HomeThe Rules of Rugby Explained
The Rules of Rugby Explained
A Simple Guide to the Rules of Rugby
Each 15-player team competes against the other team to secure possession of the ball and to make forward progress towards the other team’s goal-line.
Rugby can be thought of as a “territory-seizing game,” in which teams seek to expand their own territory by moving towards the opposing team’s goal-line, either by means of individual players carrying or kicking the ball, or by teamwork (in terms of passing, and rucking and mauling). If one team manages to carry the ball past the opposing team’s goal-line into the in-goal area, then that team is awarded a “try” and scores points.
As they seek to score tries, the two team’s players alternately attack and defend, throwing themselves against each other and struggling to win possession of the ball. A rugby match comprises a first half and second half, each lasting for 40 minutes, separated by a 10-minute halftime period.
The rivalry on the pitch is forgotten once the match is over, with players from both teams mingling in a friendly atmosphere as they discuss the match’s highlights.
Starting the match
Play is started by a kickoff at the beginning of each half, and when restarting play after points have been scored.
When starting play at the beginning of the first and second halves, the ball is placed on the ground for a “place-kick.” When restarting play after points have been scored, a “drop-kick” is used, with the ball being dropped and kicked after it hits the ground.
Moving the ball forward
There are two methods of moving the ball forward towards the opposing team’s goal:
Carrying the ball
Kicking the ball
When passing the ball to his teammates, a player can only throw the ball behind him; throwing it forward is a foul.
If a player drops the ball in such a way that it travels in a forward direction, or strikes the ball with his hand or arm so that it travels in a forward direction, this is also treated as a foul.
Kicking into touch
Kicking into touch is a tactic whereby, when a team has been awarded a penalty kick as a result of a foul committed by the opposing team, the ball is deliberately kicked into touch, so as to move play further down the field towards the opposing team’s goal-line.
In the case of a penalty kick made from within one’s own team’s 22-meter line, play restarts from the point where the ball went into touch using a “lineout” (this is explained further on). When a penalty kick is made from outside the 22-meter line, play restarts with a lineout on the sideline perpendicular to where the player kicked it from.
A “punt” is a kick where the ball is dropped and then kicked forward before it touches the ground.
A short kick used to “pass” the ball to a teammate (or to oneself) is called a “short punt.” When the ball is kicked high in the air towards the spot where the kicker anticipates his team’s forwards will be when the ball comes down, this is called a “high punt.”
This is a difficult technique used to fend off an opposing team player who is trying to “tackle” (this is explained further on) you.
Defending against the other team’s attacks
Tackling, in which a player risks injury to himself by rushing bravely against an opponent, is one of the things that make rugby so exciting to watch.
The aim is to bring down an opposing team player who is carrying the ball by throwing oneself against him. Tackling a player who is not carrying the ball is a foul.
A maul is the situation where players from both teams are bound together trying to gain control of the ball (which one of them is holding) while standing upright.
Where a maul continues for a long time, the referee may decide that a “scrum” (this is explained further on) should be formed.
A ruck is the situation where players from both teams are bound together trying to gain control of the ball (using only their feet) which is on the ground.
Where a ruck continues for a long time, the referee may decide that a “scrum” (this is explained further on) should be formed.
When the attacking team has kicked the ball into the defending team’s in-goal area, the defending team can touch the ball down to stop the attack.
In a drop-out, play is restarted by a member of the defending team drop-kicking the ball from within the defending team’s 22-meter line.
Carrying the ball back into one’s own in-goal area
The defending team can halt an attack by the opposing team by carrying the ball back into their own in-goal area and touching it down.
While this tactic does give the defending team a chance to reorganize themselves, because play is restarted with a scrum 5 meters in front of the goal-line at which the attacking team gets to feed the ball in to the scrum, there is still a danger that the attacking team may be able to steal a try.
If the attacking team kicks the ball, and a defending player catches it within his own team’s 22-meter line, while at the same time shouting “mark,” play is stopped. Play is restarted by the player who caught the ball taking a “free kick” (this is explained further on) from the spot where he caught the ball.
