By DR. J. ZIMMERMAN
Rugby matches are free-flowing competitions between two teams of 15 highly conditioned athletes. I use the term free flowing because once the rugby match starts with a kickoff, there is no turning back. The clock ticks on, the action barely stops (only for injury or penalties).
In football, the game is based on breaks in play. There is a snap from the line of scrimmage and the quarterback starts the play with a handoff or a pass. The play continues until there is a tackle. Then it is break time. During the break, the offense huddles up, then either the coach or the quarterback calls in the next play. At the same time, the defense is in a huddle discussing what it will be doing on the next play.
The break time ends and it’s time to begin again. This break in action is what decides the course of the game, this is when the plays are called.
Rugby also has plays, but we do not have breaks. That is why I use the term “free flowing.”
Once we are on the field, the players use their skills, teamwork and intuition to utilize our plays that have been worked on in practice. Once the action starts, the players and the captain of the team are in charge of the game’s destiny.
So, while practiced plays are a very important part of rugby and 100 percent necessary for the game, rugby is based more on a philosophy then the actual playbook.
Rugby coach Eamonn Hogan says that in rugby — especially developmental rugby — the team is allowed to play the game as best it can using a philosophy of what the coach would like players to do.
On my club, the Jersey Shore Sharks, we base what I would like them to do on our practice sessions. We run offensive plays, we work our defensive lines, practice outcomes for scrums and what to do — or not do — at the breakdown (tackle). The players are well-drilled and trained to react to a multitude of situations.
The break in rugby comes at halftime. At halftime, the coaches have the opportunity to change the game plan and make tactical changes to help steer the match to the desired outcome. Once the second-half kickoff occurs, the game is back in the hands of the team to use teamwork, intuition and set skills and plays from practice.
The free flowing nature of rugby is what is so attractive about the sport. The fact that the game is not dictated by short plays with breaks in action and the clock continues to tick is what makes rugby so exciting.
The Jersey Shore Sharks are about to start the spring rugby season. Practice for the men’s club and the high school club team will begin this week. It is not too late to join us. The co-ed youth tag rugby league will be starting in April. If you are interested, contact me for more info.
In the meantime, during the next few weeks, rugby is all over the television. NBC Sports Network is showing the English Premiership. And ESPN has the Americas Rugby Championship. BeinSports 1 is showing the Guinness Pro 12 and the Six Nation’s International Rugby Championship is also on BeinSports 1. Lastly, the 7s World Rugby Series is on NBC Sports Network.
Dr. J. Zimmerman is the president of the Jersey Shore Rugby Club Board of Directors. He is the men’s club head coach and director of youth rugby. Dr. J. is also the team chiropractor. For more information on Jersey Shore Sharks Rugby, including our high school rugby team, or if you are interested in playing, visit www.JerseyShoreRugby.com or on Facebook at Jersey Shore Rugby Club, or call 609-652-6363 or email Jerseyshoresharks@gmail.com.