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Rules of Rugby

Most people know at least a little about the sport of rugby. But it's even easier to appreciate if you know some basic rules behind the game!
Austin Winder Jun 28, 2019


If common mythology is to be believed, the sport of rugby was born when William Webb Ellis ignored the traditional rules of the private school's form of football and picked up the ball to run with it.
Since that anarchic start to the sport, rugby has become one of the world's most popular sports to play and watch. However, it contains a range of rules - some of which are more complex and might not be intuitive to the casual viewer.

Rules: The Pitch

The first thing to understand is the pitch. The field should measure 100 meters in length and 70 meters wide. The field also contains two dead-ball areas; each are 10 meters with H-shaped goals positioned in the center of the dead-ball line at each end of the field.
On either side of the halfway line, there’s a dashed line that shows the distance of 10 meters which must be covered by the ball when the game restarts.

Other lines include the 22 meters from goal line which is often the position for a restart of the game. There are also lines showing the minimum distance from the in-line to the front of a lineout.

Players and Time

When playing, each team in a traditional game of rugby has 15 players with a maximum of seven substitutions per team. The game is of two 40-minute halves of play with a ten-minute break at half-time.

Each game is played with the team with the highest number of points being the winner.

How Are Points Scored

Points are scored in rugby in several different ways. A try is scored by crossing the try line at the end of the field and touching the ball down in the 10-meter in-goal area.
This nets the team five points, and is followed up by a conversion kick which can score two additional points. Players can also score from penalty kicks and drop goals, each of which nets the team, three points.


A penalty can be given for several reasons by the referee when a player crosses disciplinary line laid down in the game rules.

Unlike basketball, a rugby player cannot obstruct the movement of an opposition player when they are in possession of the ball or it will lead to penalty.
One of the basic rules for rugby players is to avoid tripping other players. When tackling an opponent, a player must wrap their arms around their legs and try to pull the opposition player to the ground.
Despite the reputation of rugby as one of the toughest sports, no punching or kicking is allowed. Safety of players is paramount to rule-making authorities who have introduced laws including no tackling of players while they jump in the air or soon after they catch the ball.