Rugby is a legit Filipino sport

The Philippines has a rich heritage that keeps us anchored to our roots. No matter how modern the times, the Filipino culture, especially classic proverbs and sayings, still resonate deeply.

Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan, ‘di makararating sa paroroonan

Directly translated, the saying means — one who does not look back at one’s past, can never move on and reach one’s destination. Although Rugby is English in origin, the sport is a perfect embodiment of this Filipino proverb. In Rugby, you can only pass the ball backward or lateral, while you move forward and attempt to score a “try”.

Photo credit: Gio Raagas

Let us attempt to explain that concept using the photo above by giving blow-by-blow commentary. Mr. White short shorts (a.k.a. Scrum-half) picked up the ball from the ground, swung it backward (that explains why his body is oriented as such) to his target. Mr. Violet-and-black short shorts’ (a.k.a. Centre) upper body faces the scrum-half to catch the ball, while his lower body is facing forward preparing to run. It is quite straightforward as that; pass the ball backward or lateral, then bring the ball forward and invade much of the opponent’s area until one reaches the in-goal for a try. Very simple, isn’t it?

Let’s get started

The Rugby ball looks like a dinosaur egg; I have not seen one but I would assume it looks like it! The elliptical ball is not perfectly round as it is made up four leather (or other synthetic material) panels stitched together. It weighs a tad bit lighter than a basketball, and is about a foot-and-a-half long. Below is an illustration of a Rugby playing field according to standards set by the International Rugby Board. Feel free to grab some coffee or Red Bull before going through the diagram.

Photo credit: International Rugby Board

Done with your coffee? Still awake? Perfect! For beginners, you do not have to memorize the dimensions of the field, just pay attention to the goal line and the perimeter lines; I mean, you would not play outside those perimeter lines, right? Anyway, did you see the two light sabers connected by a toothpick sitting on both goal lines? Those are the the goal post (two light sabers) and the crossbar (toothpick in between).

Scoring Convention

As you may have encountered earlier, I mentioned the word try twice or thrice. Scoring in Rugby is called a “try.”

Yes, you heard that right, all you need to do is try!

A player must ground the ball within the opponent’s in-goal area (beyond the goal line and within the dead ball line, now you get why I told you to pay attention to only those lines!) for it to be considered a try. The team will be given 5 points for every successful try, and will be awarded with the chance to score a conversion goal worth 2 points. A player will be given a minute to attempt a conversion goal by kicking the ball from the ground and making it pass in between the goal posts and above the crossbar.

Player Positions

Much like the beautiful Filipino proverb, in playing Rugby, you can never move forward if you do not look back. The game is played with 15 players per side comprised of FORWARDS and BACKS. You are probably thinking, “OMG! 30 people on the pitch, so gulo!” Well, it is a beautiful chaos to marvel at!

There are specific player positions in Rugby, but they are generally categorized as Forwards or Backs. The Forwards are usually the big, burly, 250-lb. guys, who love to throw their bodies and form a pile of pancakes players down the field. Since Forwards are the stronger and heavier ones in the team, they are tasked to bully their way to the opposing side to either carry the ball and force a try, or draw the defense in and free up the Backs for an easy-breezy try! There are eight players in a pack of forwards; you will find two props, a hooker (nope, not the one you are thinking), two locks, two flankers, and a Number Eight (Watch out! Creative juices flowing all over!)

The Backs, on the other hand, are the modelesque, diva-brats of the team. Okay just kidding, Backs! Unlike the bulldozer-Forwards (read: strong but slowER), backs are the fastest, most agile players in the group. Their primary objective is to carry the ball, outrun everybody, outmaneuver the defense, and score a try for the team. They don’t necessarily have to be thin – actually, it is ideal for backs to pack some mass so they can handle opposing tackles. There are seven players in the backs; a scrum-half, a fly-half, two centres, two wings, and a full back. To be honest, the concept of Rugby play — moving forward while passing the ball backward — is more apparent when you observe the usual back-play.

Rugby in the Philippines

The Philippine Rugby Football Union is the official governing body of Rugby Union in the Philippines, and was founded in 1999. The Rugby program in the country is quite successful, considering that it is still in its early stages. The Philippine national Rugby team, fondly called the Philippine Volcanoes, competes in the top tier of Asian Rugby, alongside massive powerhouse Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Sri Lanka. The sport of Rugby has been played in these countries far longer than in the Philippines, and to be included in their division is a feat in itself!

What’s next?

The Coach Potato does not want to drown you with information, which you will not remember, anyway. As you may notice, I only provided you with vital information and left out tons of specifics such as the exact dimensions of the playing field, the precise weight of the ball, and the intricacies of each player-positions. I want you to discover the nitty-gritty stuff when you try out the sport for yourself. I invite you to get in touch with the following groups so you can start learning Rugby:

Immortals Rugby team – Facebook or Twitter
Philippine Rugby Football Union/Philippine Volcanoes – FacebookTwitter, or Instagram

Whether you want to come in as a group, or start a secret new life, these fun bunch would be more than happy to get you started and facilitate your learning!

Rugby does not discriminate, everybody is welcome to try it – girls, boys, rainbow club members, fat, skinny, ultra-skinny, couch potatoes, athletes, gym buff, funny, boring, crazy, not-so-cray cray, or whatever – you can always play this magnificent sport. With a population of more than a hundred million, the Philippines would have definitely covered every nook of that spectrum, making Rugby an ideal legit Filipino sport!

Channeling our inner Miley Cyrus Photo credit: Gio Raagas

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