Get Inspired: RUGBY UNION

Get involved in Rugby Union in England,  Scotland,  Wales  and Northern Ireland  .

In the words of the Rugby Football Union  (RFU), the sport is "a territorial, full-contact, team game, inclusive of all shapes and sizes, where 20-stone bulldozers are valued just as highly as small, pacey whippets".

Rugby union involves 15 players on each team, attempting to score tries at either end of the field by passing the ball between hands (but never forwards unless kicked).

Rugby sevens, a seven-a-side variant of the sport which has itself been played for more than a century, will make its Olympic debut at Rio 2016.

Get involved

In England, the RFU website  explains more about the various forms of rugby union, offers a club finder to help you locate a local team, and includes details of the women's game and how to get started.

The RFU's separate touch rugby  website has an interactive map of nearby opportunities to try touch.

The Scottish Rugby Union's Get Involved  website includes more information and a club finder.

The Welsh Rugby Union has details about touch rugby in Wales  and a separate section for women's rugby. 

Ulster Rugby provides links to clubs in Northern Ireland  as well as details for women. 

Why is it good for you?

Playing rugby union is a fantastic sport for developing all-round fitness.

The skills and attributes you will benefit from depend on the position you play in. Forwards are typically stronger, heavier and entrusted with the more physical aspects of the game. Backs are relied upon for pace and agility.

Rugby sevens players have to cover a large field with fewer team-mates, so stamina and positioning become important qualities.

Union differs from rugby league in its use of rucks, mauls and scrums - various means of combining players from each side - to decide possession of the ball.

History

Welsh rugby star's hectic schedule

The invention of rugby union is famously credited to William Webb Ellis when, in 1823, he supposedly ran with the ball in his hands during a football match at Rugby School.

That story may or may not be true, but the game in the 21st Century is alive in thousands of teams up and down the United Kingdom.

The Rugby Football Union came into being in 1871, the same year as the sport's first international match, contested between England and Scotland. By the 1880s all four home nations were playing each other, and tours to Australia and New Zealand would take place before the century was out.

Rugby made four appearances at the Olympic Games, beginning with the 1900 Paris Games and including London 1908, Antwerp 1920 and a second Paris appearance in 1924.

The sport was subsequently dropped from the Olympic programme but rugby sevens has now won entry to the 2016 Rio Games, as well as being a staple of the Commonwealth Games.

Unlike rugby league, which split from union in the 1890s, rugby union remained amateur until 1995, following which the sport entered a new era with competitions like the Heineken Cup.

Are you inspired to try Rugby Union? Or maybe you are a keen enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the game by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired  or email us on getinspired@bbc.co.uk.

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.