Clyde Street

Learning, Teaching, Performing


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England v Wales Rugby Union Matches 1987-1992

Introduction

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, I used real-time hand notation to record performance in international rugby union games. In the 1980s I used live BBC television broadcasts, in the 1990s I had the good fortune to attend many of the games as a notational analyst.

One of my interests in that period (after playing rugby at Loughborough College, London Welsh and Rosslyn Park) was to provide some evidence about game content and game time, particularly ball in play time, in order to support the coaching of expansive rugby. I was interested specifically in kicking, passing, set piece play and stoppages for injury as indicators of the flow of activity in games.

The most comprehensive set of data I have from that period is the competition between England and Wales 1987 to 1992 inclusive.

Game Content

In these games, the totals for the activities I was monitoring were:

Year

Kicks

Passes

Lineouts

Scrums

Pens/FKs Conceded

Stoppages for Injury

1987

108

68

53

28

39

10

1988

94

183

64

27

25

15

1989

122

102

46

51

20

7

1990

84

196

40

27

24

10

1991

114

131

54

34

28

3

1992

77

182

35

39

36

12

The odd year games were played in Cardiff and the even year games at Twickenham. Wales won the games in 1987, 1988 and 1989. England won in 1990, 1991 and 1992. Three of the games were affected by rain (1987, 1989, 1992) and there were strong winds in the 1990 game.

Ball in Play Time

For the ball in play time I started my stopwatch at the kick off and stopped it on the referree’s whistle or when the ball had clearly left the field of play. I recorded time in minutes (m) and seconds (s).

Year First Half Second Half Game Total

1987

7m 32s

9m 24s

16m 57s

1988

13m 43s

12m 28s

26m 11s

1989

11m 08s

11m 25s

22m 33s

1990

10m 38s

14m 11s

24m 49s

1991

11m 36s

10m 59s

22m 35s

1992

11m 14s

14m 51s

26m 05s

These total ball in play times as a percentage of total game time were:

Year

Ball in Play (BiP)

Elapsed Time (ET)

Percentage of Game BiP

1987

16m 57s

83m 45s

20.24

1988

26m 11s

88m 35s

29.56

1989

22m 33s

85m 40s

26.32

1990

24m 49s

82m 29s

30.09

1991

22m 35s

83m 30s

27.05

1992

26m 05s

89m 12s

29.24

Activity Cycles

In the 1992 game at Twickenham there were 120 activity cycles (defined as play between the referee’s whistles or the start of action without a whistle when the ball was introduced into play, for example, a scrum). Their durations of these cycles were:

Duration of Cycle in Seconds

First Half Activity Cycles

Second Half Activity Cycles

Game Total Activity Cycles

As a Percentage of all Activity Cycles in the Game (n=120)

0-4

23

16

39

32.5

5-8

9

9

18

15

9-14

12

10

22

18.33

15-19

6

6

12

10

20-24

2

7

9

7.5

25-29

4

4

8

6.67

30-39

4

5

9

7.5

40+

1

2

3

2.5

My hand notations for the 1992 game are:

Notation

A PDF copy of this hand notation Actions

and Activity Cycles:

AC

A Pdf copy of the notation ACEW.

Methodological Note

3423912577_378c200b4a_oThe data presented here are from real-time hand notation. I had been doing hand notation in rugby union since 1980 and by the mid-1980s had established a stable set of game events to notate on a single sheet of landscape A4 paper.I used one sheet per half of the game. The example shared here from 1992 is a transcription of two halves onto one summary sheet. I made a separate record of activity cycles and they are transcribed onto a single sheet here too. In all games I had two stop watches running, one for total game time and the second for ball in play.

During this period I was keen to profile teams in terms of two ratios:

  • kicks: passes
  • lineouts: scrums

I was very keen to identify those teams that played rugby handball more than rugby football.

I was mindful of the literature on systematic observation in educational studies and physical education and sport. I was a trained observer and was confident that my observations were valid and reliable. My aim was to provide real-time information to coaches if required.

