For a fun fast-paced game that’s similar to football, learn the basic rules of rugby and organize an exciting game that will give your kids a great workout!
Below are simplified rules of the full version of the game (15-a-side) played by the bigger kids and adults.
Of course (as we are doing for VA Youth Rugby) there are many ways you can modify it to make it a littler safer and more appropriate for your situation.
Rugby is a game played by two teams with 15 players each who try to earn points by getting the ball across the opponent’s goal line or kicking it over the crossbar between the goalposts.
It’s a very fast-moving game with very few stoppages in the action and continuous change of possession. Every player on the field has to be able to play offense and defense because they may all have opportunities to run, pass, kick, and catch the ball as well as defend and tackle opponents.
Rugby is played on a field called a "pitch" that's about the size of a soccer field. A standard pitch measures 110 yards long by 75 yards wide.
There is an end zone at each end beyond the goal line that's 25 yards deep. A crossbar with upright goalposts is located in the center of each team's goal line. It's about the same size as those used in American football.
The only piece of equipment you really need to play rugby is a rugby ball, which looks like a fat football with rounded ends. It's made of leather or synthetic material that's easy to grip.
Unlike a football, a rugby ball doesn’t have any laces. Rugby balls come in various sizes (3, 4, or 5) for youth, intermediate, and adult players.
An adult rugby match consists of two 40-minute halves. Teams change ends at half-time. At youth level this changes of course and depending on age the halves could be 10-30 minutes.
An official rugby game is played with 15 players on a team. Players are assigned numbers based on their positions. Players are numbered in the following way:
#1-8 = Forwards Forwards are typically larger, stronger players whose main job is to get possession of the ball.
#9-15 = Backs Backs tend to be smaller, faster players whose main job is to advance the ball up the field.
For more detailed information on rugby positions go here
The game starts with a kick-off to the opponent from mid-field. As long as the kick-off travels more than 10 yards, any player of either team may gain possession of the ball.
There are several ways to move the ball. Any player may carry, pass, or kick the ball. Reminder that the ball must only be passed backwards or laterally.
There are 4 ways to score points:
The offside rule in rugby is similar to that in soccer, and it can be a bit confusing to understand, especially for those new to the game.
Basically, the offside line moves continuously up and down the pitch as the ball moves. The ball creates the offside line, and players are not allowed to participate in the play if they are on their opponent’s side of the ball. A player is offside if he is in front of the ball when a teammate is playing it.
Just being offside is not a penalty, but attempting to play the ball while being offside is what triggers a penalty to be called.
This is a very basic explanation of the offsides rule, in live play it is much more complex and there are many variations to this rule. See FULL LAWS
Tackle: Players who have the ball can be stopped by being tackled and brought to the ground. The tackled player has to release the ball and roll away from it to allow other players who are on their feet to play the ball.
Ruck: When a player is tackled and the ball released, players from each team converge over the ball and bind together like on a scrum, attempting to push the opposing players backwards. This action is known as a ruck. The ball can't be picked up by any player until it emerges out of the ruck. When this happens, the ruck ends and play continues.
A maul is similar to a ruck except that the group of players surrounds a ball carrier who is still standing. The maul ends when the ball emerges or the player with the ball is able to run out of the middle.
For an in-depth view on the laws surrounding these phases of play, including videos and guides, please go here
Players may not:
Penalties: Penalties are common in rugby, and they usually result in the non-offending team getting the chance to kick the ball to gain field advantage. Here are some of the more common penalties you'll see in the basic rugby rules:
Sin Bin: If a player commits a serious violation and/or professional foul, the referee may send him to a location behind the goal area where he will sit out of the game for 10 minutes. Play continues with his team playing short-handed until he is allowed to re-enter the game.
Send-Offs: In extreme cases of dangerous or reckless play, a player may be ejected from the game and not allowed to return or be replaced by a substitute.