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There are three match officials: Common offences include tackling above the shoulders, collapsing a scrum , ruck or maul, not releasing the ball when on the ground, or being offside. Occasionally, infringements are not caught by the referee during the match and these may be "cited" by the citing commissioner after the match and have punishments usually suspension for a number of weeks imposed on the infringing player.
During the match, players may be replaced for injury or substituted for tactical reasons. Prior to , all substitutions, no matter the cause, counted against the limit during a match. In , World Rugby changed the law so that substitutions made to replace a player deemed unable to continue due to foul play by the opposition would no longer count against the match limit. The most basic items of equipment for a game of rugby union are the ball itself, a rugby shirt also known as a "jersey" , rugby shorts , socks and boots. The rugby ball is oval in shape, technically a prolate spheroid , and is made up of four panels.
The WR lays out specific dimensions for the ball, mm in length, mm in circumference of length and mm in circumference of width. The studs may be either metal or plastic but must not have any sharp edges or ridges.
Protective equipment is optional and strictly regulated. The most common items are mouthguards , which are worn by almost all players, and are compulsory in some rugby-playing nations. Female players may also wear chest pads. It is the responsibility of the match officials to check players' clothing and equipment before a game to ensure that it conforms to the laws of the game.
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The international governing body of rugby union and associated games such as sevens is World Rugby WR. Six regional associations, which are members of WR, form the next level of administration; these are:. National unions oversee rugby union within individual countries and are affiliated to WR.
Since , the WR Council has 40 seats. In addition, the six regional associations have two seats each. The earliest countries to adopt rugby union were England , the country of inception, and the other three Home Nations, Scotland , Ireland and Wales. The spread of rugby union as a global sport has its roots in the exporting of the game by British expatriates, military personnel, and overseas university students. The first rugby club in France was formed by British residents in Le Havre in , while the next year Argentina recorded its first game: At least seven countries have adopted rugby union as their de facto national sport ; they are Fiji,  Georgia , Madagascar ,    New Zealand ,  Samoa,  Tonga  and Wales.
A rugby club was formed in Sydney, New South Wales , Australia in ; while the sport was said to have been introduced to New Zealand by Charles Monro in , who played rugby while a student at Christ's College, Finchley. Several island nations have embraced the sport of rugby. In North America a club formed in Montreal in , Canada's first club. The city of Montreal also played its part in the introduction of the sport in the United States , when students of McGill University played against a team from Harvard University in Although the exact date of arrival of rugby union in Trinidad and Tobago is unknown, their first club Northern RFC was formed in , a national team was playing by and due to a cancelled tour to British Guiana in , switched their venue to Barbados ; introducing rugby to the island.
The growth of rugby union in Europe outside the 6 Nations countries in terms of playing numbers has been sporadic.
The rest of Europe were let to play amongst themselves. During a period when it had been isolated by the British and Irish Unions, France, lacking international competition, became the only European team from the top tier to regularly play the other European countries; mainly Belgium , the Netherlands , Germany , Spain , Romania , Poland , Italy and Czechoslovakia.
Other European rugby playing nations of note include Russia , whose first officially recorded match is marked by an encounter between Dynamo Moscow and the Moscow Institute of Physical Education in It adopted its current name of Rugby Europe in Although Argentina is the best-known rugby playing nation in South America , founding the Argentine Rugby Union in ,  several other countries on the continent have a long history. Many Asian countries have a tradition of playing rugby dating from the British Empire.
India began playing rugby in the early s, the Calcutta Football Club forming in However, with the departure of a local British army regiment, interest in rugby diminished in the area. Rugby union was introduced to Japan in by two Cambridge students: Ginnosuke Tanaka and Edward Bramwell Clarke.
Other Asian playing countries of note include Singapore , South Korea , China and The Philippines , while the former British colony of Hong Kong is notable within rugby for its development of the rugby sevens game, especially the Hong Kong Sevens tournament which was founded in The official union of Oman was formed in Rugby remains a minority sport in the region with Israel , as of , being the only member union from the Middle East to be included in the IRB World Rankings.
This resulted in rugby being viewed as a bourgeois sport by the indigenous people with limited appeal. In more recent times the sport has been embraced by several African nations. In the early 21st century Madagascar has experienced crowds of 40, at national matches,  while Namibia, whose history of rugby can be dated from , have qualified for the final stages of the World Cup four times since Records of women's rugby football date from the late 19th century, with the first documented source being Emily Valentine 's writings, stating that she set up a rugby team in Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, Ireland in The new Women's World Cup cycle began in , with future competitions every four years thereafter.
The most important tournament in rugby union is the Rugby World Cup , a men's tournament that has taken place every four years since among national rugby union teams. New Zealand has won the Rugby World Cup the most 3 times and is the current cup holder, winning the Rugby World Cup held at Twickenham, beating Australia in the final. The Rugby World Cup has continued to grow since its inception in After the initial internationals between England and Scotland, Ireland and Wales began competing in the s, forming the Home International Championships.
The Rugby Championship is the Southern Hemisphere's annual international series for that region's top national teams. From its inception in through , it was known as the Tri Nations, as it featured the hemisphere's traditional powers of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In a new system was introduced where each nation plays the others three times, though in and the teams played each other only twice, as both were World Cup years. The competition reverted to the Tri Nations' original home-and-away format, but now involving four teams. In World Cup years, an abbreviated tournament is held in which each team plays the others only once.
