Rugby Union Rules Made Simple

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For anyone who is not familiar with the rules and gameplay of rugby, the game can seem a little bewildering. How far are they allowed to run with the ball? When is it okay to pass? How does scoring work? What exactly happens during a “scrum”? The plain fact is that rugby is one of the more complicated sports, which makes it difficult to explain in simple terms. But let’s go through the basics, so that you can at least enjoy watching the sport without feeling overwhelmingly confused.

Field and time: The rugby union pitch is 100 meters long and 70 meters wide, with a midfield line, a goal line, and a 22-meter line that is even with the goal. The game is divided into two 40-minute halves, with a short break in between.

Players: In rugby union play, both teams have 15 players on the field at a given time. The players can be replaced (due to injury) or substituted during stoppage times. There are eight forwards, who are generally the scorers, and seven backs.

Scoring: The most common way of scoring is known as a try, which is worth 5 points and occurs when the ball is grounded in the opposing team’s goal area—that is, on or past the goal line. Afterwards, the scoring team gets the opportunity to kick the ball through the goal for a bonus two points. There are also drop points, worth three points, that are scored when a player kicks the ball through the goal.

Moving the ball: The game starts with a kickoff, and then the receiving team attempts to take control of the ball and move it up the field. No forward passing is allowed; players move the ball by passing it backward, kicking the ball forward, or running with the ball. In contrast to American football, there is no blocking allowed. Only the player with the ball may be tackled.

Out of bounds: When the ball goes out, the team that did not last touch the ball has the opportunity to throw the ball back in. This is one of the main ways in which rugby union differs from rugby league.

Scrum: When the ball goes out of play because of an infringement, it’s often returned into play via scrum. Basically, forwards from each team mass together around the ball and struggle to gain possession of it with their feet. Scrums are a bit complicated, but the main thing you need to know is that the two teams are just trying to get possession of the ball.

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