I did not undertake any intra- or inter observer reliability studies of the data presented here.  I was aware of Paul Croll’s (1986: 154) argument that:

Stability of observations depends primarily not on characteristics of the observer or observation system but on the naturally occurring patterns of whatever is being observed … It seems unsatisfactory that an observation procedure that provides a highly accurate description of classroom events should be described as unreliable. In some cases the extent to which a characteristic is a stable feature of individuals and the extent to which it varies for different people may be of interest to the researcher and is itself a focus of analysis rather than a constraint upon whether the data are sufficiently reliable. (Systematic Classroom Observation. Lewes: The Falmer Press.)

In 1987, the ball was in play for less than 21% of the total game time. Given the relatively small number of game events I was monitoring there was ample time to record events. I was very aware that using a temporal measure required close attention to accuracy in starting and stopping the stopwatch. I was aware of the potential of mathematical error of using stopwatches. I used new batteries for each game recorded and prior to all games compared the performance of watches.

Throughout my real-time notation I was conscious of observer drift. No game lasted longer than ninety minutes and no half of a game was longer than 48 minutes. I used breaks in play and half time to refocus my attention. Real-time hand notation does require concentration and as a trained observer I felt comfortable with the cognitive load of the activity. I had clear operational definitions for all items to be notated and had made a very conscious decision not to try to capture granular details in real-time. With improvements in video technology in the late 1980s and 1990s I was able to undertake detailed lapsed-time analysis of performance for research purposes.

Conclusion

This post presents some of the data I captured in real-time twenty years ago. My overall aim was to develop a notation system that might offer decision support to coaches within games and subsequent opportunities to reflect on performance. During the period discussed here I immersed myself in the literature on observation. I was fortunate that at that time I was researching and writing Using Video in Sport (1988. Huddersfield: National Coaching Foundation) and completing a PhD that used ethnographic methods to record observations.

There is a story within a story here. By coincidence the data presented chart the rise of the England rugby team. In 1987 Wales defeated England in the 3rd/4th play off game at the inaugural World Cup. In 1991, England won in Cardiff for the first time since 1963 (there had been a draw in 1983) and at the end of the year contested the World Cup final against Australia at Twickenham.

Photo Credit

The National Stadium Cardiff (Walt Jebsco, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


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Visiting Bloemfontein and Soweto: 1995 Rugby World Cup

We are moving house next week and I have been going through some of my old VHS tapes.

To my great delight I found a copy of a visit I made to two townships during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

My interest in sport in South Africa was kindled by research for an undergraduate research project at the University of York in 1973 supervised by Adrian Leftwich. I became involved in the anti-apartheid movement and met Sam Ramsamy. I hoped to go to coach in South Africa in 1977 but was not able to do so. I was involved in Sam’s United Nations work in 1978 and attended meetings with Peter Hain.

1995 was my first opportunity to visit South Africa, twenty-two years after I had worked my way through the papers of the Capricorn African Society and corresponded with Dennis Brutus. I travelled to South Africa as a member of the management team of the Welsh Rugby Union.

We were based in Bloemfontein and Johannesburg. During our stays there we had the opportunity to run coaching clinics. I was fortunate to go as a videographer. My aim was to film every participant in the clinics.

I did produce a video for each coaching clinic. I used an SVHS camera and the copy I discovered was a second generation copy on VHS.

The first is from Bloemfontein and as you watch it you might have in your head the Circle of Life music from the Lion King.

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There’s more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found …

The second is from an unforgettable day in Soweto. I arrived there eighteen years after my first attempt to do so. For this video you might want to add your own mental sound track from Enya’s Storms in Africa:

How far is it from?
The beginning of the storm
The start to the end

I still find these images indescribable. I felt immensely privileged to be there for these coaching clinics and took away with me a sense of play that had everything to do with personal flourishing and very little to do with facilities.

I am really pleased I found them.

Photo Credit

Sunrise in South Africa


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Rugby Union Six Nations’ Tournament 2012: Winning Performances

This year’s Rugby Union Six Nations’ Tournament started on 4 February 2012.

The official website for the tournament is provided by RBS. The site provides detailed match data and video highlights.

The International Rugby Board (IRB) rankings (30 January 2012) of the teams (France, England, Ireland,Wales, Scotland, Italy) in the Tournament  were:

Fifteen games have been played in the 2012 Tournament.

