One of the earliest sports to evolve in New Zealand was rugby. The first games were played with a modified rugby ball made out of wood and used in a field with pigskin (sporting equipment). These matches were regularly referred to as “pig-gyanking” because pigskin boots are similar in look to rugby boots. In time the game of rugby developed into a more refined form and while it retained many of its early features the sport has evolved since then.
Rugby is played between two teams of approximately 80 men each. The rugby ball is inflated with air from an air tank and is approximately the same size and weight as a volleyball. The rugby player’s goal is to make the ball travel a specific distance, generally between one and twenty yards, depending on the circumstances. The object of the game is to prevent the opposing teams from scoring a point by grounding the ball into the opponent’s goal after the allotted number of minutes have elapsed.
When rugby was first introduced to New Zealand it was played with a much modified version of the game that included several different variations of rugby positions. Because there was no fixed maximum or minimum point total allowed, play would often be a form of running for control of the ball. A penalty could then be awarded if the ball was not controlled enough to earn a point. Originally, the referee would step forward and signal for the ball to be touched by any player other than the holder of the rugby position. This was later changed to the referee stepping backward and signaling for a scrum to begin.
Two kinds of rugby positions have remained popular through the years. The forwards and backs were considered the starting units for a rugby game and featured two evenly matched players, with the forward usually leading from his position in the back row. The second position was held down by the second centre forward who performed the function of a wing. These two positions are referred to as the props and fifteens respectively. Today, the forwards and backs are separate positions and the role of the props has become a job for the scrum half. Due to the increased skill of the modern rugby players, there are now numerous different kinds of prop positions.
One of the most important positions on the rugby field is the prop. The scrumhalf is the player who stands in the middle of the back line with his hands behind his head and his arms on each shoulder. He is also the team’s point guard whose job is to protect the ball from any attack from the opposition and to ensure that it does not touch the ground before the whistle blows for the restart of play. When playing for a winning team, the scrumhalf must keep his eyes on the ball and make sure that no other players try to touch the ball before the restart is started.
Another position commonly called the dead man’s tackle is when a scrumhalf goes out of his way to tackle a dead ball. It usually happens when there is no chance for a scrumhalf to actually pick up the dead ball and is therefore necessary for him to go out of his way in order to clear a good distance between him and the ball. However, this type of tackle is not common during the beginning of the game when teams are not well accustomed to the movements of each other and the ball. It is, therefore, recommended that the modern day rugby player learn to master the art of the dead ball tackle first. After this, any other kind of tackle can then be practiced.