What Are The Rules And Regulations Of Rugby?

Rugby was invented at Rugby school in England during the early 1800s. Since then, it has grown into a game played in 121 countries by 8.5 million people. Rugby has amateur leagues like club and youth rugby and professional leagues like the Aviva Premiership. Because it is a very international sport, it also boasts international leagues and tournaments like the Six Nations and World Cup. Rugby is a team sport played with 15 players on each side of the field. The objective of the game is to score more points than the other team during the 80-minute match.

The British Empire spread the game during its early years, resulting in it being adopted in southern hemisphere countries like South Africa, Australia and Argentina. New Zealand has since become the most successful rugby side in history, having won almost 80% of all their games since 1903. The All Blacks, as they are commonly known, have won three of eight total World Cups since the tournament began in 1987.

While the game spread quickly, it remains extremely popular in the home nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. England and Scotland played against each other in the first rugby international match ever. Every February and March, the four home nations, as well as France and Italy, play a round robin tournament called the Six Nations.

The Field

Rugby fields are rectangular and are usually grass. They can also be sand, clay or artificial turf.

They can vary in size depending on a variety of factors. At professional clubs, it can vary based on the size of the stadium. At local clubs, it may vary because of space available.

There are two main parts of a rugby field. They are:

  • the field of play
  • the in-goal areas

The minimum and maximum dimensions of the field of play on a rugby field are:

  • length: 94m (103 yds) – 100m (110 yds)
  • width: 68m (74yds)–70m (77yds)

The width of the in-goal areas is the same as the field of play. The minimum and maximum length of the in-goal areas are:

  • minimum: 6m (7yds)
  • maximum: 22m (24yds)

There are a number of important lines and areas on the field. They are:

  • goal line
  • half-way line
  • 22-meter line
  • 22-meter area
  • 5-meter line
  • 15-meter line
  • 10-meter line
  • touchline
  • dead ball line
  • goal posts

The goal lines are at either end of the field of play. They mark the end of the field of play and the beginning of the in-goal area. A goalpost is placed in the middle of the line. The goalposts are for kicks to travel through.

The half-way line is found in the exact middle of the field of play. It simply marks the halfway point of the field.

The 22-meter line is marked 22 meters (24 yards) away from each goal line. This line and the goal line make up the 22-meter area which is the area of the field where marks are allowed and dropouts take place.

The 5 and 15-meter lines are vertical lines on the field, They are used to determine where players are allowed to stand during a lineout.

The 10-meter lines are 10 meters away from the half-way line in each direction. They are where kickoffs take place from after scoring plays or at the beginning of each half.

The touchlines are at either side of the field. They dictate the width of the field of play and cannot be broken by the ball or ball carrier. If this happens, it is a lineout to the team who did not touch the ball last.

Game Format and Duration

Rugby matches last for 80 minutes. They are split into two 40-minute halves. Each half ends when there is a dead ball after time has expired. During the gap between the two halves, there is up to a 15-minute period called half time. The clock stops every time the play is stopped. This can be for penalties, injuries or scoring plays.

If a game is tied, in a competition that requires the match to have a winner (such as the World Cup), then a period of extra time is played. The rules for extra time will depend on the tournament.

The Objectives

The objective of the rugby game is to score more points than the other team during a match. There are many ways to score points. They are:

  • try
  • conversion
  • drop goal
  • penalty kick

To score a try, a team needs to touch the ball down within the opposition’s in-goal area. This is worth five points.

A conversion is a kick taken after a try. It is kicked from an area vertically parallel to where the try was scored. The kick must travel through the upper section of the goal posts. It is worth two points.

A drop goal is a kick taken from open play. A player can drop the ball on the ground and kick it toward the goal posts after it has bounced. If it goes through the uprights, it is worth three points.

A penalty kick is one of the options that a team can choose if awarded a penalty. It is a place kick that is taken from the spot of the foul. Teams will only opt for it if they are within kicking distance. It is worth three points.

For teams to score, they also need to gain territory. To do that the team needs to advance the ball up the field into their opponent’s territory.

Moving The Ball

Teams can move the ball in a few different ways. They are:

  • running with the ball
  • punting
  • passing

When a player has the ball, they are considered the ball carrier. The ball carrier can run forward with the ball until they are tackled. They can also pass the ball.

If the ball carrier passes, the ball can only be passed parallel with them or backward. If the ball is passed forward, it is a penalty for the team with possession.

A combination of passing and running can open up holes in the opposition defense, making it easier to advance the ball up the field.

