The Press Box Perspective: Rugby, Anyone?

By Andrew Zuhosky

I’m really excited about what’s happening later today as it pertains to the sports calendar.

“Why?” you might ask. “The NFL season’s over. There’s no more football for a while, and it’s still a week out from the NBA All-Star Game. What could you be so excited about?”

Today marks the beginning of the 2017 Super League Rugby season — Super League XXII.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking rugby today. I know that a lot of you might not know what rugby is, and there might be a chance that you have not watched a rugby match on TV. With that in mind, here’s an explanation of the sport of rugby.

Rugby is a team sport wherein matches are contested between two squads of 13 or 15 players — depending on whether the match is a rugby league or rugby union game — with the teams trying to outscore each other over two 40-minute halves.

Rugby league, which is what’s played in Super League in England and the National Rugby League in Australia, has 13 players on the field for each team; whereas rugby union — what’s played in Premiership Rugby in England and Top 13 Rugby in France, among others — has 15 players on the field per team.

The major score in a rugby match is called a try. A try is recorded when a possessing player scurries across the goal line, placing the ball down while doing so. In rugby league, such as Super League, each try is worth four points, with five points being scored on tries in rugby union play.

Immediately after a try, the scoring team will attempt a conversion. Conversions are universally worth two points.

At the core, rugby is like gridiron football in a way, except for the fact that a possessing team can’t move the ball by making forward passes.

Super League consists of 12 squads — 11 of them being from England, along with Catalans Dragons, a French team.

Going into the new season, the Wigan Warriors are the defending Super League champions, having won the Super League Grand Final by a 12-6 score against the Warrington Wolves last October.

The Super League season is structured this way: for the first 23 weeks of the season, teams will play each other in a home-and-home slate. This lasts until July.

After 23 weeks, the regular season ends, and teams placing first through eighth in the standings advance to the Super 8s portion of the season. Each team squares off with opponents once during the Super 8s.

Upon the finish of the Super 8s, the top four teams will then advance to semifinal games, with the winners squaring off in the Super League Grand Final in October.

Inside the United States, Super League matches are aired throughout the season on FOX Soccer Plus, a premium digital cable channel. This is also where NRL matches are shown during overnight hours.

In fact, FOX Soccer Plus is how I was first exposed to rugby. Four years ago, I bought the sports premium package on our family’s cable.  It had NFL RedZone. I couldn’t pass that up.

Naturally, the first thing I did was scan the channels to see if I’d be able to find anything interesting. I got to FOX Soccer Plus and found a rugby match. I don’t remember who was playing.

I initially thought “Hey, what is this?” — but as the months continued on, my thoughts changed to “how good is this!” Now, four years later, I watch all sorts of rugby.

With this in mind, if you have FOX Soccer Plus, watch a Super League match this week. You may enjoy it as much as I do.

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