In a perfect world, rugby would only be played in sunny, 75 degree weather, on a pitch made of the finest grass that instantaneously repairs divots. In reality, rugby is played regardless of the weather, on grounds that range from swampland to desert tundra and everything in between. Such conditions often have a tremendous impact on how the game is played. This guide provides tips for one particularly troublesome weather-related situation: Playing rugby in the mud.
Play it Slow
Mud slows down the tempo of the game: Players can’t move as quickly, the pace of the game becomes sluggish, and turnovers are more common. It’s important for players to recognize these factors, and then alter their playing styles accordingly. Here are a few ways that players can still successfully move the ball around a muddy pitch:
Keep the Action Close
In normal conditions, the offensive backs are spread across the width of the pitch. This is a standard formation, and it is often utilized for the following reasons:
- It allows for more flexibility in terms of moving the ball.
- It forces the defense to spread out.
Offensive players can quickly move the ball from one side of the field to the other in this formation, making it an effective way to advance into the other team’s territory. However, a muddy pitch makes it very difficult for all players, including backs, to be mobile. Rather than spreading across the field, the back line players should stay relatively close together, making it easier to offload the ball to a teammate.
Make the Other Side Work
It’s extremely difficult to advance the ball on a muddy pitch. Even so, focus on scoring points, and tailor your offensive game plan to the conditions when necessary. Rather than relying on your ability to run the ball downfield, don’t be afraid to routinely kick the ball back to the other team. In all likelihood, the opposing team will struggle to score if they are forced to play on their end of the field. As a result, the opposing players will be pinned close to their try line — one quick turnover or strong defensive stand can lead to an easy try.
Take Care of the Gear
Prior to a match, if one team objects to the conditions of the field, the referee has the ability to postpone the match. However, such postponements are rare, and subject to the referee’s discretion. If a team doesn’t want to play on a field even after the referee has approved the field conditions, that team would have to forfeit the match.
Rugby players spend most of their time on the ground or running around the field. Most players don’t second-guess their instincts: They run to the action and tackle the ball carrier to the ground. However, you need to pay extra attention to your kit and boots when mud enters into the equation. Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind when playing on a muddy field:
Clean the Studs
Traction occurs when the studs of a rugby cleat bite into the ground. Traction helps you maintain balance, quickly change directions, and generate force with your steps. When mud builds up around these studs, however, they lose their ability to bite into the ground and running becomes much more difficult. During any stoppage, clean as much mud off of the bottom of your boots as possible. The mud will continue to build up, so remember to clean them throughout the game.
Lighten the Load
Mud sticks to players the more they go to the ground. Initially, the wads of mud aren’t a big deal, but the excess mud becomes a problem over the course of a game. Anyone who’s been covered in mud can attest to one simple fact: Mud is surprisingly heavy. While it may seem like an exercise in futility, it’s a good idea to routinely wipe off any excess mud that’s stuck to your kit. You’d be surprised how quickly mud will dry and harden, and wet mud sticks quite well to dry mud. Keep as much of the mud off of you as possible, and avoid battling fatigue in the later stages of the game.
Fun in the Mud
While playing rugby in the mud does come with a unique set of challenges, it can also make for a very entertaining game. The tips listed here are fairly easy to utilize, and they can have a direct influence on the outcome of a muddy game. The key is to understand that sticking to your normal game plan will not work in muddy situations. However, with a few simple changes to your strategy, a hard-fought muddy victory will be yours!