If a team is pushed deep into their own territory, they may opt to kick the ball to the opposition in order to give themselves more space to defend. If they do this, the opposition team becomes the attacking team.

Kicking can also be used to attack. As long as attacking players are behind or parallel with a kicker when the ball is kicked, attacking players can collect the ball from the kick. Attackers can use high kicks or grounded kicks to give their teammates a chance to collect the ball and continue the attack.

If a ball carrier is tackled, this causes a breakdown in the play. There are two types of breakdown. They are:

  • rucks
  • mauls

A ruck is if the tackled player goes to ground. If this happens, the ball carrier must release the ball immediately. When they place the ball on the ground, their teammates will stand over the ball to protect it from the opposition and set the offside line. The team in possession’s scrum or fly-half will then pass the ball to restart play.

A maul will occur if the ball carrier doesn’t go to ground. If the ball carrier remains in the tackler’s hold, teammates can latch on to help keep the ball carrier on their feet. They will attempt to push the newly formed maul in the direction they want. But defending players can also latch on to their tackler to push the maul in the other direction.

Rugby Teams and Players

Two teams are needed to play a rugby match. Each team has 15 players on the field. The players who start the game are collectively known as the starters. These players will usually be numbered one through 15, signifying which position the player plays.

Teams can also have up to seven substitutes, depending on the rules set by the match official or governing body overseeing the match. Those substitutes will usually wear numbers 16 through 23.

Substitutes are usually like for like replacements for starters. There needs to be 15 players on each team at all times unless a team has had a player sent to the sin bin or sent off. Once a player has been replaced, they cannot return to the field.


The most important piece of equipment needed is the ball. A rugby ball is egg-shaped with more rounded edges than a football.

There are a number of items of equipment a player also needs. Players wear rugby shirts that will be comfortable and in their team’s colors so as to distinguish which team a player plays for.

Players require shorts that are comfortable to allow them to move in many directions quickly. Finally, they wear rugby boots, a type of footwear with studs or cleats on the bottom to help them grip to the playing surface when moving around the field.

Some players will also wear protective equipment. Forwards often choose to wear scrum caps to protect their heads during scrums. Many players wear mouthguards to ensure their teeth and tongues don’t get damaged.

Fouls and Penalties

There are a number of common fouls that are called in rugby. They are:

  • knock on
  • forward pass
  • offside
  • obstruction
  • dangerous tackling
  • early or late tackling
  • violent play (including punching, kicking, or tripping)

A knock on is one of rugby’s most common fouls. This is called when a ball is knocked or thrown forward accidentally by an attacking team. If this happens during a tackle, a scrum will be rewarded. If it happens during other play, it is a penalty and the opposition can choose how to restart play.

A forward pass is similar to a knock on but it is considered deliberate. If a player passes the ball in front of themselves, it is a forward pass.

Offside simply means that there are players on the wrong side of the play. This can occur during kicks or during breakdowns. When kicking, all players for the kicking team must be behind the kicker. During breakdowns, players need to be behind the action on their relevant side, attack or defense.

Obstruction occurs when a player or players block an opposition player’s path. Contact can only be shoulder to shoulder.

Dangerous tackling is any tackle that the referee considers dangerous to the player being tackled. This can include tackles that are above the neck or below the knee. This can also include tackles that are too early or late as players will not be expecting contact. Dangerous tackles can result in a more severe punishment than a penalty. Players can be sent off or sent to the sin bin.

Violent play is more deliberate acts of play that are trying to harm opposition players. Players will sometimes lose their temper and punch or kick opponents in frustration. This also includes deliberately tripping opposition players.

Rugby Rules Summary

  • A rugby game is 80 minutes long, split into two 40 minute halves.
  • Rugby is played on a field that is no more than 100 meters long and 70 meters wide.
  • Rugby is played with an egg-shaped ball, more rounded than a football.
  • The objective of the game is to score more points than the opposing team during the match.
  • If the game is tied at the end, matches may require extra time to decide a winner.
  • There are 15 players on the field for each team. Each team also has up to seven substitutes. Substitutions can be made at any time but once a player leaves the game, they cannot return.
  • To score points, teams can score a try by touching the ball down within the opposition’s in-goal area. Alternatively, teams can kick the ball through the goalposts by a place kick or drop goal depending on the situation.
  • When a team has the ball, they can advance it by running with it, passing or kicking.
  • If a team receives a penalty due to the other team committing a foul, they can choose to kick the ball into touch, scrum, kick for goal or a quick restart.