Rugby Rules

Do you know about the rugby rules?  Rugby is a team sport played between two teams of 15 players each. The objective is to carry the ball over the opponent’s goal line and ground it to score points. It originated in England in the early 19th century and is one of the most popular sports worldwide.

Rugby has two main variations – Rugby Union and Rugby League. While both variations share common elements, there are some key differences in the rules and game formats. Rugby Union is the more popular format globally.

Rugby is known as a physically demanding contact sport. Legal tackling of players is a core part of gameplay. Teams aim to retain possession of the oval-shaped ball and advance it down the field by running, kicking and passing.

Set plays like line-outs, scrums and mauls allow teams to restart possession after the ball has gone out of play or there is an infringement.

Rugby has a rich culture and tradition. It is played widely at the amateur and professional levels. International matches between national teams such as the Rugby World Cup are major sporting events.

Field and Equipment

The Field

A standard rugby field is 144 meters long and 70 meters wide. Natural or artificial grass is used. The field is marked with several lines – halfway line, 22-meter lines, try lines and sidelines.

At each end of the field is an H-shaped series of goal posts used for scoring points. The posts are joined by a crossbar 3 meters above the ground.


The main equipment used in rugby includes:

  • Ball – An oval-shaped inflated leather ball similar in size to a football.
  • Jersey – Short or long-sleeved synthetic shirt worn by players. Each team has a distinct color and design.
  • Shorts and socks – Worn under the jersey. Must cover knees and stockings.
  • Boots – Special studded shoes designed for grip and traction on grass.
  • Mouthguard – Worn by players for protection.
  • Headgear – Some positions may wear soft helmets for protection in scrums and tackles.
  • Shoulder pads – Optional padded vest for extra protection.

Rugby Rules : Gameplay Rules

Rugby matches are 80 minutes long, divided into two 40-minute halves with a short break in between. Additional time may be added for injuries and stoppages.

There are 15 players in each team:

  • 8 forwards
  • 7 backs

Substitutions of players can be made during the match.


The main aim is to retain possession of the ball. The ball can only be passed laterally or backwards – not forwards.

Players advance the ball upfield by running with it, kicking it forward or passing to teammates. Defending players try to tackle the player with the ball and regain possession.

Play is continuous until the ball goes out of bounds, a penalty is awarded, points are scored or other stoppage occurs.


Legal tackling involves grabbing and bringing down the ball carrier to the ground. Tackles must be below the neck, without striking the player or tripping.

Once tackled, the ball carrier must immediately release the ball. Players from both teams then scramble to grab possession in a “ruck” formation.

High, reckless or late hits are considered fouls and penalized.

Rucks, Mauls and Scrums

A ruck is formed when the ball is on the ground and one or more players from each team scramble for it. Players use their feet to push opponents away or dig for the ball.

In a maul, the ball carrier is held up by opponents and players tightly bind together to compete for the ball.

Scrums are a means to restart play after a minor infraction. 8 forwards from each team bind together and push against each other. The ball is rolled into the tunnel and players scrap for possession.


When the ball goes into touch (out of bounds), the non-offending team is awarded a line-out. Two lines of forwards stand perpendicular to the touchline. The ball is thrown back into play from touch and players lift their teammates to catch it.


Referees award penalties for deliberate infractions like high tackles, offsides, hands in rucks etc. The non-offending team may kick for goal, tap & run to restart play, or attempt a line-out.

Serious foul play may result in a player being cautioned (yellow card) or sent off (red card). The team must play short-handed in such cases.

Scoring and Match Procedures

Points can be scored in rugby through the following methods:

  • Try – Touching the ball down past the opponent’s goal line. Worth 5 points. A conversion kick attempt follows.
  • Conversion kick – Place kick from a tee in line with where the try was scored. Worth 2 points if successful.
  • Penalty kick – Awarded for serious infractions. Open play is paused for a kick at goal. Worth 3 points if successful.
  • Drop goal – A drop kick in open play that goes through the goal posts. Worth 3 points.

The team with the most points at the end of play wins the match. If both teams are level on points, the match is a draw.

Periods of Play

  • Two 40-minute halves with a 10-15 minute halftime break.
  • Stoppage time may be added for injuries, substitutions and other delays.
  • After halftime, teams switch ends of the field.
  • Coin toss before match decides first possession and ends.

Match Officials

Rugby matches are controlled by the following on-field officials:

  • Referee – Enforces all rules and has final authority. Positioned behind play.
  • Two Assistant Referees – Judge sideline calls like touch, kicks at goal and fouls.
  • Television Match Official (TMO) – Reviews tries and fouls with video replay if needed.

Advanced Rugby Rules and Strategies

Here are some key advanced  rugby rules and strategic elements in rugby:

  • Kicking strategy – Tactical kicking to gain territory or create attacking opportunities. Includes box kicks, grubber kicks, chips over defense, clearing kicks from own half etc.
  • Lineout throws – Hookers or specialists throw the ball in different trajectories like overhand, underhand spirals. Jumpers time runs to gain possession.
  • Backline moves – Pre-planned passing moves to break through defenses. Includes overlaps, dummy runners, scissors, miss-passes, loop plays etc.
  • Set piece plays – Carefully choreographed attempts from lineouts, scrums and penalties to catch the opposition off-guard.
  • Phase play – Stringing together multiple phases of attack and rucks to tire out defenses.
  • Blindside play – Attacking the narrow side of the field away from the main play to exploit defensive gaps.
  • Contested scrums – Forwards push against the opposition scrums to win possession or force penalties through dominance.
  • Wallabies – Defensive line set sideways to counter mauls and channel ball carriers out wide.
  • Up and unders – High punts allowing chasing players to contest possession.
  • Grubber kicks – Low bumping kicks that can be retrieved behind defenses.


Rugby is a highly strategic, skillful and physical team sport. The basic aim is to control possession and ground the ball past the opposition’s goal line to score tries. Tackling, rucks, scrums and lineouts allow teams to contest possession.

While the basic Rugby rules are simple, rugby offers immense variation through set plays, tactical kicking, multiphase attacks and complex defensive formations. The sport continues to grow globally and plays an integral role in the cultures of many countries.

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