The basics of rugby are easy to learn.
Even if you aren’t familiar with rugby, you’ve probably seen familiar elements of the game in some of the other sports you enjoy watching. Rugby is a free-flowing game of possession, territory, and of course points.
The methods of scoring are comparable to American football. A try is worth five points and occurs when a member of the attacking team touches the ball to the ground in the opponent’s try zone. After a try is scored, a player on the scoring team attempts to kick the ball through the goalposts for two extra points. At any time, a player may drop-kick the ball through the goalposts for three points. Teams also score points through penalty goals which are also worth three points and can be attempted whenever a penalty occurs in a match.
The gameplay is continuous, like soccer or basketball. Teams use a mix of creativity, speed, and power to move the ball down the field. Unlike American football, forward passing is forbidden; passes must travel either laterally or backwards. Another thing that makes rugby unique is that any player can kick the ball at any time. Kicking is used to strategically change field position, possession, and to provide try scoring opportunities.
Defenses stop an opposing player with the ball by tackling. Once a player is tackled, the ball carrier must release the ball and play continues. The attacking team keeps possession of the ball until they commit a penalty or turn the ball over to the other team.
The most popular version of rugby union is fifteens. Fifteens consists of 15 players on each team playing at one time. A variant called sevens is a faster version of rugby. Each team plays with only seven players on a full-sized pitch. The match consists of two seven-minute halves and a two-minute halftime. Once only played in tournaments, sevens made its Olympic debut at Rio in 2016.
The best way to learn rugby is to watch a game in person. At Infinity Park, you can always find rugby players and hardcore fans in the stands that will be more than willing to help you understand the rules of the sport. There is nothing better than making a new friend and learning about the game at the same time!
Try – 5 points – A try is scored when a player on the attacking team touches the ball to the ground in the opponent’s in-goal area.
Conversion Kick – 2 points – A conversion is attempted after a try is scored. The conversion is attempted in line with where the ball was grounded for the try.
Penalty Kick – 3 points – After a penalty occurs, the attacking team has the option to attempt a penalty goal. The attacking team can attempt a penalty goal from anywhere on the pitch.
Drop Goal – 3 points – A drop goal is scored by kicking a goal from a drop kick in open play.
Penalty Try – 7 points – A penalty try is awarded by the referee when foul play prevents a probable try from being scored, or scored in a more advantageous position within the in-goal. No conversion is attempted because it is awarded within the penalty try.
The Set Piece
The set piece is a means of restarting the game.
Scrum – A contest for the ball involving eight forwards who bind together and push against the other team’s assembled eight forwards for possession of the ball.
Knock On – A knock-on is committed when a player knocks the ball towards their opponents’ in-goal area with their hands or arms and it either touches the ground or an opposing player.
Line-Out – Occurs when the ball goes out of bounds. Forwards from both teams line up in two lines opposite of each other and one team throws the ball down the middle of the channel. Each team lifts a player up into the air to secure possession of the ball, and whichever teams secures possession becomes the attacking team.
Maul – Occurs when a player carrying the ball is held by one or more opponents, and one or more of the ball-carrier’s teammates bind on the ball-carrier.
Ruck – A ruck is formed when a ball carrier is tackled. A tackled player must release the ball immediately, however one or more players from each team, who are on their feet and in contact, close around the ball on the ground attempting to get possession. Once a ruck has been formed, players can’t use their hands to get the ball.
Let’s take a look at the different player roles in Rugby Union.
The Front Row
Your primary role is to anchor the scrum and provide lifting power and support for line-outs. You are pivotal in rucks and mauls.
You, the hooker, have two very important jobs. Win possession in the scrum and to throw the ball in for a line-out.
If you’re a lock your job is to win the ball in line-outs and restarts. You also push forward in scrum, rucks and mauls.
You are the enforcers on both offense and defense. Use your speed and physicality to make tackles and ruck to help win possession on defense, and power through potential tacklers on offense.
You do it all. You secure possession at the base of the scrum, carry the ball in open play, link the forwards and backs in attack and defend aggressively.
You provide the link between forwards and backs at the scrum and in rucks. In open play, you’ll need to judge whether to get the ball out to the backs, keep it in tight with the forwards, or kick the ball away.
You’re the field leader. You take the ball from the scrumhalf and then choose to kick, pass or make a run for it. Your knowledge and decision making affect the outcome of the game.
You are the finishers. You will need to use your speed and agility to beat the defense to score a try when your team is on offense, and on defense you’ll need to keep up with the opposing team’s fastest players while simultaneously being prepared to cover any kicks that the opponent may attempt to drop in behind you.
You are pivotal in offense and defense. On defense you will often need to tackle the opposing team’s strongest ball carriers, and on the attack you’ll need a combination of speed, power and creativity to break through defensive lines.
You’re the last line of defense. You need a good boot to get your team out of trouble and you’ll have to enjoy making death-defying tackles. You’ll need to return kicks to keep your offense in good field position, and be ready to jump in any backline to help your team score.
Penalties & Infractions
Offside – Rugby’s offside law restricts where on the field players can be, to ensure there is space to attack and defend. In general, a player is in an offside position if that player is further forward (nearer to the opponents’ goal line) than the teammate who is carrying the ball or the teammate who last played the ball. Being in an offside position is not, in itself, an offence, but an offside player may not take part in the game until they are on-side again. If an offside player takes part in the game, that player will be penalized.
Forward Pass and Knock On – In rugby, players may not use their hands to push the ball forward at all. The ball can only be progressed toward the goal by foot (running or kicking). A Forward Pass, the ball being thrown to another player who is closer to the goal than the passer, is never allowed. If a defensive player knocks the ball forward while tackling or attempting to gain possession this is called a knock on. It’s also considered a knock on if an offensive player mishandles the ball in a manner that advances the ball toward their goal line.
Failure to Release Player or Ball – After a tackle, the tackler must immediately release the ball carrier, and the ball carrier must immediately release the ball. Failure on either of these counts limits a fair contest for possession. If release does not occur within a reasonable time frame, the referee will award a penalty to the non-offending team.
Failure to Roll Away – Any players on the ground when a ruck or maul is formed must immediately roll away from the ball, so as to allow continuity of play for the team in possession. Failure to do so will result in the award of a penalty to the non-offending team.
Joining Ruck/Maul from the Side – When joining a ruck or maul, all players must do so from behind the hindmost foot of their hindmost teammate. If they join from the side, they are in an offside position and taking part in the game, and this will immediately be penalized with the award of a penalty to the opposing team.
Un-Playable Ball Ruck or Maul – If the ball becomes unplayable in a ruck or maul, e.g., underneath players who are on the ground, but neither team is at fault, the referee will award a scrum to the team who was in possession before the ruck or maul was formed.