Rugby union, commonly known in most of the world as rugby, is a contact team sport which originated in England in 1823 as an alternative to its slower cousin, Association Football or Soccer for short. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running forward with the ball in hand while passing only backward. In its most common form, a game or match is between two teams of 15 players using an oval-shaped ball on a rectangular field with H-shaped goalposts on each end of the field or pitch.
Rugby Union is a popular sport around the world, played under the same rules by male and female players of all ages. In 2017, there were more than 6 million people playing worldwide, of whom 2.36 million were registered players. World Rugby, previously called the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB) and the International Rugby Board (IRB), has been the governing body for rugby union since 1886, and currently has 101 countries as full members and 18 associate members.
In 1845, the first rugby football laws were written by Rugby School pupils, hence the name; another significant event in the early development of rugby is the split between rugby union and rugby league, commonly known as League, in 1895.
Historically an amateur sport, in 1995 restrictions on payments to players were removed, making the game openly professional at the highest level for the first time, and it is currently played professionally by both men and women the world over.
World Rugby is thought to be the most progressive and protective governing body in global sport for it's dedication and commitment to protecting it's players at every level through continuous refinement of the rules, or laws, of rugby to make player safety its number one priority.
Rugby union is played between two teams – the one that scores more points wins the game. Points can be scored in several ways: a try (5points) is scored by grounding the ball in the in-goal area (between the goal line and the dead-ball line), and a subsequent conversion kick scores 2 points; a successful penalty kick or a drop goal each score 3 points.
At the beginning of the game, the captains and the referee toss a coin to decide which team will kick off first. Play then starts with a dropkick, with the players chasing the ball into the opposition's territory, and the other side trying to retrieve the ball and advance it. If the player with the ball is tackled, frequently a ruck will result which is means for the attacking team to maintain possession and continue play. A ruck also defines an off-sides line between the attacking and defending teams.
Games are divided into 40-minute halves, with a break in the middle, and the sides exchange ends of the field after the half-time break. Stoppages for injury or to allow the referee to take disciplinary action do not count as part of the playing time, so that the elapsed time is usually longer than 80 minutes.
Scrums and line outs are typically the most confusing aspects of the game for beginners as they appear to be just a chaotic mass of players, however they are highly orchestrated and well practiced parts of the game, and are basically just a means to restart play.
The referee is responsible for all aspects of the game as well as keeping the official match time, and is always treated with the utmost respect by both players and fans alike. This respect and sportsmanship is a hallmark of rugby union, and a source of great pride amongst its players and fans.
The home team in rugby is usually responsible for feeding the visiting team in a large mutual gathering after each match. This "social" is another hallmark of the game of rugby union, and provides for fiercely competitive players to actually become life-long friends off the field.
Inclusivity and acceptance of all is another unique aspect of rugby culture. The structure of the game promotes cooperation among players of all sizes, shapes and abilities who ultimately only succeed on the field if they all work together.