What Are The Rules For The Coin Toss In Rugby?

Coin tosses are found across many sports and are a basic part of pre-match activities. So what exactly is a coin toss in rugby? Why do coin tosses happen? When do they happen? Why are they so important?

What Is a Coin Toss?

A coin toss is a pre-match ritual that helps decide which end of the field each team plays on and which team will be kicking off. The match officials and team captains participate in the coin toss. One captain will toss the coin and the other calls heads or tails.

In rugby league, the winner of the coin toss chooses which end to defend, and the loser kicks off to start the first half.

NOTE: In both rugby union and rugby league, the team that kicks off in the first half will receive the kickoff at the beginning of the second half.

In rugby union, the winner of the coin toss can choose to either kickoff to start the match or choose which end to defend. If they choose an end, the loser of the toss will kickoff in the first half.

Teams may choose ends based on sunlight, the direction of the wind, or proximity to their bench.

When and Where Do Coin Tosses happen?

The coin toss occurs before the start of the match. Some coin tosses in higher-level matches are more commercialized ceremonies and may happen somewhere inside the halls of the stadium (as seen below), but most coin tosses are done on the field.

Most rugby matches do not require overtime and may end in a draw, but there is a possibility of extra-time for knockout matches, where one team has to move on.

If this is the case, a second coin toss will determine the ends and kickoff procedures for extra time. The procedures for an extra-time coin toss are the same for one at the start of the match.

Why Do Coin Tosses Happen?

The coin toss is a completely unbiased way for teams to agree on the terms of engagement for the match. No one can argue with the outcome of a coin toss. This eliminates the need for arguments about which team should get the ball first or which side either team lines up on.