The game is brutal and messy, kind of like life. However, there is something about the game that makes it more noble than its appearance. Rugby has overriding principles and laws (yes they are laws not rules) which dictate conduct in the mud on the pitch (that's the field). And the players help police their own behavior to live and play at that higher standard. There is team loyalty and brotherhood which is hard to match in any other sport and discipline which enables each player to pull through 80 grueling minutes of play.
You will also notice a diversity of body shapes and sizes (5'8" up to 7' on one team) and abilities which make it possible for everyone on the team to contribute significantly. Any player can score and there's a real selflessness to the game—not many ball-hogs here. Players quickly toss the ball off to teammates who are in a better position to score. Individualism is not a part of the game.
And the strangest thing of all, at least in my opinion, is the referee. He not only officiates the game, but he also acts as a kind of father/coach on the pitch. If the scrumage isn’t going so well or if two opposing players are having a go at it, he will pull the players aside, sometimes using their first names, and have a little chat. And the players respond with the utmost respect. This game is great!
I found this list of core values to “the Game” at the International Rugby Board website which helps to illustrate my point:
Integrity – Integrity is central to the fabric of the Game and is generated through honesty and fair play.
Passion – Rugby people have a passionate enthusiasm for the Game. Rugby generates excitement, emotional attachment and a sense of belonging to the global Rugby family.
Solidarity – Rugby provides a unifying spirit that leads to lifelong friendships, camaraderie, teamwork and loyalty which transcends cultural, geographic, political and religious differences.
Discipline – Discipline is an integral part of the Game, both on and off the field, and is reflected through adherence to the Laws, the Regulations and Rugby’s core values.
Respect – Respect for team mates, opponents, match officials and those involved in the Game is paramount.
So could the game of rugby be a dim reflection (some of you may be thinking it’s a very dim reflection) of the depth of community and love the apostle Paul writes about in Romans 12? I believe it is. And in light of all this and more importantly the gospel which calls Christians to a different and higher standard of community, how should we live?
Paul just spent 11 chapters in his letter to the Romans speaking of God’s great salvation. Beginning now in chapter 12, the apostle describes what the inner workings of the church should look like—no super stars or uber egos that blow out stadium walls, just ordinary people loving, serving and forgiving one another in Christ and for Christ's sake. We especially who are a part of the North American church need to grab hold of these principles and instead of a baseball or basketball mindset, we need to adopt the attitude of a rugger.
Here is the Romans 12 passage for your edification. I’ve also included a short video on rugby to also inspire you to something greater than soccer.