Home Advantage

There have been eight home wins, six away wins and one draw.

Away Wins

England v Scotland, Wales v Ireland, England v Italy, Wales v England, France v Scotland, England v France. (Away team winner in bold.)

Draw

France v Ireland

Performance Against IRB Ranking

The higher IRB ranked team has won nine games out of the fifteen games played.

Exceptions

Wales (IRB ranking 8) defeated Ireland (IRB Ranking 6).

Wales (IRB ranking 8) defeated England (IRB Ranking 5).

France (IRB Ranking 3) drew with Ireland (IRB Ranking 6)

England (IRB Ranking 5) defeated France (IRB Ranking 3)

Wales (IRB Ranking 8) defeated France (IRB Ranking 3)

Italy (IRB ranking 12 ) defeated Scotland (IRB Ranking 10)

Scoring the First Converted Try

The team scoring the first converted try has won 11 games out of the 15 games played.

Exceptions

Ireland scored the first converted try and lost v Wales. Italy scored the first converted try and lost v England. Scotland scored the first converted try and lost v France. Ireland scored the first converted try and drew with France.

Try Scoring

The team scoring more tries has won 12 out of the 15 games played.

Exceptions

Italy scored two tries to England’s one and lost.

Scotland and France scored two tries each in their game.

Ireland scored two tries to France’s one and drew.

Converted Tries

The teams scoring more converted tries has won 11 out of 15 games played.

Exceptions

Wales converted 1 of 3 tries against Ireland (1 conversion out of 2 tries).

England converted the 1 try they scored against Italy (1 conversion out of 2 tries).

Scotland and France scored two converted tries each in their game.

Ireland scored two converted tries against France and drew.

Discipline

Round 1

France (7 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded) defeated Italy (6 penalties and 1 free kick conceded).

England (9 penalties and 2 free kicks conceded) defeated Scotland (9 penalties and 1 free kick conceded).

Wales (7 penalties and 1 free kick conceded) defeated Ireland (6 penalties and 1 free kick conceded).

Round 2

England (9 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded) defeated Italy (10 penalties and 1 free kick conceded).

Wales (13 penalties and 2 free kicks conceded) defeated Scotland (9 penalties and 1 free kick conceded).

France (4 penalties and 1 free kick conceded) drew with Ireland (11 penalties and 2 free kicks conceded)

Round 3

Wales (12 penalties and 1 free kick conceded) defeated England (13 penalties and 1 free kick conceded).

Ireland (11 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded) defeated Italy (12 penalties and 1 free kick conceded).

France (5 penalties and 3 free kicks conceded) defeated Scotland (10 penalties and 3 free kicks conceded).

Round 4

Wales (13 penalties and 2 free kicks conceded) defeated Italy (12 penalties and 1 free kick conceded).

Ireland (14 penalties and 2 free kicks conceded) defeated Scotland (11 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded).

England (11 penalties and 2 free kicks conceded) defeated France (4 penalties and 1 free kick conceded).

Round 5

England (6 penalties and 1 free kick conceded) defeated Ireland (12 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded).

Italy (9 penalties and 3 free kicks conceded) defeated Scotland (13 penalties and 1 free kick conceded).

Wales (10 penalties and 2 free kicks conceded) defeated France (13 penalties and 1 free kick conceded).

Winning Performances

In the 2012 Tournament:

The higher IRB ranked team scores the first converted try, is leading at half time and wins (France v Italy, Ireland v Italy, Ireland v Scotland).

The higher IRB ranked team does not score the first converted try is drawing at half time, and wins (France v Scotland).

The higher IRB ranked team is leading at half time, no tries scored, scores the first converted try of the second half and wins (Wales v Italy, England v Ireland).

The higher IRB ranked team is drawing at half time, no tries scored, concedes the only converted try of the second half and loses (Scotland v Italy).

The higher IRB ranked team is drawing at half time, no tries scored, scores the first converted try of the second half and wins (Wales v Scotland).

The higher IRB ranked team scores the first converted try, is leading at half time and loses (Ireland v Wales).

