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Where to watch the free-for-all known as rugby.

Where to watch the free-for-all known as rugby

Grimacing with the strain and intensity of the struggle, rugby players tear after each other and the ball in what appears to a newcomer as a wild free-for-all.

But after a few minutes of close scrutiny (and willing help from rugby experts in the crowd), the game's basic plan begins to make sense. Soon, even die-hard American football fans may find themselves shouting advice from the sidelines. You can watch some of the best rugby in the nation--and join in the boisterous fun--at major tournaments this month and next.

Though the English-born game seems rougher than football--especially because no padding protects the players--the surprising lack of serious injuries is a tribute to the players' skill as well-trained athletes. Action is almost continuous for the game's 1 1/2-hour length.

Play begins with the scrum, a competitive huddle of players with the ball in the middle. After much pushing and shoving, the ball (similar to a chubby, snub-nose football) is hooked from the group to where the opposing scrum halves scramble to win the ball. The scrum half who gets it starts the play for his team, much like a football quarterback.

In a classic attack, a line of players advances down the field, passing the ball laterally and slightly back (no forward passes allowed). Each ball carrier looks for a chance to break through the defense to score. If no break appears, the last carrier can punt the ball forward, hoping his teammates can race up to catch it and gain better field position.

The regular season runs January through May. Those interested in joining California teams (men's and women's) can call the Northern California Rugby Football Union at (916) 451-4700; in Southern California, call (619) 729-1229.

Call tournament organizers for details.

April 9, 10: Michelob Santa Barbara Tourney, Santa Barbara; call Pete Smith, (805) 685-6921.

April 16: Capitol Cup, Sacramento; Roy Brewer, (916) 451-4700.

April 16, 17: Pacific Coast Playoffs, San Francisco; Austin Brewin, (415) 547-1211.

April 16, 17: Western Collegiate Championships, Las Cruces, N.M.; Joel Diemer, (505) 646-2825.

April 23, 24: Golden Gate Tournament, San Francisco; Alan Lowe, (415) 838-9296.

April 30, May 1: 30th Annual Pebble Beach Tournament, Monterey; Tom Martinez, (408) 292-3012.

Photo: Breakaway run leaves the field wide open for striped player as attempted tackle just misses at last year's Pebble Beach Tournament

Photo: Opposing players grapple for ball tossed from sidelines in this "lineout" play

Photo: Tournament play in Monterey draws a big crowd for a full day of sport, spectacle, and fresh air
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Apr 1, 1988
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