'In touch' with WikiProject Rugby union
This is the only known portrait of William Webb Ellis
, circa 1857, who is famous for allegedly being the inventor of Rugby football
A rugby scrum
is a way of restarting the game after an accidental infringement
The recently concluded 2011 Rugby World Cup on 23 October saw New Zealand's All Blacks crowned world champions after defeating France 8–7 in a nail-biting finish. Rugby union is a full contact team sport which originated in England in the early 19th century. It is one of two codes of rugby football. This week, we took time out to speak with members of WikiProject Rugby union. Started by DaGizza in December 2005, the Project is home to over 9,700 articles, with 7 Featured articles, 1 Featured list, 14 Good articles and a Featured portal. The Project has 166 participants. The Signpost interviewed project members MacRusgail, FruitMonkey, Bob247 and Aircorn.
MacRusgail is a Scottish Wikipedian, and has been editing since April 2005. A rugby fan and former player, he was motivated to join WikiProject Rugby union because: "I felt that the coverage at the time was poor, and the articles in general were not well written/non-existent. American sports and association football are already well covered, but many others are not." FruitMonkey has been a Wikipedian since October 2006, and works on many Welsh articles: "Although I was well aware of the sport, I was not a huge rugby fan. After a few low level edits on Welsh articles I got into a heated debate when a Welsh rugby club was flagged for deletion by an editor who was unaware of the nature of 'amateur' within rugby union. That set me on a little crusade and I started building articles on Welsh Victorian players, which has now spiraled into all things rugby." Bob247 is another Scottish Wikipedian, editing since July 2005: "I was contributing to other articles and came across the rugby ones while searching for information on the [Six Nations] and was surprised to see how little there was on rugby union compared with other major sports." Aircorn is a New Zealander and has been on Wikipedia since December 2009. He says that his "religion" is rugby union: "I played rugby until a broken knee turned me into a referee a couple of years ago. Rugby union was one of the first subjects I started editing when I joined Wikipedia in late 2009. Like many, I started editing on my favourite players and now contribute to a range of articles within the project."
Your Project has over 9,700 articles associated with it. How does the Project keep all these up to standard, and what are its biggest challenges?
- MacRusgail: Sports articles are frequently subject to vandalism. Also, there is a tendency to rely on websites as references, which leads to link rot. I try to provide print references where possible but unfortunately, rugby books are frequently poor resources. Also, I think there is some confusion, as rugby union is still an amateur sport in the main, and was officially 100% amateur until the mid-1990s, so non-project members frequently confuse amateurism with non-notability.
- FruitMonkey: Through hard work and long watchlists. That said, we are blessed with editors who hold differing areas of interest within the sport, and we appear to jigsaw quite well together. The biggest problems for the Project are BLP issues, the fact that many of the articles are still "live", and require constant attention and the belief that "if it's not on the web it can't be notable" held by many editors.
- Bob247: Most of the articles under WP:RU are substandard. Those that have made it into GA and FA are only due to the dedication of a handful of individuals. Trying to keep RU articles from being deleted is one of the biggest challenges, as people consistently compare RU to soccer. RU has only recently turned pro and only the top level clubs in a few countries are pro. Scotland, Wales and Ireland, three of the biggest countries in RU, don't even have their own pro domestic league. They have to have a pro league that spans all three plus now, Italy. I also have to agree with the other editors here in that most editors require references to be web-based, which just isn't the case for RU. Another big challenge was sockpuppetry, which has now been dealt with.
WikiProject Rugby union has 7 Featured articles, 1 Featured lists, 14 Good articles and a Featured portal. How did your Project achieve this and how can other Projects work toward this?
- MacRusgail: Mainly by group effort, although sometimes individuals must take the initiative.
- FruitMonkey: Like many other Projects, WikiProject Rugby union relies on a mixture of collaboration and bloody mindedness to achieve these results. Some of our editors don't place as much emphasis on gaining GA and FA status, but then will put lots of effort into the portal, anti-vandalism patrols or just improving existing articles. Sometimes, talking about achieving results just ends in just that, a talking shop. I would suggest that a little bravery goes a long way, make a commitment and listen to those who give advice, your fellow Wikipedians want to see articles succeed.
- Bob247: Mostly by a few determined individuals.
Does WikiProject Rugby union collaborate with any other WikiProjects?
- MacRusgail: Not really, although some members are also interested in rugby league and there is a degree of cross-over... [including] very minor cross-over with national/regional WPs, and in a very few instances, with the WikiProject Cricket. However, on articles about players who are more notable for things other than rugby, we find that the rugby info is frequently removed, or worthiness is determined by different criteria.
- FruitMonkey: There is little obvious cross-over with other Projects, though considering the poor past relationship between the sports of rugby union and rugby league, there is genuine good-will between the editors of both codes. Some of the biggest stars of rugby union have played both sports and members of these Projects will aid articles where we share a common interest. I have also gained a lot of support, due to my interest in pre-1960s players, from WikiProject Military history, whose members are wonderful at finding information on those players who served.
- Bob247: Very little. On occasions with military, rugby league and cricket.
Your members have been heavily involved with updating articles related to the recently concluded 2011 Rugby World Cup. Can you share with us your experience of working on a live sporting event such as this?
- MacRusgail: I tend to leave this to others, or wait a few days.
- Aircorn: I was motivated by the Rugby World Cup to improve articles that I thought might be useful for new fans unfamiliar with the game. These included articles relating to the laws, positions and gameplay. Unfortunately, the comp started before I was completely finished, and I then found most of my attention devoted to watching the game rather than writing about it. The Cup's results are usually updated by others much quicker than I can manage, and I have mainly kept an eye on any controversies that have occurred (most tend to involve fans venting their frustrations over certain referee decisions).
What are the most pressing needs for WikiProject Rugby union? How can a new contributor help today?
- MacRusgail: Reliable print sources... information on players and RU history from 20+ years ago. We have a bias towards recent events which haven't been entirely rectified. RU articles tend to have a bias towards an Anglophone point of view. We need more information on players/clubs etc. from non-English speaking nations. And even some English speaking countries such as Scotland and the USA! The biggest "hole" in our coverage is probably French rugby.
- FruitMonkey: The sport suffers terribly from poor sourcing, probably caused by [its] early amateur history, which has resulted in the early history of the sport relying on volumes by amateur enthusiasts, [are] usually in very limited runs. There are plenty of articles that need a bit of TLC and not just from cites. We have important clubs outside the top-flight needing urgent updating and improving, plus hundreds of internationals which are either stubs or simply non-existent. It's a great project for finding articles that you as an editor can make a real impact on.
- Bob247: Improve article language and add histories to the hundreds of club side pages. And yes, the French pages are particularly poor (but this is also the case for the French wiki so it isn't just the question of translating, which is something I have done in the past), as are the Argentine [articles].
Anything else to add?
- MacRusgail: I should also mention we had a bureaucratic and time consuming discussion about which Irish flag to use. I didn't find this helpful, or conclusive, but it took a lot of time and energy which editors could have employed elsewhere.
- FruitMonkey: Due to the amateur nature of the early sport, you can find some wonderful cross-over articles. The President of the Barbarians was the medical officer who was in charge of the liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, a past Scottish player saved tens of thousands of lives through treating malaria in Sudan, a Bermudian England international performed 150 amputations on a single boat load of passengers, while the second youngest Welsh international was killed when struck by a poison dart. You don't hit articles like that every day.
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