The Rugby World Cup group stage is nearing the end and the top two teams from the four groups who will qualify to become the eight quarterfinalists are almost determined. There were two games where the highlights are worth watching for a few things that distinguish rugby from American football.
One is the game between Japan and Samoa, which was not close (Japan won 38-19) but has certain features of interest. The game was a little ugly with many penalties but you get to see some excellent goal kicks where the skill of the kickers in drilling the ball between the uprights from acute angles is displayed at the 3:00, 3.25, 6:45, 9:06, 11:15, and 13:25 marks.
In rugby, you are only allowed to tackle a player while they have the ball, which reduces the risk of injury. They also take strict action against ‘late tackles’ where a player tackles the ball carrier after they have released the ball, if the tackler could have avoided doing so. You can see that at the 4:42 mark where the Samoan player #7 gets caught doing a late tackle and gets a yellow card warning.
At the 11:30 mark you see a player who has carried the ball into the end zone try to get as close to the uprights as possible before touching the ball to the ground, just before there is a danger of him being pushed out of bounds by a defender. This is to make the conversion kick as easy as possible, something I discussed in an earlier post.
The other game was between France and Tonga, which France won narrowly 23-21. This game highlighted the excellent use of forward kicks. As I said, in rugby, you can only tackle the ball carrier and once a player is tackled to the ground, they must release the ball or the team will be penalized with a costly penalty. So when a player knows that they are about to be tackled, they try to find a team mate to whom they can pass the ball, but it is only legal to pass the ball backwards, never forwards. But you can kick the ball forwards, and sometimes the ball carrier will kick the ball gently forward when they see a tackle coming and then run past the defender to pick it up again, which you can see at the 2:25 mark. On other occasions, a player might kick a ball so that a distant teammate, away from the crowd that usually accompanies the ball, can run forward and collect it. You can see this at the 7:05 and 11:30 marks.