About a week ago, the only thing I knew about rugby was it is played without helmets and padding. It
has a scrum (i.e. players from each team lock arms, heads down and push against each other. Ball is thrown into scrum and the players try to kick it to a teammate on the side.) and players can be lifted into the air. (Photo: Championship game: New Zealand in black vs England in white. AP Photo: Jeff Chiu)
Now after working for three days at the Rugby World Cup 7’s at AT&T Park, San Francisco, I have a new appreciation for the sport: the speed, endurance and toughness needed to play; and the fans who travel thousands of miles, from all over the world to support their teams, both men and women. And the costumes. It’s not only the SF Giants fans who come to games dressed for Halloween, but rugby fans dress in everything and close to nothing.
Welcome the king of Samoa to AT&T! (Photo: Marta Tenorio Thumas)
In case you are like me and are a know-nothing about rugby, 7’s refers to the number of people on a team. The game is only 20 minutes long, divided into 7 minute halves. The ball is passed laterally or behind. Action rarely stops. If a player is tackled, he or she tries to get the ball to a teammate while being crushed by a pile of opposing team members and the action keeps going down the field. A goal or touchdown is called a ‘try.’ Once a player gets past the goal line or try line, the ball has to be actually touched on the ground for points to be earned. Rugby 7’s is an Olympic sport.
A few verbal snapshots:
...I saw more men in kilts, not only from Scotland, than I have ever seen before.
...French fans were in one corner of the stands waving flags and singing their national anthem, La Marseillaise, at the top of their voices as the French team was playing.
...Fiji fans dressed in electric blue packed the ballpark. I doubt there was anyone left on their island. (Photo: Fiji Times)
...Both men and women New Zealand teams won their respective World Cup. After the awards ceremony, they performed the Haka, a type of ancient Māori war dance traditionally used on the battlefield. Players chant at the top of their voices, slap their chest arms and legs, and stick out their tongues. (AP Photo: Jeff Chiu)
To sum it up…I’m now a big fan!
Below are a few images I took. Top: USA women about to score. Bottom: Local fans. .