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Rugby 101

How does rugby work? What are the basic fundamentals of the game? Get ready to learn about Rugby 101. You don't need any prior knowledge to start learning.

Rugby 101

Table of Contents


Rugby The Basics

Rugby is a sport that is played on a grass field between two teams. There are two different variations of the sport: sevens and fifteens. Each type gets its name based on the number of players each team is allowed to have on the field at one time. In sevens, you are allowed seven on-field players and five substitutes compared to 15 players and eight substitutes in fifteens.

The main goal in rugby is to score more points than the opposition by advancing the ball down the field and ultimately touching the ball to the ground once you've reached the opponent's goal line (often referred to as the try line). Reaching the opposing team's goal line can be accomplished by passing and kicking, with the offense trying to score before being tackled by members of the defense. Unlike many other sports, only backward passes are permitted in rugby, often made underhanded.

Sevens consists of two 7-minute halves, while fifteens is played in two 40-minute halves. The clock continuously runs in a sevens game, with a stoppage occurring only when a player is injured and requires medical attention.

Rugby is one of the only contact sports in which players do not wear any protective equipment. While this may seem unsafe, rugby athletes suffer from less severe injuries (particularly head trauma) than other sports such as football, mainly because players make a conscious effort to protect themselves and the opposition when competing without padding.

rugby field

Rugby Equipment and Gear

The most essential pieces of gear are rugby balls. They are similar to footballs in size and shape, with the only notable difference being that they are slightly heavier and bulkier in the center. Goal posts are also crucial pieces of on-field equipment. There is a post at each of the field, allowing teams to score additional points by successfully kicking the ball through the uprights.

While players do not wear any exterior protective padding on their bodies, they still need to equip themselves with a jersey, rugby shorts, high socks and cleats. Some players opt to wear soft headgear called scrum caps or padded undershirts, both of which protect against blows to the head area. A mouthguard is also advisable for proper protection of the jaw.

rugby equipment

Rugby Penalties and Rules

There are penalties and rules in rugby that must be followed in a typical rugby game. The most basic violations are listed below:

  1. Tackling the ball carrier above the chest area.
  2. Leaving the feet during a tackle.
  3. Throwing or hitting the ball forwards.
  4. Preventing a tackled player from placing the ball on the ground for a teammate to recover.
  5. Shielding the ball carrier to prevent the opponent from making a tackle.
  6. Entering the competition for the ball from the side.
  7. Consistently arguing with the referee or demonstrating bad sportsmanship (i.e., foul language, excessive/violent contact).

Rugby Positions

Two different positional groupings exist in rugby. Forwards are generally the biggest and strongest players on each team, tasked with trying to win possession of the ball by moving opposing players out of the way once the ball carrier has been tackled. Members of the forward pack include the props (#1 and #3), hooker (2), second row (4,5), flankers (6,7), and eight-man (8).

The backs are responsible for stretching the ball out wide and running through holes in the defensive alignment to secure big yardage gains. From a defensive perspective, they seek to prevent the offense from passing the ball to open space by closing gaps and making tackles on the opposition's fastest athletes. Members of the backs include the scrum-half (#9), fly-half (10), inside and outside centres (12,13), wings (11,14) and fullback (15).

rugby positions

Important Rugby Concepts

  • Meters: The measurement system used for proper placement of each marking/line of the field
  • Advantage: Continuing to play through an infringement to score before the penalty is enforced, thus slowing down the pace of the game
  • Foul Play: Demonstrating unnecessary or overly aggressive physical contact towards a member of the opposition (i.e., tripping a player, tackling at the shoulders/neck)
  • Staying Onside: Remaining behind the ball at all times, as well as retreating 10 meters when the defense has incurred a penalty
  • Rolling Away: The tackler must make a concerted effort to roll out the ensuing pile-up after bringing the ball carrier to the ground, so as not to infringe upon the offense's right to access the ball
  • Competing For The Ball: Clearing the opposition out of the way after a tackle has been made by stepping over the tackled player and driving opponents backward with a shoulder (Note: at no point is a player permitted to leave their feet or approach the ball from the side)
  • Kicking For Touch: Kicking the ball high into the air within the field of play in an effort to flip field possession or allow a teammate to sprint down the field and secure the ball as it lands

Rugby 101 Terms

  • Sin Bin: A sin bin in rugby describes a situation in which a player must temporarily exit the field of play because they have committed a relatively severe infraction
  • Ruck: In a ruck several players from each team surround the tackled player and try to win possession of the ball by lowering their shoulders and driving their feet to clear one another out of the area.
  • Try: With a try, a 5-point score is given to the offense once the ball has been touched to the ground within the defending team's end zone.
  • Conversion Attempt: a kick is taken off a tee, 10 meters back from the end zone and level with where the try was scored (worth two points if successful).
  • Lineout: Players on both teams position themselves across from each other as a player is lifted into the air to reach for a ball that is tossed up. A player on the sideline on the team on offense is the one who throws the ball into the air to start the lineout.
  • Maul: In rugby a maul is when the ball carrier's progress has been stopped by the defense, forcing teammates to latch onto the upright ball carrier to continue moving down the field.
  • Scrum: A scrum is primarily used as a method of putting the ball into play following a penalty, but it also refers to a group of eight players who bind together against the opposing team's scrum in an attempt to get possession of the ball.


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