A guide to some very British sports

British culture has gifted many sports to the world. Whilst football might be one recognised the world over, we take a look here at some other well-known (and less-so!) pursuits who have their origin in the British Isles.

‘A gentleman’s game’? Once the provision of the wealthy and free-of-work, cricket retains a sense of an upper class – they stop for ‘tea’. Yet this mannered English game has been successfully exported around the world…

Looks like: A very restrained version of baseball

Played by: 11 men (dressed in white, usually)

Played on: A large, round, very well-mowed lawn or outfield, with an even more well-mown central strip with three wooden sticks, balancing an even smaller stick across the top, at either end (“wickets”).

The basics:
One team bats and one team fields. The batting team always has two players on the field, who run between the wickets. The 11 men in the field include a wicket-keeper (who is the same man, and stands behind the stumps receiving the ball) and a bowler (who can change).

Need to know:
There are two kinds of cricket match: test and one day. A test match lasts up to five days, with each team batting two innings; there is no limit to how many ‘overs’ (sets of 6 balls, which are bowled to the batting team) can be played – teams simply play until all the batsmen are “out”, or the batting team get so many points they decide to “declare” (i.e., they stop batting). A one-day match is played during… one day. Each team has 50 overs to get as many points as possible.

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Fun fact:
The best thing about cricket is the names given to different field positions. Silly mid on. Short fine leg. Silly point. It’s madness!
There are three kinds of competitive rugby: rugby union (the most played), rugby league and rugby sevens.

Looks like: A thrilling combination of football, American football and wrestling – without all the pauses and time-outs

Played by: 15 people (unless it’s Rugby 7s…that’s played by….seven, you guessed it) with an oval-shaped ball

Played on: A huge field of grass with two H-shaped goals at either end, more or less the same dimensions as a football pitch

The basics:
In rugby, the 15 players of each team stay on all the time. Within that 15 there are the ‘backs’, who are more attacking, and the ‘forwards’, who tend to be the engine room – heavy, strong players who engage in ‘scrums’ (after a penalty) and ‘rucks’ (during open play) to get, protect and advance the ball. The aim is simple – to get the ball over the opponent’s line. If this is done in open play, by a player crossing the line and touching the ball down, this is called a ‘try’. It’s worth 5 points. You can also kick the ball between the two posts – in open play (a drop goal) or after a foul (penalty). After each try you also get the chance to earn 2 extra points by kicking through the posts – a ‘conversion’.

Don’t forget: Your mouthguard; a scrumcap to protect your ears (to prevent something called ‘cauliflower ears’), a love of mud!
Curling is said to originate from late medieval Scotland. Whilst nobody would wish to say that the Scottish are not a force to be reckoned with in this sport, although the recent Winter Olympics have proved that, like with cricket, the British are no longer a force for world domination.

Team GB’s men missed out on Olympic Gold to Canada, whilst the ladies’ team took home bronze.

Looks like: Vigorous floor sweeping. On ice. Its nickname is ‘Chess on Ice’.

Played by: 4 team members, two with curling brooms. 8 ‘stones’ are played per round.

Played on: Ice, ice, baby!

The basics:
Like boules on ice, curling is played by sliding circular stones or weights towards a target area made up of our concentric circles. One team member launches the stone and two ‘sweepers’ use brushes to alter the contours of the ice to help the stone to its destination. It’s a game of precision, teamwork and accuracy.
We don’t know anyone who actually plays quoits here at EF English Live, but it’s a great word, and suitably eccentric, so it makes the list. There’s only one club left in Scotland, and a couple in Wales and England.

Looks like: A more competitive version of a fairground game – throwing hoops
over a stick to win a prize. However, there are a lot of regional variations (both within the UK, and then in the US too).

The history:
The origins of quoits are most likely Greek or Roman, thought to be played with horseshoes and not unlike modern day discus, a competition to see how far it could be thrown.
However, the Roman army brought this to the UK when they invaded and it took off – by the 15th century the king was trying to ban it! Sticks were placed in the ground and became targets for the quoit. It was particularly popular because it could be developed to be played indoors and by women and children.

Played by: Usually two players, head to head

Played on: Outdoors – a clay square (traditional quoits), a patch of grass or even (if it’s in a pub) a plastic mat or specially-made indoor quoits table (using squares to aim for and plastic quoits to throw).

The basics:
Sticks or targets are placed a certain distance apart. The further away from the player the more valuable they are. Quoits, usually made of steel or rubber, are thrown by two players who compete to get the most points.

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