Table of Contents
- AIM OF THE GAME
- KNOCK-ONS/FORWARD PASSES
- CALLING A MARK
- SIN BIN
- RUGBY POSITIONS
- RUGBY PITCH (FIELD)
AIM OF THE GAME
The aim of the game is very simple - use the ball to score more points than the other team. You can run with the ball, kick it and pass it, but passing forwards is not allowed.
Rugby union is a contact sport, so you can tackle an opponent in order to get the ball, as long as you stay within the rules.
There is a referee, aided by two touch judges (one on each side of the pitch), to decide how the rules should be applied during a game.
There are several ways to score points.
- A try - five points are awarded for touching the ball down in your opponent's goal area.
- A conversion - two points are added for a successful kick through the goalposts after a try
- A goal kick - three points are awarded for a penalty kick or drop goal through the posts
A game of rugby union has two periods of 40 minutes each. Between the two halves, there is a maximum 10-minute interval, after which both teams change ends.
Before the start of the match, the referee tosses a coin to decide which team will kick off the match. The captain of the team that wins the toss gets to decide which end he wants to attack first, or whether his side or the opposition will kick off.
The game is started by a place kick or a drop kick from the middle of the halfway line. The ball must travel forwards at least 10 meters from the kick-off. If it does not, the opposition gets the choice of a scrum or line-out on the halfway line, with the advantage of the feed or throw.
If a penalty or drop goal is scored during the game, play is restarted with a drop kick from the halfway line. The team that has conceded the points takes the kick.
Scrums are used for restarting play after the following:
- the ball has been knocked on
- the ball has gone forward
- accidental offside
- the ball has not come out from a ruck or maul
Not every player can join a scrum. Only eight players from each team can take part. They are almost always the eight forwards in the side.
The scrum is formed at the place where the infringement happened. All scrums must take place at least five meters from the touch or trylines. However the scrum is one of the hardest areas of the game to referee because of the many infringements, particularly in the front row.
Scrums are initiated by a cadence from the referee:
Referees pay particular attention to the bindings of the two front rows.
Props must use the whole arm from hand to shoulder to grasp their opponent's body at or below the level of the armpit. They must grasp their opposite number's shirt from the side or the back. They cannot go underneath and grab the collar or the sleeve of the upper arm.
Props often look for a late bind when they engage. By maneuvering their arm they can manipulate their opponent's body position, giving them a significant advantage in the push. However referees are stringent on this move because of safety reasons. Twisting, dipping or collapsing a scrum will result in a penalty against the offending team.
FRONT ROW OFFENCES
Rather than engaging square on with their opponent, tight-head props can bore their heads into the hooker. This limits the movement of the opposition hooker.
Sometimes you may see a tight-head prop's body pop out of a scrum while it is still taking place. This is because their opposing loose-head prop has used a subtle shift of body position and pushed into the tight-head prop's chest. Both moves are illegal and are punishable with penalties.
Line-outs are a way of restarting play after the ball has been knocked or kicked out of play past the touch line.
The line-out consists of three to eight players from each side, up to 16 in total, and is taken where the ball went out of play. The aim of each player is simply to get their hands on the ball for their team.
So how does it work? The advantage is with the team throwing in.
They get the ball because they were not the team who last touched the ball before it went out. They also get to decide how many players will make up the line-out.
FORMING A LINE-OUT
The most important players are the hooker, the two second rows and scrum-half. They are responsible for getting the ball out to the backs or for the rest of the forwards. That does not mean the other players have nothing to do.
The line-out must be formed past the five-meter line and no more than 15m in from the touchline, and both teams must have a one meter gap between them.
If the referee decides one team has purposely closed the gap, a penalty will be awarded to the other team.
The hooker gets a call from one of the jumpers or the scrum half, usually in a code no-one except your team understands, on who to aim the throw at. They must stand behind the touch line when they make their throw. And the throw must be deadly straight, otherwise the referee will have the line-out taken again, but this time the opposition gets the throw in.
The hooker is usually the player with the job throwing the ball into a line-out. Their aim is to find the "jumpers", usually the two second rowers. The other team also want the ball, so they'll be doing all they can to upset the hooker's throw.
The line-out may look very simple, but it has plenty of laws every player must follow:
- the ball must be thrown straight
- all players not in the line-out must be 10m behind the last man in the line
- no player can use a one of the opposition to use as support when they are jumping
- no player is allowed to push, charge or hold another player in the line-out
- no player can be lifted before the ball is thrown
- no jumper can use the outside of their arm to catch or deflect the ball
When a tackled player goes to ground, they must release the ball immediately. As soon as that happens, the opposition will want to get their hands on the ball, and the team in possession will not want to give it away.
According to the laws, "the ruck is a phase of play where one or more players from each team, who are on their feet, in physical contact, close around the ball on the ground". So to gain possession, both sides must try to drive over the ball to make it available for their team-mates.
HANDS IN THE RUCK
None of the tackler's team-mates can attempt to handle or pick up the ball once the ruck has formed. Team-mates of the tackled player can use their hands, but only if they are on their feet.
Referees often blow up for penalties because a player off their feet or from the tackler's team has used a subtle hand to bring it back to their side. But because of the sheer number of bodies involved in rucks, referees can sometimes miss this particular infringement.
JOINING A RUCK
All players must join the ruck from behind the 'hindmost' foot of the last player. They must bind with one arm round a team-mate at the very back of the ruck. Players cannot take shortcuts and join from the sides. If the referee spots this, a penalty will be given to the non-offending team.
