Rugby Rules

There is perhaps no more difficult sport to learn than the game of rugby. Some say that it takes 10 years of playing a position just to learn that one position, and much longer to master the knowledge of the entire game, if even that's possible. Yet, we need and expect players to know enough to play the game safely and competently after just 3 weeks of practise. A tall order, but doable.

The links to the left will help in the goal of understanding the game of rugby as well as the following:

An Introduction to Rugby

Not everybody knows the rules of rugby nearly as well as the rules of football.  Did you know that football came from rugby and was once called “gridiron rugby”?  In fact, the Grey Cup is labelled the champion’s cup for “gridiron RUGBY”.  Here’s some basics:

Basic Rules:

  1. carry the ball over the tryline (like a goalline) and touch it down with control, thus scoring a “try”.
  2. Kick it through the uprights either as a conversion, as a penalty or even a drop kick on the fly! (Did you know that this is still in the rulebooks in the CFL?!)

Points Possibilities




5 points

Conversion kick from a try

2 points

Penalty kick or dropkick

3 points

The Players

Each team is made up of 15 players: the first 8 are called Forwards and the last 7 below are called Backs. The diagram shows how the players would line up on the field if there was a "scrum". To access more information about each position, click on the position name.

Rugby Positions

The Field and Game Duration

Rugby Field


The complexity of "OFFSIDE" in rugby

Offside in Rucking and Scrumming

offside in a ruck

Offside in Lineouts

offside in a lineout
  • in a lineout there are 2 types of players: those IN the lineout and those NOT in the lineout
  • If a player is NOT in a lineout contesting for the ball, then they must be 10 meters back
  • A player is offside if they enter this 10 meter "no man's land" before the BALL LEAVES THE LINEOUT.
  • When the ball leaves the lineout (usually by the ball being thrown to the scrumhalf) then play resumes and the 10 meter rule disappears.

Common offenses that a player may make during the game (there are more!)



Offside:  do ANYTHING on the other side of the ball (note: the offside rules are very complex!)

Penalty kick

“Knock on” or “throw forward”: throw, pass, or drop the ball forward

Scrum down: opposing teams ball

Fail to release or otherwise handle the ball on the ground

Penalty kick

Cover or lying on the ball on the ground

Penalty kick

Obstruction: blocking the advancement of another player (like offside…ahead of the ball you cannot do ANYTHING)

Penalty kick

High/dangerous tackle: no grabbing above the shoulders, late tackles (eg: after passing the ball) or push tackling

Penalty kick

Not on both feet while picking up ball or tackling

Penalty kick

Reaching in or picking up a ball in a ruck or a scrum

Penalty kick

Any minor infraction not mentioned above in a lineout or a scrum

Free kick

What's a Free Kick?

Those are the basics!  However, much like chess, it takes many years of watching or playing to understand all the rules, much less the nuances and tactics of the game. The learning never stops for anyone, including myself.

Players and parents can benefit from the IRB's excellent website called Rugby Ready for more information.

Have a great season!