What are the rules of rugby?

what are the rules of rugby

Rugby originated in England and is one of the most physical sports played with a ball out of them all. Rugby is a contact sport and is most popular in Europe and Australia, however countries in North America, South America, Africa,  and Asia play rugby also. Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in North America. There are many different types of rugby including Rugby Union, which is very popular in Europe and North America, Rugby League, and Rugby 7s. Each type of rugby has its own set of unique rules that make each game different.

Basic Rules

Players in rugby can only throw the ball backwards to other players. The ball can only be moved forward by kicking the ball to another player. When kicking the ball to another player, the kick receiver must be behind the kicker when the ball is kicked otherwise if offsides will be called if they touch the ball. If the ball is thrown backwards but dropped landing forward a “knockon” is called.

Play will stop if the ball goes out of play, if there is a penalty, or if a try or drop goal is scored.

Once the ball goes out of play there is a line out. During a line out, a team that is awarded the ball will attempt to throw the ball a player that is in bounds. 7 players may enter a lineout and players often lift each other to gain a height advantage to catch the ball. The other team may try and defend the line out by lifting other players as well.

The game has a referee and two touch judges. The referee determines which plays result in penalties, and whether a player receives a card for a penalty or not. The touch judges determine when a player goes out of bounds, if the ball goes out of bounds, and they help in determining offsides as well.

For the defense to stop the team with the ball, they must tackle the ball carrier. If a tackle is done above the shoulders the referee will call a penalty and a card may be issued. After a player is tackled a ruck may form which is a competition for the ball. After a ruck forms, a line of scrimmage is set, and offsides are called on players who are in front of the tackled player's body.

Scrums occur after some penalties and restarts. Scrums are when two forward packs from each team link in a huddle. The scrum half of the non penalty committing team rolls the ball under the scrum and both sides push to gain advantage of the ball until the hooker can successfully kick the ball out of the scrum.

Scoring Rules

Rugby Scoring

In all types of rugby, the object of the game is to score more points than the opposing team. The team that scores more points in rugby wins the game. If the score is tied at the end of play, a draw is awarded to both teams.

There are a couple of ways to score points in rugby. The main way to score in rugby is to score a “try.” A try is when one team successfully carries the ball past the tryline into the opponent's tryzone and presses the ball to the ground. 5 points are awarded for a try. After the try, there is a conversion. A conversion is a play that happens directly after a try and is when a player attempts to kick the ball, mounted on a tee, through a set of uprights connected with a crossbar. Players kick the ball from the angle in which they scored a try. Players are awarded two points for a conversion. A drop goal occurs during play and is when a player decides to drop kick the ball through the uprights rather than trying to carry the ball into the tryzone. Successful drop goals are awarded by 3 points. There are also penalty kicks which may occur after a penalty if the ball is close enough to the uprights. A penalty kick is worth 3 points also.


In Rugby Union, teams consist of 15 starters and 7 substitutes that play two 40 minute halves. Each rugby team is split into position groups called forwards and backs. Forwards are usually played by people who are big and strong and do much of the physical work. Backs are smaller and faster, and are responsible for distributing the ball quickly and trying to gain position through various phases of play. Forward positions include prop, hooker, second row, flanker, and the number 8. Back positions include scrum half, fly half, inside center, outside center, fullback, and wing.

The Field

rugby field

A rugby pitch (field) is the main playing area for a rugby match and is no longer than 100 meters long and 70 meters wide. The field has two try zones on both ends of the field, which can range from 10 to 20 meters long and the same width as the field. The goal posts are in a “H” shape with two uprights and a crossbar which is 5 to 6 meters wide.

Equipment Rules

rugby equipment

Rugby players wear cleats or boots that have either metal or plastic studs. Players may also wear a mouth guard and a scrum cap which is a softly padded helmet that protects the top of the head and ears. Players wear a matching uniform that includes a jersey, socks, and shorts. Small padding is allowed underneath a jersey or shorts, but most players do not wear any large pads. The ball is round in shape and bigger than an American Football in width. Balls are usually made from rubber.


How do you stop a player from scoring in rugby?

In rugby, the defense must try to stop the opponent from trying to score in order to win the game. In order to stop a ball carrier from running with the ball, the defensive side must tackle the player with the ball completely to the ground. In Rugby Union rules, a “ruck” then happens which is a contestment for the ball, and the line of scrimmage is set at the place of the tackle, and offsides is enforced.

What is a card in rugby?

There are regular penalties in rugby that usually result in a loss of possession of the ball, or a loss of territory. Certain penalties are more severe and result in cards. A yellow card is a penalty which requires the player to leave the field for 10 minutes. The team plays with one less person until the penalty time is over. In very serious instances, a red card is issued and a player is kicked out of the team completely, and further suspensions may follow. This usually happens due to an illegal or seriously dangerous play.

What is a scrum in rugby?

In certain situations in Rugby Union, a scrum is initiated as a restart from certain infringements. A scrum is when the forward packs of both teams interlock with the other team. After the two forward packs are locked together, the scrum half ( a position in the backs) rolls the ball evenly into the scrum where the two sides begin to push to gain possession of the ball. The hooker, who is the person in the middle of the scrum, tries to kick the ball out of the scrum so the scrum half gains possession of the ball.