Rules of the Game - Rugby

Rules of the Game - Rugby

Rules of the Game - Rugby


Rugby - Ohio Fitness Garage


Formed in the early 1800s, rugby perhaps set the precedent for modern-day American football. Rugby is one of the most physical sports around, as it’s a constant clash of powerful bodies with little padding. It is most popular and competitive amongst “first tier” unions such as Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, South Africa, and more.


How to play Rugby


Rugby players are typically large-bodied, agile, and explosive -- similar to American football players. There is minimal equipment used in rugby, which has allowed the sport to keep its old-school identity. Players only wear cleated boots, mouthguards, shin pads, and 1cm thick shoulder pads.


Each professional rugby match is 80 minutes long, and split into two 40 minute halves. Each team must field 15 players in a variety of forward and backfield positions.


Rules of Rugby


  • The 15 positions in rugby are split into eight forwards and seven backfield positions: Forwards are one hooker, two props, two locks, two flankers, and a “number eight.” Backs are two wings, two halves, two centers, and one full back.
  • There are eight reserves that can be used in rugby. However, if a player leaves the field without being injured, they cannot return to the game.
  • Rugby field dimensions can slightly vary, but they are typically 120 meters in length (including the goal areas), and 70 meters from sideline to sideline. There can be additional 10 meters in length behind the goals called “dead ball areas.”
  • The ‘H’ shaped goal has a crossbar that is 3 meters above the ground, and is about 16 meters in height.
  • Fouls are treated more like laws in rugby, and are almost always non-negotiable. For example, if a tackle is above shoulder height, it will always be a foul and never left up to the referee’s discretion.
  • If attacking players are in front of the ball carrier, this is deemed offsides and called back.
  • There are four ways to score: Five points is awarded for a try, or if the ball is placed in the opponents dead ball zone, two bonus points for successfully kicking the ball through the uprights after a try, three points for a successful penalty kick following a deliberate infringement, and three points for a drop goal -- a kick where the ball enters the uprights after taking a bounce.
  • Regular games can end in draws, but in playoff games, two 10 minute extra periods will be added on. If there’s still a tie, a sudden death round is introduced where the first score wins.


There is much debate about the physicality of rugby and how it matches up with American football. Surprisingly enough, less serious or career-ending injuries occur in rugby regardless of their minimal padding. Experts say that this may be due to tackling technique, and how football players are more likely to lead their tackles with their helmets -- causing more head-to-head trauma.


Written by: Devin Pickell

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