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Give blood: Play rugby.
T-shirt slogan

Rugby is one of several games that Americans, for the most part, do not get. It's OK, people who get rugby often do not get American football. While the two games look broadly similar there are three facts about Rugby that tend to stand out:

  1. You get minimal padding.
  2. You have to stay on the pitch for the entire match.
  3. You get far fewer breaks in play.

For this reason, much media depicts Rugby as an agonizing slaughterhouse masquerading as a sport. The truth of the matter is that both American football and rugby are about equally as dangerous to the players per minute of the match played. The risks, and if truth be told type of fitness needed, are different. If rugby gets mentioned in fiction, however, there is a good chance that someone is going home in agony.

This depiction is not confined to American media either. Nations where rugby is played a lot tend to compare it to other football codes and often come to the same impressions. Furthermore, the global rugby community seems to revel in their sport's reputation, taking perverse joy in the fact that the very mention of its name is enough to make football (association and American) fans squirm.

There are elements of truth in this. In every single rugby game, players have to leave the field because of an injury. There is even a system concerning bleeding players - they have to leave the field immediately to be replaced by a teammate, but the original player can return for 10 minutes without it counting as a substitution.

For reference, most games that involve a ball and an attempt for a team to get it from point A to point B share the same broad origins as a medieval peasant game played, in various forms, through much of Europe that was half Capture the Flag, half Big Ball of Violence.

Compare Blood Sport. For information on the game, see Rugby League or Rugby Union (yes, there are two different versions).

Examples of Rugby Is Slaughter include:

Anime & Manga

  • In Maison Ikkoku, Godai plays rugby with his old high school team -- and he ends up with two black eyes.
  • Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu has the hilarious Rugby episode (pictured above) -- which is something of a subversion due to the clear indication that it was excessive violence. Sōsuke gives Training From Hell to a sissy team of rugby players. The ending result is... highly amusing.
  • The rugby-centered manga No Side starts with the main character dying by breaking his neck against the goalpost. Then he comes back to the sport as a girl. Later chapters use war images and much violence.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho at one point features a set of demons with a sports theme, one of them called Rugby. It's teased whether he picked the name because of the human sport, or whether humans named the sport after him. At one point he says he likes the game because it's basically organized violence.


  • Parodied with Asterix in Britain: a rugby game is made more "interesting" when it turns out that the players' drink has been spiked with magic potion. It was already pretty violent without the potion. Obelix enthusiastically comments, "We must import this fun game in Gaul!"

    "The rules are simple. The ball can be brought beyond the other team's goal line by practically any means necessary. The use of weapons is prohibited, barring prior agreement."
    ** Downplayed slightly in the Animated Adaptation, when the referee gives a penalty for unnecessary roughness... for someone jumping up and down repeatedly on another player's head.
  • Gaston Lagaffe - Lagaffe briefly gives rugby a try but gives up after getting repeatedly and violently tackled.
  • France has (at least) two comic series on rugby: one is about a rural village team (where rugby is Serious Business) and the other is on France's national team, and is titled Barbarians. Yeah.
  • Get Fuzzy: Rob Wilco has been seen wearing the above-quoted T-shirt. The portrayal of the sport is a bit understated compared to the rest of these entries, but it's still fairly violent.
  • Wal's dreams of rugby glory in Footrot Flats always end with him a bloodied heap being trampled into the mud.
  • Warren Ellis's word on rugby:

 Doc Samson: It's better than football. No padding or helmets, no stopping every minute, none of the dumb stuff. Two teams of gnarled, scarred freaks pounding the blood out of each other with a ball somewhere in the middle. It's awesome.

  • In the British Anthology Comic The Beano playing Rugby, beating up over the top tough rugby players or just scaring them by being there is a common gag used in comic strips especially Minnie The Minx. This gag is used to show how tough the characters are.


