RUGBY IS NOT FOOTBALL WITHOUT PADS
In 1823, during a soccer match at the Rugby School in England, William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it toward his opponent’s goal. Little did he know that he was about to invent a new sport, Rugby, which would be played around the world and eventually morph into American Football…And little did he know that he was going to get tackled!
History is just a small connection these sports share. Reality is that there are numerous and significant differences, not the least of which are the tackling techniques utilized in American Football and Rugby.
We frequently hear the cliché “Rugby is just football without pads”. This is usually attached to further statements about the level of sanity of those who have taken up our great sport.
There is no debate about the contact nature of rugby. The coaching and officiating of the fundamental elements of the game have served to minimize the risk of injury. It is not the mayhem the novice observer perceives. Here is a summary of these elements:
Head-to-Side tackling technique – The primary core skill in granting a rugby coach certification is his/her ability to teach this skill. The tackler leads with the shoulder with the head directed to the ball carrier;s side and behind the hip, thus taking the head out of harm’s way.
Shoulder drive and arm wrap - The tackler is not allowed to “cross body block” to make the tackle. The arms must wrap the ball carrier to complete the tackle which requires a shoulder and leg drive to be effective.
Legislation of high tackles – Tackling a ball carrier above the upper chest is penalized. Blatant and/or repeated will lead to the guilty party being removed from the match.
Continuity of play – The continuous nature of play in rugby (no huddles) induces a level of fatigue that reduces the speed of players engagement in tackle situations.
Dump tackling is illegal – Picking up and “dumping” the ball carrier is illegal and punished as severly as above the shoulder contact.
No off-the-ball contact – There is no blocking or contact away from the ball carrier. Therefore, there are no blind hits, away from the play, on an unsuspecting player.
Despite these differences, there are similarities and carryover skills and activities that make American Football and Rugby a great combination for the contact sport athlete.
Look for future articles: The Scrum is Not a Mess, How Rugby Improves the Football Athlete and Football, Wrestling and Rugby: A Combination for Success