Oh! And wouldn’t you know it, I’m a rugby player. Well, I was. But only for about 35 years. Now, I just coach the greatest sport on earth – “the game they play in heaven.”
So why do I make this bold claim that rugby players make great trial lawyers? Because I’m a great trial lawyer? No. I am. But that would be illogical. If A then B; A therefore B – that’s logical. If A then B; B therefore A – that’s illogical. All rugby players make great trial lawyers; I’m a rugby player, therefore I’m a great trial lawyer – that’s logical. All rugby players make great trial lawyers; I’m a great trial lawyer, therefore I’m a rugby player – that’s illogical. Not all great trial lawyers are rugby players. But it helps!
Rugby is a sport that requires constant and ever-changing decision-making by the player; not the coach. Unlike, rugby’s younger, stupid cousin, American Football, the play doesn’t stop at the tackle; in fact, the tackle simply leads to the next phase of play with both teams competing for the ball at the tackle in what’s called the ruck; and the team that comes away from the ruck with the ball, keeps attacking – no regrouping, no huddle, no time-out, no play-calling. Last night, I watched a rugby game in which there were 34 phases before the whistle blew. This means that following the restart, there were 34 “plays” with no stoppage, no whistle – just continuous, uninterrupted, intense, aggressive play. All dictated by the players on the field.
The continuous nature of the game of rugby, requires not only immense fitness, speed, power, explosiveness, but discipline, focus, anticipation, support, analysis, quick thinking, adaptability and decision-making. 90 percent of the game is unscripted. Players, during the helter skelter of the game, have to rely on their shared principles of attack and defend that they practice on the training ground rather than having the lazy, boring luxury of stopping every time there’s a tackle and being told what to do next. The ball-carrier in rugby is the primary decision-maker and his teammates must both honour the decisions he makes and help him make those decisions by making good decisions themselves; they must recognize his decision, offer themselves as alternatives for him and articulate them. If the ball-carrier kicks – deep, up-and-under, grub, pop or box kick, he needs to know that his teammates are in a position to chase and retrieve the ball. If the ball-carrier attacks the defensive line, he needs to know that he has support players to offload the ball to or to win the ruck if he takes the tackle. If the ball-carrier passes wide, he needs to know that he’s passing into space that his team can exploit in numbers and not create isolation. If the ball-carrier wants to attack his opponents’s outside shoulder, he needs to know that if the hole doesn’t open up for him he has support players changing the angle to an against-the-grain run, running inside him and outside the first outside support runner who he can either pass the ball to or rely on as ruckers if he takes the tackle. If the ball-carrier wants to attack his outside support player’s inside shoulder, he needs to know that his outside support player will recognize the “overs” or “unders” line he should run depending on the defender’s decision. When the ball-carrier has multiple options, he needs to analyze in a split second, which option is best – take the tackle, pass inside, pass outside, scissor, crash, wide, kick, dummy runner/pull back pass. If the ball-carrier wants to create a maul, he needs to know that his support players will execute the maul in such a way as to keep the ball alive and moving forward.
And that’s just offensively while the other team is making equally important decisions in its attempt to stop the advance and crush the ball-carrier before he can even take a step.
If this little glimpse into what goes on in a rugby player’s mind in the meat-grinder that is the game of rugby doesn’t make you understand why rugby players make great trial lawyers, I suggest that you attempt to be neither.