  • Monty Pythons Meaning of Life has a scene with a pretty brutal game of rugby, and to emphases the violence of it all, it leads into a scene in a war zone. As if it weren't bad enough, it's a game being played by students of a private school against their teachers, and the kids are being brutally roughed up. One of the professors watching the game even trips a student has he runs by so he can be tackled.
  • Actually averted in Invictus: the worst any player gets is a hamstring injury, and it heals up in time for the World Cup.
  • The opening scene of The Four Feathers has the junior officers from two British regiments playing rugby. In the rain. And the mud. And the sweet young English girls in their white linen leg-of-mutton-sleeved dresses standing on the sidelines under their umbrellas obviously getting--in a very understated, ladylike way--quite worked up over the sight of all those big, strong, handsome, muscular men beating the stuffing out of one another.


  • Tuppy Glossop finds this out to his cost in "The Ordeal of Young Tuppy" in the Jeeves and Wooster book Very Good, Jeeves.
  • We're not sure about rugby, but scrumball apparently is.
  • Though he went to Rugby, the school where the sport was codified, Harry Flashman stayed well away from the game due to this trope.
    • He did feature in the game in Tom Brown's Schooldays, but he and his chum Speedicut both took great care to look as though they were playing really enthusiastically while avoiding any risk of getting hurt.

Live Action TV

  • In a Friends episode, Ross plays rugby to impress Emily, and ends up in agony.
    • Joey tries to explain the sport to him.

 Joey: Right here, this is a "scrum," okay. It's kinda like a huddle.

Ross: And is a "hum" kinda like a "scruddle"? Heh.

Joey: Heh heh. Ross, these guys are gonna kill you.


 Jenny: I don't know what it is about football that does it for me. I mean, it lacks the, the grace of basketball, the, uh, poetry of baseball. At its best it's unadorned aggression. It's such a rugged contest.

Giles: Rugged. American football. Heh.

Jenny: And that's funny because?

Giles: No! Heh. I just think it's rather odd that a nation that prides itself on its virility should feel compelled to strap on forty pounds of protective gear just in order to play rugby.


 Drunk#1:Good game on saturday?

Drunk#2: Bloody Good! Three Tries, two conversions and twenty two hospitalisations.


Puppet Shows

  • The satiric TV show ~Les Guignols de l'info~ depicts rugby players as senseless brutes whose training consists in bashing down brick walls and drinking fresh blood.
    • A particular example come to mind : a French team had to figh-play against the "All-black" known for being quite good. The strategy include Military support and they don't expect every player to survive.
    • In another episode, former French coach Bernard Laporte said "The first rugby game was a wedding in Brive (that's a french city), the ball only came 30 years later".

Tabletop Games

Web Comics

  • In the Schlock Mercenary universe, where all sports from Deathball to Ballet are unified in the same league with the teams choosing which to play, Rugby is not on the list because it is too dangerous.
  • The "Rule Brittannia" arcs of Witchprickers concern an extremely brutal sport known as "Scrumby", all that has been revealed about it is that the death toll is extremely high and it's popular everywhere but America.

Western Animation

  • Mr. Barken plays Rugby in Kim Possible. In one episode he gets glued to Ron and, well, Barken enjoys himself...

Real Life

  • Back during the 2007 Rugby World Cup, one French player (Sébastien Chabal), nicknamed "The Caveman" when playing in England, went through Memetic Mutation as a hairy violent lunatic who ate babies and wore a Badass Beard.
  • Truth in Television for anyone in the UK who wasn't built like an eleven-year-old brick shithouse and had to face down a squadron of their classmates who were in enforced physical education lessons.
    • Just watch the ball and stay away from it.
  • Buck Shelford famously had his scrotum ripped in a ruck, playing for New Zealand against France in 1986. Famously because with one testicle dangling free, he calmly asked the doc to stitch him up and went back out to play. He ended the game with four teeth knocked out and a concussion, and has no memory of the match.
  • John Sattler in the 1970 Grand Final for the Australian Rugby League. Suffered a broken jaw only ten minutes in, to which he reacted to be refusing to be taken for treatment or even be shut out of plays to avoid further injury. He finally agreed to go to hospital, after remaining on-field for most of the match, accepting the winner's trophy and making the acceptance speech.
  • Gordon Brown become blind in his left eye after he was kicked in the head during a rugby union match when he was a student.
  • A rather popular joke is "There are no winners in rugby, only survivors".
  • Example.