Rugby Union in Dorset
The 15-man game has grown from strength to strength across the country since England clinched the World Cup in 2003, and Dorset's contribution to William Webb-Ellis' favourite sport is thriving too...
Rugby is now one of the most popular participation sports in the country along with football and cricket.
Rugby's profile has been helped in recent years by the successes of the England side, the impact of the Guinness Premiership and the celebrity factor of players like Gavin Henson and Johnny Wilkinson.
No longer is the sport the exclusive preserve of public schoolboys; youngsters from all different backgrounds are now just as likely to idolise the world's greatest rugby players as they are the Premiership's big-guns.
The spectator side of rugby is pretty easy to get involved in. Rugby is a cheaper day out than football. The atmosphere is much more family friendly and there's very little of the tribal, aggressive nature of following a football team.
Although Dorset doesn't have a professional side, there are teams like Oakmedians RFC in Bournemouth, North Dorset RFC in Gillingham and Dorchester RFC in West Dorset that have first XV teams for elite players, and decent facilities for spectators.
However, they and many other teams across the county have lower ranks which encourage people of all ages and gender to get involved.
It's an incredibly physical sport, where collisions and knocks are part of the game. Rugby is also very complex, and has lots of obscure regulations as to the handling of the ball and the dispossession of opposing players.
Rugby is played on a pitch 69 metres wide and 100 metres long, with posts at either end of the pitch.
The aim of the game is to score points by gaining tries - this is where the ball is placed down over the try line - this is the line the posts stand on.
Points can also be scored by putting the ball between the posts and over the crossbar. This is done by scoring drop goals, conversions or penalties. Conversions are earned when a try is scored.
The positions of rugby players are also very different - as 'forwards' act as a defensive barrier while the 'backs' push on to try and score tries.
Scrums, rucks and mauls are all ways in which the ball can be turned over (or possession lost/gained), and this is where things get very physical.
For a more detailed analysis of the game see the links below.
Rugby players, like all sports people, are now catered for with a variety of hi-tech apparel, from thermal tops to super-cushioned boots.
To get started, all you really require is a shirt, shorts and socks, pair of rugby boots (although many rugby pros wear the kind of flashy football boots favoured by their round ball contemporaries) and most importantly a gumshield!
Additional kit can include helmets which protect the ears if you're a front row kind of player (i.e. in the scrum) and body supports which protect joints and muscle areas which can be hurt during the game.
North Dorset RFC, Longbury Hill Lane, Gillingham, Dorset
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last updated: 18/05/2009 at 15:02