A maul occurs when three or more players, including the ball carrier and at least one other player from either side, are in contact together.
What makes the maul different to the ruck is that the ball is not on the ground but in hand. But like the ruck, the offside line is the "hindmost" foot of the last team-mate bound to the maul.
Players can only join in from behind that team-mate. Anyone who comes in from the sides will be penalized by the referee. Players joining the maul must have their heads or shoulders no lower than their hips and must have at least one arm bound to a team-mate.
The team not in possession of the ball cannot deliberately collapse the maul. This is for safety reasons.
Penalties can also be given for attempting to drag players out of the maul.However this can be allowed if players are legitimately dragging out members of the opposition who have ended up on the wrong side.
One of the infringements referees have clamped down on in the past few years has been obstruction in the maul, or "truck and trailer" as it has been called.
This is when a player acts as a screen, blocking tacklers from reaching the ball carrier.
However players can circumvent this law if two or more team-mates bind around the ball together and move forwards. As long as the tackler has a fair opportunity to contest the ball, the referee will allow the maul to continue.
'USE IT OR LOSE IT'
If the maul stops moving forwards the referee will often shout "use it or lose it" to the team in possession.
This means they must pass the ball within a five-second time period.
If they do not the referee will call a scrum and the team not in possession will be given the feed. However if a player has caught the ball from a kick-off or a drop-out and is drawn in the middle of a maul inside their own 22m line, the referee will award the scrum to their side if the ball has not come out in time.
A maul ends when the ball is passed out or is on the ground.
Tackling is the only way of legally bringing down your opponent in rugby union. But there are certain laws on how to tackle and if these are not adhered to, penalties will follow.
When you tackle an opponent, you cannot make contact above the shoulders. This is for safety reasons.The referee will instantly give a penalty if he sees a high tackle, and a few stronger words may follow if the challenge is deemed dangerous.
Expect a yellow card and a spell in the sin-bin or a red card and instant dismissal for more serious offences. Other laws govern what can and cannot happen once a tackle has been made.
GOING TO GROUND
Once a player in possession of the ball has been brought to ground by a tackler, they must release the ball immediately.
They can do this either by passing off to a team-mate or placing the ball on the ground.
The tackler must release the player they have just brought down and roll away from them and the ball.
If the referee believes the tackler has not rolled away quick enough, he will award a penalty to the opposition.
The same is true for the player who has been tackled. If they do not release the ball immediately and roll away from it, they will concede a penalty.
Referees are strict on this, because players can often try to slow the ball up for the opposition, helping their side to re-group in defence.
STEALING BALL IN THE TACKLE
If they are quick enough, a team-mate of the tackler can pick up the ball from the contact area as long as they are on their feet.
However as soon as a team-mate from the ball carrier's side comes into contact with that player and the ball is still on the ground, the tackle then becomes a ruck.
None of the tackler's team-mates can attempt to handle or pick up the ball once the ruck has formed.
However they can use their strength to drive over the team in possession and attempt to win the ball.
If a player has been tackled and their natural momentum takes them over the try-line and the ball is grounded, a try is awarded.
A player tackled near the goal-line can also reach out and attempt to touch the ball down for a try.
There are certain situations where tackles cannot be made. If the ball carrier has been held by an opponent, but has not gone to ground, and a team-mate has bound onto them, a maul is formed. At that point a tackle cannot be made for safety reasons.
Rugby union is one of the few ball games where the ball cannot be passed forwards.That means a player moving towards the opposition's dead ball line must pass the ball to a team-mate either along or behind an imaginary line running at right angles to the side of the pitch. The same principle applies even when players are not passing the ball.
If they fail to catch or pick up the ball cleanly and it travels forward off a hand or arm and hits the ground or another player, it is called a knock-on. The same applies if a player is tackled and the ball goes forward.
If a player fumbles the ball but catches it before it has hit the ground or another player, it is not a knock-on. When a knock-on occurs, the referee will stop play and award a scrum to the team which has not knocked on.
If the ball is thrown forward at a line-out, a scrum is awarded 15 meters in from the touchline. If the referee decides a player has intentionally knocked on or thrown the ball forward, a penalty is awarded to the other team. And if the referee decides the other team would have scored a try if the intentional knock-on had not taken place, a penalty try is awarded.
The one exception to the knock-on rule is the charge-down. If a player charges down the ball as an opponent kicks it, it is not a knock-on, even if the ball travels forward.
CALLING A MARK
Taking a mark happens when a player catches the ball in a defensive position.
It was introduced to give protection to full-backs and other players trying to catch high up-and-under kicks in pressure situations. Calling a mark is a great way of relieving the pressure in defence when the opposition is on the attack inside the 22-metre line.
A player can only make the mark when they catch a high ball inside their own 22-metre or in-goal area.As they catch the ball they shout "MARK".
If they catch the ball cleanly, the referee will give that player a free-kick on the spot where they caught the ball. Only the player who has called for the mark can take the kick. They then have the chance to clear their lines.
One thing to note is that a mark cannot be called when a player catches the ball direct from the kick-off.
The sin-bin is the bench where all players who have committed a yellow card offence sit out of the game for 10 minutes.
If the referee believes a player has committed a serious foul or shown indiscipline, then he will show them the yellow card, just like in soccer.But unlike in soccer, that player must then immediately leave the pitch. They then have to sit in the sin-bin for 10 minutes while the game continues without them.
It leaves their team a man down for a sizeable chunk of the game, giving the opposition the perfect opportunity to push for points.
Rugby Pitch (field)