The higher IRB ranked team is leading at half time, no tries scored, conceded the only converted try of the game in the second half and loses (England v Wales).

The higher IRB ranked team is losing at half time, no tries are scored in the first half, scores the first (and only) converted try of the second half and wins (England v Scotland).

The higher ranked IRB team is losing at half time (the lower ranked team scores the only converted try of the game in the first half) and loses (France v Wales).

The higher ranked IRB team is losing at half time (the lower ranked team scores two converted tries in the first half) and draws (France v Ireland).

The higher ranked IRB team is losing at half time (the lower ranked team scores two tries (one converted) in the first half) and wins (England v Italy).

Coming From Behind To Win

In the 2012 Tournament teams have overcome these deficits to win:

10 France v Scotland (Round 3)

9 England v Italy (Round 2)

8 Wales v Ireland (Round 1)

6 Wales v England (Round 3)

6 Ireland v Scotland (Round 4)

3 England v Scotland (Round 1), Ireland v Italy (Round 3)

To draw

11 France v Ireland (Round 2)

Photo Credits

Italia v Scozia

O’Gara Try


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Rugby Union Six Nations’ Tournament 2011: Winning Performances

This year’s Rugby Union Six Nations’ Tournament started on 5 February 2011 and was completed on 19 March 2011. The official website for the tournament is provided by RBS. The site provides detailed match data and video highlights.

The International Rugby Board (IRB) rankings (31 January 2011) of the teams (England, Ireland, France, Scotland, Wales, Italy) in the Tournament  were:

Fifteen games were played in the 2011 Tournament.

Home Advantage

There were nine home wins and six away wins.

Performance Against IRB Ranking

The higher IRB ranked team won ten games and lost five games.

Exceptions

Scotland (7) lost to Wales (9)

Ireland (5) lost to France (6)

France (6) lost to Italy (12)

Ireland (5) lost to Wales (9)

England (4) lost to Ireland (5)

The lower IRB ranked team won five games and lost ten games.

Wales (9) defeated Scotland (7)

France (6) defeated Ireland (5)

Italy (12) defeated France (6)

Wales (9) defeated Ireland (5)

Ireland (5) defeated England (4)

Scoring the First Converted Try

The team scoring the first converted try won eleven games out of fifteen games played. Ireland scored the first converted try in their game against Italy in the second half (no tries were scored in the first half). England scored the first converted try in their game against Scotland in the second half (no tries were scored in the first half). England scored the only try of the game against France in the second half. It was not converted. France scored the first try against Italy. It was not converted.

Exceptions

Ireland scored the first converted try against France and lost.

England did not convert the only try of the game against France.

France scored the first try against Italy and lost.

Ireland scored the first converted try against Wales and lost.

Try Scoring

The team scoring more tries won nine out of the fifteen games played. Ireland and Italy scored one try each (Round 1). Ireland scored more tries than France and lost (Round 2). Wales and Italy scored two tries each (Round 3). France scored more tries than Italy and lost (Round 4). Wales and Ireland scored one try each (Round 4). England and Scotland scored one try each (Round 4).

Converted Tries

The teams scoring more converted tries won ten out of fifteen games.

Exceptions

Ireland scored two converted tries against France (one converted try) but lost the game.

No converted try scored in the England v France game.

All teams scored one converted try each in Round 4.

Discipline

Round 1

England (9 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded) defeated Wales (9 penalties and 2 free kicks conceded).

Ireland (13 penalties and 3 free kicks conceded) defeated Italy (5 penalties and 5 free kicks conceded).

France (7 penalties and 1 free kick conceded) defeated Scotland (9 penalties and 3 free kicks conceded).

Round 2

England (18 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded) defeated Italy (14 penalties and 1 free kick conceded).

Wales (12 penalties and 2 free kicks conceded) defeated Scotland (9 penalties and 3 free kicks conceded).

France (8 penalties and 2 free kicks conceded) defeated Ireland (9 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded).

Round 3

England (7 penalties and 1 free kick conceded) defeated France (8 penalties and 5 free kicks conceded).

