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Rugby & Guinness Six Nations: discovering this fascinating sport and one of the most prestigious tournaments

Find out everything about Rugby: from the origins to the rules and of course the most suitable footwear so as to be ready to experience the "Guinness Six Nations of Rugby"

Rugby & Guinness Six Nations: discovering this fascinating sport and one of the most prestigious tournaments
Photo credit: Hanson Lu | Unsplash

As usual, the “Six Nations” Rugby tournament is held again this year, divided into seven weeks in the months of February and March, in which the national teams of Ireland, Italy, Wales, England, France and Scotland will take part.

The 2024 season will consist of 15 matches scheduled from February 2 to March 16.

If you’re reading this but can’t understand what we’re talking about, or if you have limited rugby knowledge, including the rules, roles and technical terms, don’t worry – we’ll explain it all!

What is Rugby Six Nations?

It is an international rugby union tournament (15 refers to the number of players) that annually involves the men’s national teams of France, Wales, England, Ireland, Italy and Scotland. Initially, the competition, established in 1883as the Home Nations Championship, included only the British national teams excluding France and Italy.  

Subsequently, with the inclusion of France, it was renamed Five Nations, assuming its current name in 2000 when Italy also joined it.

From 2019 to 2024, the tournament is known as the Guinness Six Nations thanks to a deal with the Irish brewery.

This event goes beyond the sporting context, also representing a celebration of national identities and turning into a real collective celebration, characterized by sportsmanship and fairness among the fans in the cities that host the matches.

The Six Nations standings: how it is calculated

Each of the six teams participating in the Six Nations competes against the other five teams once during the season, alternating home and away games in consecutive seasons, thus totalling 15 matches per tournament.

The trophy is awarded to the team that accumulates the most points during the season, with two points awarded for each win and one point for each draw.

In the event of a tie between two or more teams at the end of the tournament, the team with the better points difference wins the trophy. If the points difference is not sufficient to determine a winner, the title is awarded to the team that scored the most tries during the tournament. If, despite this, the situation remains deadlocked, and teams will be declared equal winners of the Tournament.

What is Rugby?

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Rugby match
Photo credit: Quino Al | Unsplash

It is a sport that is played with an oval ball weighing 400/450 grams, involving two teams of 15 players (rugby union) or 13 players (rugby league). Rugby league is mainly played in England, France, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, in the latter country rugby is the national sport.

Rugby union, on the other hand, is played internationally in most parts of the world: United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Italy.

There is also Rugby with teams of 10 or 7 players but the playing time is shorter; rugby 7s, for example, is part of the Olympic Games program.

Selflessness, commitment, respect for the opponent and loyalty are the main characteristics of rugby. The sport is considered both contact, since it involves a constant physical confrontation between the players, and situational, since the dynamics of the match can change quickly at any time.

You might be wondering why an oval ball is used in rugby?

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Rugby ball
Photo credit:  Deric Yu | Unsplash

There are several theories, and one of them involves pig bladders. But what does this mean?

According to tradition, the footballs supplied to the city college of Rugby were originally made by sewing strips of leather together, with the interior containing pig bladders inflated with air.

Over time, the skin deformed and adhered to the bladder, giving the ball the oval shape we know.

The introduction of synthetic fibers has made it possible to produce perfectly spherical balloons that retain their shape over time. However, in rugby, where the ball is caught with the hands, the oval shape has proven to have its advantages, leading to its final adoption despite the availability of spherical balls.

But how did this sport come about?

The History of Rugby

The story goes that the sport of rugby originated thanks to William Webb Ellis, a student at Rugby School. In 1823, during a football game, Ellis, in a daring gesture, picked up the ball with his hands and ran towards the baseline of the opponent’s field, thus giving birth to a style of play that became known as “rugby”.

Ellis’ move surprised the spectators, but because Ellis catches the ball with his hands, in fact at the time the rules of football were very different from those of now, but what intrigued was to see Ellis running forward towards the goal line of the field. In fact, this action later became the main rule of rugby.

However, although this story is firmly rooted in rugby folklore, it lacks first-hand evidence and most rugby historians consider it an origin myth.

In any case, the Rugby World Cup is dedicated to William Webb Ellis and in front of the school where the sport was born, there is a bronze statue dedicated to him.

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William Webb Ellis statue in front of rugby school
Photo credit: rugbyclub-webbellis

The Benefits of Rugby

In general, the practice of sport has a series of benefits not only on a physical level, but above all on a mental level. Working out regularly helps to reduce stress and promote a feeling of relaxation at the end of a session.

Rugby is one of the sports that bring numerous health benefits, improving cardiovascular condition, promoting the maintenance of physical fitness, enhancing strength and agility, and developing spatial-temporal skills, adaptability and team spirit.

In addition, rugby plays a significant role in removing stress, teaches the value of hard work, and the importance of respect for the opponent, both during matches and off the field.

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Rugby team
Photo credit: CFPhotosin Photography | Unsplash

The so-called “third half“, represented by the meeting between the teams at the end of the match, is in fact one of the most fascinating aspects of this discipline. During this phase, players have the opportunity to socialize and share opinions about the match, helping to solidify the sense of team.

The “third half ” of ruby not only promotes social integration, but is suitable for people of all ages, from children to adults, offering a conducive environment to work in teams in order to achieve common goals.

How to Play Rugby

The game is played on a rectangular field divided in two by the halfway line, with solid or dashed lines parallel to the halfway line in each half. On either side are the touchlines, and in the middle of each goal line is the H-shaped goal.

On the surface, the rules of rugby are simple: score points by taking the ball beyond the opponent’s in-goal area and win by accumulating the highest score. However, it is crucial to understand how to do this.

