What Are The Rules For Passing The Ball In Rugby?

What are the rules of passing the ball in rugby? Passing is an important part of any rugby match. Why do teams use passing? How do rugby teams use passes? What types of passes are used in rugby? Get ready to learn about the rules of rugby passing.

The Forward Pass Rule

The only stated law of rugby passing says that players can't throw or pass the ball forward. If they do, the opposing team is given a penalty.

Although this seems like a simple rule to follow and interpret, discrepancies have arisen with regards to what makes a pass "forward".

It is possible for a player to throw the ball in a backward motion and still have it travel toward his own goal line due to his momentum. Because the ball is traveling backward in relation to the two players, however, it is not considered to be a forward pass.


The concept of forward passing is almost always linked to knock-ons. Knock-ons occur when a player hits the ball forward with a hand or arm. This is illegal and a penalty is awarded to the opposing team.

A player is allowed to knock the ball forward if they are attempting a charge down or are stripping the ball. A charge down is when a player attempts to block an opponent's kick with their arms.

Types of Passes

Rugby is built upon the basic principle that a team must work to move the ball up the field without deliberately passing it toward the opponent's goal line. This means teams must use speed, strength, and strategy to score tries. This strategy includes performing different types of passes, depending on the scenario.

The most common types of passes in rugby include:

  1. Basic Pass
  2. Ground Pass
  3. Pop Pass
  4. Long Pass

Basic Pass

A basic pass is often used to move the ball a short lateral distance. Short passes are performed by swinging the ball across one's body while twisting to see where the pass is going. These basic passes are the most common type of pass seen in rugby.

Ground Pass

Ground Passes are used to clear the ball out of a scrum by the scrum-half. The scrum-half will pick up the ball and swing it from the ground to the nearest open player. This initiates a possession by putting the ball into play.

Pop Pass

A pop pass refers to a short pass that may have been less-expected than a long pass. Pop passes are usually very short and work best when the recipient of the pass starts accelerating while the ball is in the air.

Long Pass

Long passes target advantages on the outside of the field. They allow a player to find space before the defense can move over to cover it. Long passes are becoming more common in the modern game, but both long and short passes can still be effective.

Offside Rule

A player who is offside may not receive a pass or affect the play in any other way.