Wales (15 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded) defeated Italy (5 penalties and 2 free kicks conceded).

Ireland (12 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded) defeated Scotland (4 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded).

Round 4

Italy (8 penalties and 1 free kick conceded) defeated France (11 penalties and 2 free kicks conceded).

Wales (10 penalties and 1 free kick conceded) defeated Irealnd (8 penalties and 3 free kicks conceded).

England (9 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded) defeated Scotland (10 penalties and 3 free kicks conceded).

Round 5

Scotland (14 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded)  defeated Italy (9 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded).

Ireland (6 penalties and 2 free kicks conceded) defeated England (9 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded).

France (12 penalties and 1 free kick conceded) defeated Wales (13 penalties and 0 free kicks conceded).

Winning Performances

In this Tournament:

The higher IRB ranked team scores the first converted try is leading at half time and wins (England v Wales, France v Scotland, England v Italy, Wales v Italy, Ireland v Scotland).

The higher IRB ranked team scores the first converted try is leading at half time and loses (Ireland v France, Ireland v Wales).

The higher IRB ranked team scores the first try is leading at half time and wins (France v Wales).

The higher IRB ranked team scores the first try is leading at half time and loses (France v Italy).

There are no tries in the first half, a higher IRB ranked team scores the first converted try and wins (Ireland v Italy).

There are no tries in the first half, a higher IRB ranked team scores the first try and wins (England v France, England v Scotland).

The lower IRB ranked team scores the first converted try is leading at half time and wins (Wales v Scotland).

The lower IRB ranked team scores the first try, is leading at half time and wins (Ireland v England).

The lower IRB ranked team scores the first try, is leading at half time and loses (Italy v Scotland).

 


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Vivien Jones

This is a post to celebrate the life of a remarkable woman. Vivien Jones passed away on 26 December 2010 after an incredible battle against illness. I am hoping I have enough hyperbole to acknowledge and revere Vivien.

I first met Vivien in the late 1970s at St Mary’s College in Strawberry Hill. My wife Sue had known Vivien for much longer. I got off on the wrong foot at our first meeting when I called Vivien ‘Viv’. It was made very clear that Vivien was the proper greeting. Thereafter I worked with Vivien and was in awe of what she achieved as a mum, a lacrosse player and as a cherished friend. In the early 80s I acted as an occasional child minder for Sara and Nicola when Vivien attended the Centre of Excellence organised by my wife Sue.

Sue and I last met Vivien in October 2010. We stayed with Vivien at her beautiful home in Hampton. Typical of her she gave up her own room  for us. We timed our visit to coincide with the Southern Clubs and Colleges Tournament and on a very wet day I was amazed at her energy in supporting Centaurs. To my absolute delight I watched her march on to the pitch at the end of full time to galvanise the team for the golden goal extra time. I wondered then as I had done for almost 30 years how one person could have and share so much passion. I do know that she has proved to be an inspiration for me through all that time.

In 1997 I had the special opportunity to work with Vivien at the Fifth Women’s Lacrosse World Cup in Tokyo. During the preparation for the tournament and in the tournament I had the enormous privilege of working closely with her. What I learned from her during that time I have used in my professional and personal life in ways that I hope she would appreciate.

1997 is linked to 1993. I was at the World Cup in Edinburgh and was videoing the tournament for the Welsh team. On a very, very wet day through a very misty viewfinder I saw Vivien attack in the final minutes against Canada. Her shot at goal was from a long way out but as ever was profoundly astute. The shot hit the crossbar exactly in the middle and could have gone either into the goal to win the game or out to await another opportunity. The ball hit the bar with enormous force and rained a shower of water on the Canadian goalkeeper. The ball spiraled twenty feet into the air with the goal shuddering. I felt that if the bar had not been in the way the ball would have kept travelling from Heriot Watt to Princes Street.

In 1997 I reminded Vivien about that moment and saw it as the bond that tied us to perform in 1997. I would go anywhere to support someone who when they were absolutely exhausted in the most wretched of conditions would front up driven by energy that very few people in the world of sport possess. 1997 turned out to be a most wonderful tournament for Wales. Vivien was at the heart and soul of that success.

