Rugby Ball. Photo by Edgar Pimenta on Unsplash

What Is Rugby: All The Rugby Rules Explained


Rugby is one of the most physical of sports. It is a team game played with an oval ball that may be kicked, carried, and passed from hand to hand. Points are scored by grounding the ball behind the opponents’ goal line (thereby scoring a try) or by kicking it between the two posts and over the crossbar of the opponents’ goal. The aim of the game is to score more points than the other side and points are scored through tries, conversions, penalty kicks and drop goals. It originated at Rugby School in the first half of the 19th century.

The object of the game is score more points than your opponents in the 80 minute time frame allotted for each rugby match. The team with the greater number of points at full time is announced as the winner. Games may end as a draw.

1. No Moving The Ball Forward

Attacking players must remain behind the ball whilst active or run the risk of being called offside. Players not interfering with play can be in front of ball but must get back behind the ball before then again interfering with play.

The team with the ball must move the ball up the field in ‘phases of play’. The ball can never be passed forwards but players can run forwards with the ball or kick the ball forward to chase it down. The opposing team needs to stop the attacking team by tackling and trying to retain the ball.

2. The Game Is Played In Two 40 Minute Halves

The game is broken down into two 40 minute halves with a 10 minute rest period in between. The game carries no stoppage time and will end exactly on 80 minutes. Between the halves, there will be a maximum of a ten minute break before both teams can change ends.

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3.   The Team Is Split Into Two Groups Known As Forwards And Backs 

According to the type of rugby each team can start with 15, 13, or 7 players and up to 7 substitutes. Players that have left the field are only allowed to return if they have been treated for an injury.

The team is split into two groups known as forwards and backs. There are 8 forwards (positions include Hooker, Prop, Second Row, Flanker and Number Eight) and 7 backs (positions include Scrum Half, Fly Half, Inside Centre, Outside Centre, Wingers and a Full Back). These positions apply to all types of rugby with the difference being the number of players in each type.

4.  The Field Is Standard With An H-Shaped Goal

Rugby Pitch. Photo by Henry Be on Unsplash

The field must be roughly 100 meters long and 70 meters wide with a minimum of a 10 meter dead ball area. The H shaped goal needs to be 6 meters wide with no restrictions on height.

 The field consists of the following markings; half way line, 5 meter line, 22 meter line, 10 meter line and dead ball line. Also included is a center spot for restarting the game after a try, penalty or drop goal has been scored.

The pitch is split up into three sections; one main playing area which must not exceed 100 metres and two dead goal areas which can range from 10 to 20 m. The pitch must then be equal to 70 meters wide. The goal posts are in an ‘H’ shape and are roughly 5 to 6 meters apart with no restrictions on height.

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5. The Referee And Two Judges Are There To Ensure Order On The Pitch

 The game must have one referee and two touch judges. It’s the referee’s job to time keep, make decisions throughout the game and keep order on the field. The two touch judges can assist the referee with decisions and also notify the referee when players are in touch (out of playing boundaries). Remember in rugby, the ref is there to do his job, and wants to get the calls right just as much as you want them to. It is important to give the referee an easier time.

6. Foul Play Is Punishable

 Rugby is a very intensive and competitive game with a lot of physical contact. Both you and your opponents want the same thing, victory. Therefore, the game will stop if a player is fouled, the ball goes out of play or a try or drop goal is scored.

The defending team must tackle a player by grabbing a hold and pulling them to the floor. A tackle cannot be made above shoulder height and doing so will cause the referee to award a foul.

Sanctions of foul play include penalties and sometimes ejection. If a player is being cautioned for foul play, the referee will show the player a yellow card that will earn him/her suspension for ten minutes. In case that player commits another offence then he/she will be suspended for the rest of the game. The player will have to sit on what is commonly referred to as ‘sin bin’. The player will also not be replaced making it a big loss to the team.

7. A Line Out Allows Both Sets Of Players To Compete For The Ball

Line-out. Photo by Dave Adamson on Unsplash

Once the ball goes into touch a line out is called. Up to 7 players can enter a line out and any of these players can be lifted in order to catch the ball being thrown in. Both teams can compete to win the ball. 

8. For A Successful Conversion, The Ball Must Be Kicked Through The Top Of The Goal

Rugby Goalpost. Photo by Thomas Serer on Unsplash

A successful conversion, penalty or kick at goal only occurs when the player manages to kick the ball through the top section of the goal. If a player is unsuccessful the ball is still in play until it crosses one of the playing fields boundaries.

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9. Protective Attire Is Also Very Important

Protective Attire. Photo by YASU SHOTS on Unsplash

Studded boots are an essential part of the attire to be worn. These can be worn along with gum shields, head guards, shoulder pads and shin pads. Each team must wear the same coloured jerseys with matching shorts and socks.

10. Points Can Be Scored By One Of Four Ways

Penalty Kick. Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

Points can be scored by one of four ways:  A try is awarded when a player places the ball down in their opponent’s dead ball area behind the goal. 5 points are awarded. Secondly, a conversion is a free kick that the team is awarded after a try to earn 2 bonus points. A successful kick needs to pass between the upper posts and top bar on the goal. Thirdly, a penalty kick will gain a team 3 point and is awarded to a team when the opposing team causes an infringement. Fourthly, a drop goal can be kicked out of the hand as long as the ball bounces first and can earn a team 3 point.

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11. Winning The Game

To win the game you must score more points than your opponent within 80 minutes. Points can be scored via any of the methods mentioned above.









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