New Zealand are the current champions, having won the title with a round to spare. Rugby union was played at the Olympic Games in , , and In , France won the gold, beating Great Britain 27 points to 8 and defeating Germany 27 points to In , the United States again defeated France 17 to 3, becoming the only team to win gold twice in the sport. In the International Olympic Committee voted with a majority of 81 to 8 that rugby union be reinstated as an Olympic sport in at least the and games, but in the sevens, 4-day tournament format.
In the and editions of the games, both the usual fifteen-a-side variety and rugby sevens were played, but from onwards, only rugby sevens was retained. In , the women's rugby sevens event was introduced. The event is likely to remain a permanent fixture of the Asian Games due to elevation of rugby sevens as an Olympic sport from the Olympics onwards. The present gold medal holders in the sevens tournament, held in , are Japan in the men's event and China in the women's.
Women's international rugby union began in , with a match between France and the Netherlands played in Utrecht. The New Zealand Women's team then won four straight World Cups , , ,  before England won in Following the event, World Rugby moved the next edition of the event to , with a new four-year cycle from that point forward. As well as the Women's Rugby World Cup there are also other regular tournaments, including a Six Nations , run in parallel to the men's competition. The Women's Six Nations, first played in has been dominated by England, who have won the tournament on 14 occasions, including a run of seven consecutive wins from to However, since then, England have won only in ; reigning champion France have won in each even-numbered year , , whilst Ireland won in and Rugby union has been professionalized since The following table shows fully professional rugby competitions.
Semi-professional competitions are excluded. The game of rugby union has spawned several variants of the full-contact, a-side code. The two more common differences applied to the variants of the sport lie in either fewer players or reduced player contact. Of the variants, the oldest is Rugby sevens 7s, or VIIs , a fast-paced variant which originated in Melrose , Scotland in In rugby sevens, there are only seven players per side, and each half is normally seven minutes. Major tournaments include the Hong Kong Sevens and Dubai Sevens , both held in areas not normally associated with the highest levels of the a-side game.
A more recent variant of the sport is Rugby tens 10's or Xs , a Malaysian variant with ten players per side. Due to the physical nature of playing rugby, several variants have been created to introduce the sport to children with a reduced level of physical contact. Tag Rugby also varies in the fact that kicking the ball is not allowed. Mini rugby is another variant of rugby union aimed at fostering the sport in children. Other less formal variants include beach rugby and snow rugby. Rugby league was formed as an administrative break from the English union before changing its laws, becoming a code in its own right.
The two sports continue to influence each other to this day. American football   and Canadian football  are derived from early forms of rugby. Australian rules football was influenced by rugby football and other games originating in English public schools. James Naismith took aspects of many sports including rugby to invent basketball. Naismith played rugby at McGill University. Swedish football was a code whose rules were a mix of Association and Rugby football rules.
Rugby lends its name to wheelchair rugby , a full-contact sport which contains elements of rugby such as crossing a try line with the ball to score. According to a report by the Centre for the International Business of Sport, over four and a half million people play rugby union or one of its variants organised by the IRB. It recorded a total of 6.
The most capped international player from the tier 1 nations is former New Zealand openside flanker and captain Richie McCaw who has played in internationals. In , the All Blacks of New Zealand set the new record 18 consecutive test wins among tier 1 rugby nations, bettering their previous consecutive run of The record attendance for a rugby union game was set on 15 July in which New Zealand defeated Australia 39—35 in a Bledisloe Cup game at Stadium Australia in Sydney before , fans.
Thomas Hughes novel Tom Brown's Schooldays , set at Rugby School , includes a rugby football match, also portrayed in the s film of the same name. Henri Rousseau 's work Joueurs de football shows two pairs of rugby players competing. Invictus , based on John Carlin 's book Playing the Enemy , explores the events of the Rugby World Cup and Nelson Mandela's attempt to use the sport to connect South Africa's people post- apartheid.
In public art and sculpture there are many works dedicated to the sport. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For a more detailed explanation of how rugby union is played, see Rugby union gameplay. Not to be confused with Rugby league. History of rugby union. Rugby union laws and Rugby union gameplay. Rugby union match officials and Laws of rugby union. World Rugby and Timeline of foundation of national rugby unions. List of rugby union playing countries. Rugby union in Asia. List of rugby union competitions. Women's international rugby union.
History of American football , Comparison of American football and rugby union , Origins of Australian rules football , Comparison of rugby league and rugby union , and History of rugby league. List of top rugby union players by international caps and List of top scoring international rugby union players. This document, titled ' countries Some unions only report their registered players, i. Other unions, such as England's Rugby Football Union , also report people taking part in outreach and educational programs, or unregistered players.
In the figures reported by the RFU they reported 1,, people playing rugby in England, including 1,, under 13s, , teens and , seniors. Some of those recorded would have experienced rugby via educational visits to schools, playing tag or touch rugby, rather than playing regularly for a club. The figures released in give an overall figure of those playing rugby union, or one of its variants, as 6,,, but also reports that of that total, 3.
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