Welcome to the sport of rugby. For any beginning fan who is hoping to delve deeper into this sport, a good place to start is the pitch, the field of play. Without the pitch, a game of rugby will be impossible. Hence, a solid understanding of the pitch will also help provide a strong grasp on the sport. Although the rugby field may appear daunting at first, with countless lines and various subdivisions, you will find that by breaking down the different components, one at a time, understanding the field will be quite manageable and comprehensible.
This section will cover the basics of the standard rugby field, such as the length, width, and area. It'll also introduce the different names by which it can be referred to, such as the pitch or the playing field.
Rugby grounds is a term that encompasses both the field of play, as well as the surrounding areas just beyond the boundary lines. It is typically made up of grass or synthetic turf, which helps prevent major injuries in the case of a fall.
The field of play for rugby league measures 122 m by 68 m, while for rugby union, the field of play measures 144 m by 70 m. Both are bounded by the touchlines along the sides, and the dead ball lines along the shorter ends.
Strictly speaking, the field of play encompasses the area within the touchlines and dead ball lines, but does not include the lines themselves. Hence, if the ball or a player with the ball contacts or crosses these lines, the game must be stopped and restarted.
This section will discuss the lines - how many there are, their spacing, what they represent, and some of the most important ones (such as the halfway line and the 40 line).
One of the most obvious things that will immediately jump out at you about the rugby pitch will most likely be all the lines running down the field. What do they mean, and why are there so many?
A standard rugby league field has 11 lines that stretch from touchline to touchline. Their purpose is to mark distances. Starting from the halfway line, which divides the field into two equal halves and is marked as "50," the lines are placed every 10 m and marked in descending order. For instance, the two lines closest to the halfway line on either side will be marked as "40" and referred to as the "40 m lines". The lines are typically white, with the exception of the 40 m lines, which may be red, so as to better distinguish the position for the 40-20 kicks.
The final distance lines, located between the 10 m line and the dead ball line, are unmarked. They are referred to as "try lines" or "goal lines." The region between the try lines and the dead ball lines is called the "in-goal areas," and are the only parts of the field in which a player can score a try.
For rugby union, there are also 11 lines running from touchline to touchline. However, the distances vary slightly, and are marked in ascending order from the halfway line. For instance, the two dashed lines closest to the halfway line on either side are marked as "10", followed by the solid 22 m lines and the solid, unmarked try lines. There is also another set of dashed, unmarked lines, which are placed 2 m before the try lines, and are referred to as the "2 m dashes".
This section will cover the various components of the standard rugby field, such as the goal posts.
Located on each try line is a towering H-shaped goal. It is composed of two goal posts, each 16 m tall, that are placed 5.5 m apart and are connected together by a crossbar, located 3 m above the ground. It is also not uncommon to pad the goal posts below the crossbar, which helps prevent any potentially serious injuries.
A field goal or a penalty kick is scored when a player successfully drop-kicks the ball so that it passes through the two goal posts, above the crossbar.