Restarting play after an interruption
A scrum is used to restart play after a minor foul.
The eight forwards of each team bind themselves together and then lock with the other team’s forwards; the two teams’ forwards then push against each other as they try to secure possession of the ball, which is fed in by the scrum-half.
If the eight forwards do not coordinate their movements properly, or if they employ the wrong tactics against the other team in the scrum, then they may be pushed back, or fall apart.
The scrum is re-set if it collapses, or if it rotates round by 90 degrees or more.
After a more serious foul, play is restarted by allowing the non-offending team to take a free kick. There are few restrictions on how the free kick should be made, or in what direction, but aiming directly at the opposing team’s goal is not allowed.
After a serious foul, play is restarted by allowing the non-offending team to take a penalty kick. There are few restrictions on how the penalty kick should be made, or in what direction, and aiming directly at the opposing team’s goal is allowed.
The kick can be taken from the spot where the foul was committed, or at any point along a line stretching back from that spot parallel to the touch line.
If the ball, or a player carrying the ball, either touches or goes outside the touchline on either side of the field, play is stopped.
A player of the team that did not send the ball out of play throws the ball in from the touchline, throwing it a distance of at least 5 meters; players from each team form up in two parallel lines to try to catch the ball.
If the ball goes over the touchline as a result of a penalty kick, the throw-in is made by a member of the team that kicked the penalty kick.
Try: 5 points
A try is scored when a player carries the ball over the opposing team’s goal-line into the in-goal areas and touches it down on the ground, or when a player applies downward pressure on a ball that has landed in the in-goal area.
Conversion: 2 points
When a team has scored a try, that team is allowed to attempt a conversion to get extra points.
A conversion kick can be made from any point perpendicular to where the try was scored, along a line parallel to the touchline.
The ball can either be placed on the ground for a place-kick, or dropped and kicked after it hits the ground for a drop-kick. Two points are awarded if the ball passes between the goalposts and above the crossbar.
Penalty Goal: 3 points
When a penalty kick is awarded as a result of a foul committed by the other team, a penalty goal is scored if the ball passes between the goalposts and above the crossbar.
Drop Goal: 3 points
When a dropkick (where the ball is dropped and then kicked after it hits the ground) is attempted during play, a drop goal is awarded if the ball passes between the goalposts and above the crossbar.
Minor fouls: Play restarts with a scrum in which the non-offending team feeds the ball in, or with a lineout in which the non-offending team throws the ball in.
When the ball is thrown forward in such a way that it travels forward from the throwing player.
When the ball that a player has been carrying or has just caught is dropped in such a way that it falls forward.
When the ball is not thrown straight in a lineout.
When a team derives advantage from having a player accidently in front of another team member who is carrying the ball, or in front of the ball that has just been kicked by another team member.
More serious fouls: Play restarts with a free kick by the non-offending team (this kick may not target the other team’s goal).
When the ball is not fed in straight in a scrum.
Serious fouls: Play restarts with a penalty kick by the non-offending team (this kick may target the other team’s goal).
When a player is tackled before they have caught the ball.
When a player causes a player of the opposing team to fall over in an attempt to prevent the ball from coming out during a maul or ruck.
When a player who is in front of another player on the same team who is carrying the ball or has just caught the ball, and continues to play without trying to fall back to a point behind that teammate.
Players who are in front of the offside line as determined at each individual scrum, ruck, maul, lineout, etc., may not continue to play without attempting to move back behind their teammate to an onside position.
When a player obstructs the movement of an opposing team player who is not carrying the ball.
When a maul or ruck has formed, and a player deliberately collapses the maul or ruck.
When a player deliberately places their knee on the ground during a scrum.
Not releasing the ball
When a player does not release the ball after being brought down by a tackle.
Not rolling away
When a player who has just made a tackle goes down within the tackled player, thereby obstructing the continuation of play.
Picking up the ball
When a player picks up the ball inside a scrum or ruck.