The biggest match in Europe - the Champions League Final is the most anticipated game of the season, and this year it features two English clubs...
Beginners Guide to Rugby
There may be few sports as irrevocably associated with rugged masculinity as rugby, or "rugby football" to give its lesser-spotted name. There's also no question of the strength of its following, with the 2003 Rugby World Cup - famously won by England with a Jonny Wilkinson drop goal in the final moments - commanding a combined audience of more than 3.5 billion.
However, many of us are rather less familiar with the various terms governing rugby, its history or even the objectives of a rugby game - so why not allow us to help here at Top 10 Sports Betting Sites, with our handy 'cut out and keep' guide?
First of all... Rugby Union or Rugby League?
The two oft-mentioned forms of rugby, like what we now know as football (soccer), originated in the English public schools of the 19th century. However, games that seem to have resembled rugby are known to have been played as far back as Ancient Greek and Roman times.
Rugby union and rugby league effectively split in the late 19th century, and while the two forms initially differed only in administrative terms, today, they are considered to be distinctly different sports - with rugby union, for example, involving 15 players a team, and rugby league only 13.
For simplicity's sake, we will focus this article on the more prominent form of rugby today - rugby union.
The Set-up of a Rugby Game
Rugby certainly doesn't involve a huge amount of personal equipment - there's a mouthpiece that is mandatory in regulation play, as well as optional soft-padded head gear known as a scrum cap, which mainly serves the purpose of protecting the pack player's ears in the scrum.
Rugby pitches, meanwhile, are grassy surfaces measuring some 100 metres long and 70 metres wide, with uprights at each end. Behind the uprights, you will find the goal area, which is required to be at least 10 metres deep, although 22 metres is more typical.
There are two teams of 15 on the pitch, with the players on each team able to be broken down into two separate categories, the pack and the backs. Players in the pack tend to be larger and more physical, while the backs are usually quicker and more agile.
So, What Does an Actual Game Involve?
This is where things get really interesting, as while rugby is not a greatly complicated sport to play, it can be very bewildering to someone who doesn't know the rules, given how markedly these differ from the likes of football (soccer) and American football.
There are, of course, certain well-known differences between rugby and soccer, not least the fact that the former allows the player to legally carry the ball, as well as that no forward passes are allowed.
Regulation length rugby matches last for 80 minutes, consisting of two 40-minute halves with a 10-minute halftime break. The clock runs continually, with play only halting for penalties rather than between every play.
What is the Objective of a Rugby Game?
Rugby players are required to score goals, known as a try, by touching down the ball in the end zone of the opposing team. Any player is able to do this, with a try being worth five points, after which, a conversion kick is awarded. This presents the opportunity to score an additional two points.
However, these are not the only ways to score in rugby. Another is what is known as a drop goal, which occurs when the ball is kicked through the opposing team's uprights during play, earning three points. But a drop goal doesn't count unless the ball makes contact with the ground before being kicked, which can make it a difficult move to pull off.
Then, there is what is known as a penalty kick, which is granted for certain penalties, as long as the infraction occurs behind the 22-metre line. From here, a free kick can be taken, worth three points if successful.
What are the Main Rugby Formations?
There's much more that you can potentially learn about rugby, not least the finer points of the various elements of play such as the ruck, scrum and line-out.
The line-out, for example, is rugby's equivalent of a throw-in in football, and is awarded when a player kicks or accidentally carries the ball into touch (off the pitch). This presents the opposing team's hooker with the opportunity to throw the ball back into play, with the team's seven other forwards lining up to catch it, as the opposing team's forwards lay in wait for a chance to intervene.
Meanwhile, the scrum is responsible for possibly the most memorable image of rugby around the world. It is a set play - often awarded after violations - that involves both teams' pack players binding themselves together to form three rows each.
A tunnel is naturally created between the front rows in the scrum, and when the official gives his signal, the teams drive against each other as the ball is thrown into the tunnel by the offensive scrum half. The objective is to get the ball in the hands of the scrum half waiting to collect it.
What are the Main Rugby Union Competitions?
The obvious one - as we already cited - is the Rugby World Cup. First held in 1987 and since taking place every four years, it sees the top international teams compete for the William Webb Ellis Cup, named after the pupil of Rugby School, Warwickshire, who according to a popular legend, invented the game of rugby by picking up the ball during a football game.
The prominence of international rugby teams is further demonstrated by such popular competitions as Europe's Six Nations Championship and the Southern Hemisphere's Rugby Championship. But there are also many well-known domestic competitions for club sides, such as the English Premiership, France's Top 14 and the Mitre 10 Cup in New Zealand.
Bet on Rugby With Top 10 Sports Betting Sites
So, what do you think? If you fancy getting involved, it's easy to place a few bets on rugby with a little help from our list of the leading rugby betting sites. Consult our reviews for the top sites, taking advantage of the latest bonuses and promotions.