What are the basics of rugby union?

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1. Why all the rules?

Rugby union is one of the most spectacular collision sports in the world, but it’s not all about running, kicking, passing and scoring tries. One of the things that makes the sport stand out is the technical part of the game, which can sometimes be hard to understand even for experienced players, let alone new rugby fans. Line-outs, rucks, mauls and competitive scrums do not exist in any other sport but they are key to the game.

Scrums and line-outs are called set-pieces, because they occur when there has been an infringement or the ball has gone out of play. Rucks and mauls take place as the game moves along and the former is perhaps the most important part of rugby. Whereas in other collision sports play stops when a player is tackled, when a tackle takes place in rugby union a ruck forms - when both sides can compete for possession – and it is this that enables play to sometimes continue for several minutes at a time without a break in the action.

With the 2015 World Cup taking place in England the sport has a higher profile than ever, with more than 2.3 million tickets sold for the six-week tournament. You don’t need to understand all the intricacies of rugby to enjoy the spectacle. But If you don’t know your tight-head prop from your blind-side flanker and would like to learn more about the sport, this BBC iWonder guide will get you up to speed in no time.

2. CLICKABLE: The scrum

Click the icon to activate our scrum hotspot, then click on the players to see what role they perform.

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Scrums are unique to rugby and are arguably the most recognisable, and baffling, part of the game. They are used to restart play when there has been a minor infringement, such as knocking the ball on (spilling it forward). The offending team hands the ball to the opposition, who have the ‘put-in’ at the scrum. This means they should win the ball and be able to attack or claim territory by kicking. Because both teams can compete for the ball the other side might be able to win a penalty, make it difficult for the team with the put-in to get the ball cleanly, or even win the ball themselves, known as a scrum against the head. So what role does each position play?

3. The line-out. What would you do?

Line-outs take place when the ball is kicked out of play. The ball is thrown by the hooker, with a coded call dictating where it goes. Choose your option.

Short

You get the call from your line-out captain – you’re throwing it short.

You selected

Short

You look to hit the front jumper, who is normally the heaviest second row. This is safe ball, but it is hard to attack from.

Middle

The line-out call is for it to be thrown to the middle.

You selected

Middle

Higher than to the front, but more chance for your rivals. Your middle jumper is often the lightest, most athletic second row. This is better attacking ball.

Long

The call is to throw to the back – risky but potentially rewarding.

You selected

Long

The longest and hardest of the regular options, but because it goes to the back it can be quickly passed to the scrum-half to set the backs running in midfield.

Variation

You hear the call – it’s one of the variations used less often than the three main options.

You selected

Variation

This could be a short throw to the man at the front, a trick play when the line-out splits or a defensive line-out where the ball is thrown over the back.

4. The ruck - how does it work?

What is it?

The ruck is crucial to the sport because it means play does not stop just because someone has been tackled, and it also means possession is constantly being contested. Although it can look like it is just a pile of bodies, each player at a ruck has his or her own role to play and rules to follow. We’ve teamed up with England Women and their head coach Simon Middleton to show what’s involved in securing clean, quick ball for your side.

5. How to tackle safely

Why is it important?

Rugby is a ferocious contact sport, with elite-level athletes slamming into each other at high speed. As a result, the tackle is governed by strict laws which mean you must use your arms, you cannot tackle over shoulder height and you cannot drive people into the ground. There are several different types of tackle, each with their own different result in mind - it takes brains as well as brawn to tackle.