Rugby fans – get physical

By Grant Jacobs 12/09/2011

Here in New Zealand,  the Rugby World Cup has taken over.


Just in time for the tournament the University of Otago has a new book to help rugby nuts get physical; others will have to scour bookstores.

Clearly a rugby-mad man, Ph.D.-welding theoretical physicist Trevor Lipscombe has written The physics of rugby.

You know the book is for rugby buffs when you see the table of contents are laid out on a pitch.

This book is rugby for the intelligent fan. Show you’re a notch above the rest by explaining how a player might perceive he (or she) is passing the ball back, but in fact is disappointing his team with a forward pass. Explain the physics of a spinning ball in a cross wind or how a little physics can improve passing. Examine the logic of Bateman’s movements in attempting to tackle Lomu.

As described on the back page:

What if Einstein played rugby? Surely he’d offer useful tips and techniques to defeat the opposition? In this book, the world of physics joins forces with the world of rugby, to show you how to tackle harder, pass safer, run faster, and scrum better – all the things you need to do to win.

Blending simple physics, the kind you meet in high school, with anecdotes and stories from the world of rugby, Trevor Lipscombe takes us on a journey from scrum ruck and maul, to the running and passing of the offence, the chasing and tackling of the defence, through the kicking of penalties, to dressing for success in scorching summer sevens or winning in the winter.

Each chapter is headed with rugby quotes from the famous. It reads easily.* The physics is more about models than equations. (The ‘real’ maths are in endnotes of each chapter.) Lipscombe relates the physics to how things happen on the pitch (and vice versa) and what might improve a player’s performance.

For those at Otago University that want to snaffle this and amuse themselves study up before the next match, I’ll have the book back sometime tomorrow. (It should make it’s way back to the new books display at the base of the stairs in the Science library.)


* I’ve only skimmed short passages.

(Updated 13-Sep, 10am to add book details.)

Book details

Title: The physics of rugby

Author: Trevor Davis Lipscombe

Publisher: Nottingham University Press

Edition: First printed 2009.

ISBN: 978-1-904761-17-4

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