What I find really wonderful is that the friendships and love forged there in Tokyo continue to the present. The team had its thirteenth reunion in 2010 and typically the number 13 player in the squad was at the heart of the fun and memories.

Vivien will be missed profoundly. Her joy of life, her unequivocal friendship, her love of her daughters and a once in a lifetime resilience are very special legacies.

She did not go gentle into that good night, her raging against the dying of the light has taught me even more than I imagined possible.

I send my love and sincerest wishes to Vivien’s daughters Sara and Nicola, to John and Vivien’s family. Vivien will be with us all as long as we have memories and stories to tell.

Postscript

The Guardian published an obituary for Vivien on 23 January. Gill Phillips wrote a very sensitive account of Vivien’s remarkable life.


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The Demands of the New Game of Rugby Union (1996)

Shortly after the Welsh Rugby Union’s tour of Australia in 1996, the Union held a coaching conference on the theme of The Game We Have The Game We Want. I presented a short item on The Physical Demands of the New Game based on my analysis of the Australian tour and other work as a performance analyst. The presentation came at the end of a first season of professional rugby union.

I thought this might be an interesting post for my first historical piece about the analysis of rugby union performance. It was written to encourage a move from a Euro-centric view of rugby to global reach.

I started my presentation with the question:

How can we identify the physical demands of the new game that count rather than identifying the physical demands we can count?

My introductory points were:

  1. After careful observation of the world game of rugby since 1980 I do believe there is a new game of rugby available to us.
  2. It has been developed in the Southern Hemisphere and has emerged within the last year.
  3. The new game has an organic unity of player, coach, referee and administrator.

I indicated that the ‘New Game’ has physical, psychological, technical and tactical dimensions that must be integrated in performance. In the talk I focussed on the physical dimensions.

I used two examples to illustrate my points:

  • New Zealand v Australia (6 July 1996)
  • Wales in Australia 1996

In the New Zealand v Australia game:

  • Ball in Play Time was 26 minutes 43 seconds (34% of available time)
  • There was a low number of activity cycles (78) (defined as each time play started and stopped)
  • 56% of the activity cycles lasted more than 15 seconds
  • The average duration of the activity cycles was 21 seconds
  • The longest passage of play was 107 seconds and had 11 phases. A profile of the activity cycles:

Duration

First Half

Second Half

Game Total

< 10 seconds 35%

29%

32%

10 – 30 seconds

33%

49%

41%

> 30 seconds 32%

22%

27%

In a game played by Wales against NSW Country

  • Ball in Play Time was 40 minutes 49 seconds
  • 52% of the activity cycles lasted more than 15 seconds (there were 7 activity cycles over 60 seconds)
  • Wales passed the ball 179 times in the rain
  • There were four passages of play that had nine phases each
  • Wales won by 40 points and made 143 tackles.
  • A profile of the activity cycles:

Duration

First Half

Second Half

Game Total

< 10 seconds

45%

22%

34%

10 – 30 seconds

30%

49%

40%

> 30 seconds

25%

29%

26%

I noted the mobilisation of the game in the second half and the demands continuity would make with 40 minutes + ball in play time.

Two games on the WRU tour of Australia in 1996 exceeded 40 minutes ball in play: this game v NSW Country and the opening game of the tour against Western Australia.

I noted too that the New Game had a big tackling load. The top four tackle games for Wales on the tour were:

v Australia B 197 attempted tackles

v Australia (Second Test) 165 attempted tackles

v NSW Country 143 attempted tackles

v Australia (First Test) 136 attempted tackles

I suggested that the implications of the New Game were:

  • Evenly matched teams will have approximately 12 minutes of possession each per game
  • It will become increasingly difficult to lose the ball
  • Players will need to be dynamic and explosive to retain or contest possession
  • Acceleration becomes a major attribute particularly from scrummage

I thought the New Game would be dynamic, invasive, direct and disintegrative. I concluded with these points:

  • There is a New Game available to us.
  • It is combative, exciting and high-scoring
  • It can be played in all conditions.
  • It exhausts everyone.
  • It is one hell of a challenge.

Photo Credit

Rugby Match