Rules of Rugby | How it is Played?

A bit of kabaddi, a bit of football and yeah, a little bit of wrestling can’t be ruled out, altogether they form a game called “Rugby”. Rugby is not one of the oldest sports being played to this date but it is certainly one of the popular sports played in Europe.

Rules of Rugby

The first international rugby game was played on 27 March 1871 between Scotland and England. Since then the game has continued to evolve and various big rugby tournaments like the World Cup are widely followed all around the world.

It is a game that requires physical strength, agility and sustenance. Players don’t really wear any such protective equipment and it can turn out to be a nasty game if you watch the game closely, with player over player groping for the ball and not caring about hurting themselves or their opponent.

Objective of Playing Rugby

The objective of the game is straightforward, score as many points as you can and the team with more points at the end of the time duration will win the game. We can have a draw in Rugby as well. Players can either run forward with the ball or kick it but passing it forward is not allowed.

How to Play?

The game of Rugby is played between two sides with equal number of players, players can’t pass the ball but only run with it or kick the ball between the poles to score points. The game starts with a scrum ( you’ll learn soon what scrum is) and the game involves some legit techniques to get possession of the ball.

Point scoring varies greatly in Rugby, you don’t always get the same number of points for every aim between the poles. Moreover, there are some essential terms to learn before you start playing. For your convenience, everything has been explained in detail below to make it easier for you to comprehend every rule associated with the game.

General Rules of Rugby

  • Each team can feature 15 players on the field with 7 substitute players.
  • In rugby, once you have left the field you can’t come back unless you went out to get treatment for an injury.
  • The game only stops when a player commits a foul or a try or drop goal is scored, or, the ball goes out of play.
  • Defending teams can only tackle the player by holding or pulling a player to the floor.
  • You can’t tackle a player by above shoulder height and doing so will cause you a foul.
  • When the ball goes into touch, a line out is called. 7 players at max can enter a line out and any of them can be taken out in order to catch the ball being brought in.
  • A goal is scored when a player kicks the ball through the top section of the opposition goal.
  • The ball remains in play until it goes across one of the field boundaries.
  • An interesting rule in rugby is you can’t attack the ball from front. If you want to attack the player in possession of the ball, you first get behind him and then attack. It is called offside.
  • A team can be penalised in the form of offside if any of its players commits an offside.
  • In serious infringements like intentionally trying to inflict injury to the opposition player, the referee can show a red or yellow card to the player.
  • Yellow card is like a warning and a red card is a sign that you have been permanently dismissed from the game.

Toss in Rugby

Coin toss takes place before the game and the winning captain decides whether his team would kick off or choose an end. If the winning captain choses an end then the opposite team will kick off or vice versa.

Time Duration of a Rugby Match

The game of rugby is played in two halves and each half consists of 40 minutes. A 10-minute break is given to the player after the end of the first half.

Rugby Playing Field Area

A rugby field has interesting measurements and certain lines are drawn with different scoring rules regarding them.

Field Dimensions: A rugby field is roughly 100 meters long and 70 meters wide.

Dead ball line: The dead ball line consists of 10 meters.

Goal Area: The goal area is at least 6 meters wide and is free of height limits.

Touch line: The touchline is the line of either edge of a rugby pitch. It is also known as a sideline. If the ball goes outside these lines, it is now out of play.

Dashed line: Three sets of dashed lines are always part of a rugby pitch measuring 5 meters. They are parallel to the touch line. These lines mark the minimum distance from the touchline and goal lines for a scrum.

Halfway line: As the name says, this line divides the whole field into two. The game starts at the center of the ground, in the middle of the halfway line. Everytime a point is scored or the game restarts, a drop-kick is made from this point.

Playing Equipments in Rugby

All you need to play rugby is a rugby ball and playing field. Rugby balls are oval shaped and as per international standards, it should be 11 inch long and 27 inch in circumference. A typical rugby ball weighs around 400 grams.

Scoring in Rugby

The team with more points at the end of the game wins the match. Following are the ways in which you can score a point in rugby:

Try: 5 points are scored when a player puts down the ball in the opponent’s dead ball area.

Conversion: After scoring a try you get a conversion kick – free kick . If you manage to kick the ball between two posts and over the crossbar , you get 2 more points.

Penalty Kick: A penalty kick is awarded to the side when an opposition causes infringement.

Drop Goal: You can kick the ball anytime during the player between the posts. But the ball must bounce on the ground before you kick it. A drop goal earns you 3 points.

Scrum in Rugby

Scrum in play is a restarting method in rugby. Players get closely packed to each other with heads down and attempt to get the possession of the ball. A scrum usually takes place when a player is trapped in a maul or ruck.

Scrum is also given as a penalty against offside to the non offending team, whose one player pushes the ball between the group of the ball pushing forward against each other. 8 players from each team participate in the scrum and once the ball comes out of the scrum, anyone can take possession of the ball.

One of the players serves as the hooker for each side. The team doing the scrum always has the advantage because they put the ball in such a way that it reaches their team’s hooker.

Maul in Rugby

Maul is a situation in rugby when at least three players from both sides are in contact together, challenging the player in possession of the ball. In Maul, the ball is in the hands not on the ground.


Ruck is a phase when a player or players from both sides are on their feet, closed around the ball on the ground. The man with possession of the ball, his team cannot drive over the opposition’s player. They can only get their hands inside the ruck to retrieve the ball. Their feet must remain on the ground.

Line out

Line out is another method of restarting the play. It occurs when the ball goes out of the field. Players from both teams lineup 1-meter apart from each other, and a player from the non-offensive side throws the ball from the line.

Common Infringements in Rugby

Forward pass: You can only kick the ball in rugby but can’t pass it to another player. However, if you throw the ball backwards, it won’t count as a forward pass.

Knock-on: A knock-on occurs when a player is trying to catch the ball coming towards him but he ends up dropping it in front of him. It is called knock-on and it results in a scrum for the opposite team.

High Tackle: Tackling is common in the game of rugby but players are now allowed to tackle each other above shoulder. This includes tackling a player around the neck or head area. A high tackle results in a penalty or sometimes a player can be dismissed from the game after receiving the red card.

Not releasing the ball on the ground: When a player has been taken down on the ground, he must release the ball. Failure to do so and therefore might call it a foul. It can also result as a penalty offense. A player must get on his feet to gather the ball.

Tackling a player in the air: Tackling a player who is airborne is dangerous and is therefore not allowed in rugby. The infringement can result in a penalty for the offensive side.

Famous Rugby Tournaments

A few international domestic level rugby tournaments take place every year, mostly in European countries. Some of them are:

  • Rugby World Cup
  • Six nation championship
  • America’s rugby championship
  • World’s Rugby pacific challenge

Famous Rugby Venues

Rugby is played in spacious and open stadiums. Some of the famous rugby venues are:

  • Ellis Park, Johannesburg
  • Principality Stadium,Cardiff
  • Murrayfield, Edinburgh
  • New lands,Capetown
  • Eden Park, Auckland

Governing Body For Rugby

The International Rugby Board (IRB) was founded in 1886 by England and a few other countries in coalition. Their current headquarters are in Dublin and Ireland. All the major tournaments players at international fall are organized and catered by the Federation. If there’s any changing in the laws of the game required, it is also decided by the federation with the mutual consent of members.