Scoring can be awarded in two main ways: by “goal” or by kicking between the posts of the opponent’s goal.

The Goal

One of the main ways to score points in rugby is through scoring a “try.” This occurs when a player carries the ball across the opponent’s goal line and deposits it on the ground. A try is worth five points.

Kicking between the posts

In addition to scoring a goal, points can be obtained by kicking between the posts of the opponent’s goal. These kicks can occur in a variety of situations:

  • Transformation kick: After scoring a goal, the team has the opportunity to score 2 additional points, for this to happen the ball must be kicked between the posts over the crossbar of the opponent’s goal.
  • Bounce or “Drop” Kick: It is scored in open play situations by kicking the ball after letting it bounce on the ground and passing it between the posts and over the crossbar. This kick is worth 3 points

In rugby, adherence to the rules and fair play are paramount. Infractions are sanctioned by the referee, and some crucial rules include:

  • Offside: In rugby, offside means that the player is out of the match. It is offside when the player is in front of the teammate who last touched the ball. The offside player may not be put back on the field if he interferes with the action: if he advances toward the ball, or does not move 10 meters away from the point where the ball fell and the current position of the nearest opponent waiting to play the ball.
  • Safe Play Techniques: Pushing or tripping a player who is not carrying the ball, as well as tackling to the neck or head of the opponent, is prohibited. Also, holding the ball on the ground is considered an infraction.
  • Forward Passing: Throwing the ball forward with the hands is categorically prohibited, promoting team play and efficient use of passing skills.

Regarding punishment, serious infractions are punished with a free kick, while less serious or unintentional infractions are punished with a scrum.

The scrum and touche in rugby

If you’ve ever watched a rugby match, you’ve probably noticed the importance of scrum and touche, elements that make the sport understandable even to inexperienced spectators. Both of these maneuvers are precise and organized strategies to restart the game after a suspension.

The scrum  can be likened to a kind of human “tortoise“, in which eight players from a team push with all their might against the eight opponents in the scrum pack. The player with the number 9, the scrum-half, filters the ball into the gap between them.

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Photo credit: Olga Guryanova | Unsplash

During this phase, both teams try to push the ball out of the scrum with small kicks given with their heels, in order to maintain possession when play resumes. Usually for the scrum, the infraction of play is almost always a forward pass.

Touche (also known as lineout) is a pivotal moment where the ball, having gone out of bounds laterally, is put back into play along the sideline. The team that didn’t cause the ball to go out of bounds typically has the right to execute the throw-in, launching the ball along the line in an attempt for it to travel at least 15 meters. Following the throw, players from both teams vie to secure possession and initiate gameplay. Should the throw be faulty or the ball fail to meet the distance requirement, the opposing team can either contest the ball in another lineout or opt for a scrum.

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Photo credit: Philippa Rose-Tite | Unsplash

During the touche, players can lift their teammates to help them reach higher for the ball, with contact limited to the shoulder until the jumping player lands. Infractions such as premature tackles or dangerous contacts may result in penalties and potential temporary ejections.

In summary, the lineout demands technical skill, team coordination, and adherence to rules to contest possession of the ball at a specific juncture in the game.

But what shoes should you use to play Rugby?

For rugby players, in addition to protections such as helmets, mouth guards, shin guards and shoulder protection, the choice of shoes is important.

However, for beginners, navigating through the many proposals on the market can be challenging, given the different features offered.

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Photo credit: Keith Johnston | Unsplash

Good foot support and the shoe’s ability to withstand the ground are crucial. Other relevant factors include the nature of the terrain, the position in the field, and the frequency of practice. Between printed or screwed cleats, you need to choose the right pair of shoes for your practice.

  • For muddy terrain,  shoes with screw-in studs are the ideal choice, offering exceptional grip and reliable support, especially during pushing phases such as the scrum.
  • For muddy but not wet terrain, shoes with mixed studs offer versatility, combining the grip of fixed studs with the lightness of screw-on solutions.
  • For dry or synthetic terrain, shoes with fixed studs ensure the best performance, ensuring a stable and secure grip.

The choice of sole should also take into account the role of the player: forwards benefit from an outsole with 8 studs for better grip during the push phases, while third lines and rear lines can opt for mixed or fixed shoes according to personal preference and ground conditions.

For children, shoes with printed soles are the recommended choice to ensure safety and comfort on any type of terrain.

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Photo credit: Adrià Crehuet Cano | Unsplash

Adidas is a brand that is renowned for its wide range of rugby boots, offering great value for money. Among its most popular proposals are the “Adidas Predator Malice SG” rugby boots, designed specifically for soft ground and equipped with removable studs.

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Adidas Predator Malice SG
Photo credit: Sportdirect website

These shoes are distinguished by the alignment of Adidas’ “Speedtraxion studs, designed to maximize acceleration, and by the heels with a sprint frame construction that facilitates running, especially during rapid changes of direction during the game. Despite their light weight, they are extremely durable and capable of withstanding long hours of continuous play.

Among other options on the market, the Mizuno Waintangi PS offers similar features to Adidas, while the Canterbury Speed 2.0 is an excellent choice due to its versatility, suitable for any type of terrain thanks to the combination of metal and molded studs.

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Mizuno Waintangi PS
Photo credit: Mizuno website
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Canterbury Speed 2.0
Photo credit: volvoxsport website

With a wide choice of options available, choosing the right shoe may seem difficult but it’s not impossible! Just follow our guide to help you make the choice that best suits your specific needs.

And now that we’ve come to the end of this article, we wonder:

Did you already know this sport and its main rules?

We wanted to provide you with a clearer understanding, to better prepare you to follow the international tournament “Guinness Six Nations rugby“: the most prestigious competition.

Have fun!

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