as well as amateurs became known as "rugby league".
On August 26, 1995 the IRB declared rugby union an "open" game and removed all restrictions on payments or benefits to those connected with the game. It did this because of a committee conclusion that to do so was the only way to end the hypocrisy of Shamateurism and to keep control of rugby union (there were rumours that Rupert Murdoch was planning to finance a Southern Hemisphere professional league). The move from amateurism to professionalism has undoubtedly increased the quality of rugby being played. However, professionalism has meant a huge increase in the gap between the top nations and the second tier. Alongside the success stories there have been some famous rugby clubs which have not coped well with the new era. Increasing popularity in recent years has led to diversification, Womens' rugby is increasingly popular in the US and Canada and rugby has even branched into the gay community with the formation of IGRAB, who have such members as the Chicago Dragons, Boston Ironsides, and the Kings Cross Steelers, from London.
The professionalisation of rugby union has created a larger and more international supporter base than before and crowds in international competitions. Sponsorship and club attendance is also increasing in Rugby Union. Attendances for major international rugby union matches are generally sell-outs. As Rugby Union has grown, there has been a small transfer of rugby league players converting to rugby union. However, the two codes of rugby are not really in competition because rugby league is much more restricted geographically and has a smaller international presence.
Major international tournaments
- For more details on this topic, see List of rugby union competitions.
The most important tournament in rugby union is the Rugby World Cup, a men's tournament that take place every four years between the elite national rugby union teams. The tournament is one of the top three international sporting events in the world, with the FIFA World Cup and the Summer Olympics being the largest.  England are the current world champions, winning the 2003 tournament held in Australia. The fact that four countries have won the last five World Cups confirms the level of competition in the tournament, creating intense interest from supporters, the media and major sponsors. The women's World Cup event takes place every four years as well. Major international competitions in the northern and southern hemisphere are the Six Nations Championship and the Tri Nations Series, respectively.
The Six Nations is an annual competition involving England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. Each country plays the other five once, the modern tournament traces its roots to the first ever international game, when England lost by one goal to Scotland at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh in 1871. In the 1880s, Wales and Ireland joined to create the Home International Championships. France joined the tournament in the 1900s and in 1910 the term Five Nations first appeared. However, the Home Nations (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) excluded France in 1931 amid a run of poor results, allegations of professionalism (rugby union was officially amateur until 1995) and concerns over on-field violence. France then rejoined in 1939-1940, though World War II halted proceedings for a further eight years. France has played in all the tournaments since WWII, the first one of which was played in 1947. In 2000, Italy became the sixth nation in the contest.
The Tri Nations Series is an annual international rugby union series held between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The series was initially played on a home and away basis with the three nations playing each other twice. In 2006 a new system was introduced where each nation plays the others three times rather than two. In 2007 the teams will play each other only twice, as it is a world cup year. Amidst all the rugby union competitions are also the autumn and summer Tests, which take place between September to December and June to August. These are played by the major rugby union nations on a home or away basis.
In the last 20 years, the major unions, as well as the IRB, have understood the need to develop a core of coaches for the junior, youth and community game. Coaches in the professional game have tended to come from ex-players.
In terms of the way rugby is coached, there is a move away from coach-centred instruction to player-centred learning. These methods are increasingly being used by the top coaches to get their players to perform at the highest level.
At the youngest age, the debate remains over the amount of contact that should take place and at what age. Some suggest that tackling should be taught as young as possible, but others, including Danny Grewcock recently said that his longevity in the game was due to little contact at a early age.
Some famous and respected coaches in the game include Jim Telfer, Wayne Smith, Carwyn James, Rod Macqueen, Graham Henry and Eddie O'Sullivan.
- List of notable rugby union footballers by country
- List of notable rugby union footballers in alphabetical order
- List of international rugby union teams
- Rugby Sevens
- International Rugby Hall of Fame
- Rugby union at the Summer Olympics
- Tag Rugby
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- ^ IRB list of approved equipment
- ^ austrade.gov.au. From the World Trade Organisation to the Rugby World Cup: how the Wallabies can help Australia exports. Retrieved on April 25, 2006.
- The Laws of Rugby Union
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- d Origins of Rugby Union
- TheRugbyForum.com The place for Rugby Discussion on the Internet.
- Better Rugby Coaching Free rugby coaching resources
- RugbyTactics.com Free coaching resource, rugby guide and forums.
- Heavensgame.com for news on rugby union related topics.
- Planet Rugby for news on rugby union related topics. Warning: popups
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- Italian Rugby Friends news about the italian national team and infos for following the matches (Italian & English)
- Guide to rugby union phrases
- International Rugby Union Statistics Stats on more than 5000 games.
- Scrum.com for news on rugby union related topics.
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