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Arcane public school games explained: Anyone for Rugby Fives, The Field Game or Winkies?

From a sport expressly designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant to a game in which furking is an offence, willing - and not-so-willing - partakers explain the rules


Winchester College

"Winchester is not a school with a strong sporting tradition. It's basically full of spoddy civil-servants-in-waiting who'd get bullied anywhere else. Etonians kick sand in our faces and steal our girlfriends, or at least they would if we had girlfriends.

It is, accordingly, a nice touch that the weirdly arcane school sport Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is expressly designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant: it's written into the rules that you have to kick the football as hard as you can if you want to kick it again, neatly eliminating the possibility of dribbling and forcing you to wang it downfield and chase, instead.

Smack it, run, hope, smack it, run, hope; you immediately begin to see how the place became a British foreign policy training ground. Still, at least it gave us malcos a chance."

Anon, Old Wykehamist

Rugby Fives is like squash, but you use a glove instead of a racket (Robin Heighway-Bury)

Rugby Fives

Rugby School

"I came to play Rugby Fives back in the Sixties, by which time it had practically died out. The courts were antiquated and there was no longer a league. The irony is that while it had almost died at Rugby, it was played at the other public schools, such as Oundle and Uppingham. Thomas Arnold, Rugby's great head master, and a lot of other masters, went off to found Clifton and Marlborough and other public schools back in the 19th century, so the game spread through the Rugby diaspora.

It's like squash, but you don't have a racket, you use a glove instead and play up against a wall and sideboards – basically a squash court. And the scoring is exactly the same as squash. Of course, you can hit the ball harder with a squash racket, but you can still give it quite a whack. You might end up with a slightly calloused hand.

Then there's Eton Fives, which is played with a buttress in the middle of the court. It was developed because of the buttress in Eton Chapel. You could say it's a more interesting game: it has its quirks in the way it ricochets at different angles. But then Rugby Fives is harder, simpler, straighter."

Tim Blackstone, 68, semi-retired financial PR, London

The Field Game is a cross between rugby and football (Robin Heighway-Bury)

The Field Game

Eton College

"Everybody seems to know about Eton Wall Game, but it's hardly ever played. Field Game, on the other hand, is played by everyone. For one term it's the only sport on offer. A cross between rugby and football, you have forwards and backs like rugby, but can only use your feet. There's a scrum, which is called a bully. It's made up of one post, like the hooker, two side posts and three corners. Then there's one bup, who is like the number eight in rugby. You never lock head and shoulders in the bully.

Instead, one side bends forward and the other pushes back with their stomachs. The ball goes into the bully and the post hooks it out to the fly who then runs up-field. There are two ways to score: by kicking it into the (hockey-sized) goal for three points. Or by deflecting the ball off an opposing player to fall behind their line and then scoring a try. This nets you five points and is called a rouge. There's one other rule to remember. The bup and the bully, while formed, can bring the ball forward. But they cannot kick it back. If they do it's called furking – and furking is an offence."

Hugo Sells, 26, property developer, London