The Rules Of Rugby

Rugby Scum
Rugby Scum

Rugby is a game that can be played by anyone: short or tall, big or small, male or female, young or old, fast or slow, there’s a position for everyone.  There are rugby devotees in over 100 countries around the globe, with the numbers of followers increasing by the day.  Speaking as a newly converted rugby fan, I have to admit to finding the rules of the game initially quite overwhelming – originally it was the fierce aggressive athleticism on the field which quickly turns to camaraderie, friendly handshakes and copious amounts of alcohol consumed post-match that attracted me! 

The game looks chaotic but I have realised that the rules are actually quite simple!  So I’m going to have a go at explaining them to those who, like me, think they might be interested in the game, but just can’t quite get their head around it!

The Aim Of The Game

The aim of rugby is pretty straightforward – to beat your opposition by scoring more points than them. You can score in four different ways, by:

Scoring a try, by touching down the ball in the opponents in-goal area or on their goal line. Scoring a try is worth five points, the maximum number of points you can score in one go. A player must either: touch the ground with the ball (the player touches the ground with the ball while holding it in the hand or arms) or press down on the ball – if the ball is on the ground in the in-goal area the player must apply downward pressure with a hand or hands, arm or arms, or the front of the body from waist to neck inclusive. This is what tends to make scoring (or attempting to score) a try very exciting, as it is hard to tell if downward pressure has been applied if the player is chasing a bouncing ball! So the referee is usually called in here! Trys are made even more exciting by the fact that scoring one also gives your team the opportunity to attempt a conversion kick.

A conversion kick is taken from a spot in-line with where the ball was originally grounded for the try and if successful it is worth two points. To be successful it has to go between the opposition’s goalposts and above the crossbar.

A penalty can be awarded if the opposition commit an offence – the referee will award the penalty from the spot where the offence occurred. Most teams, if close enough to the goalposts, will choose to kick for goal, and if successful will earn themselves three points. If not close enough they can chose to scrum

A drop goal occurs where the player drops the ball on the ground and then kicks it just after it has bounced, and is worth three points if it goes through the goalposts.  Each team will more than likely have a specialist drop-goal kicker, as it can be a tricky skill to master, but very useful near the end of a game when scores are tight. 

Hooker, Flanker, Locks and Props

There are also some other scary words in rugby, which I have to admit put me off for a while, the main ones being: hooker, props, locks, flankers, and most confusingly of all, the inside and outside centres (!). Don’t worry, these are simply the positions of the players (each player will have his/her position in numerical form on their jersey:

1 and 3 are the props, 2 is the hooker, 4 and 5 are the locks, 6 and 7 are the flankers, 8 is the eightman (well at least one of them is logical!), and these players make up the ‘pack’ or the ‘forwards’, while the ‘backs’ or ‘back line’ is made up of: 9 who is the scrumhalf, 10 the flyhalf, 11 and 14 the wings, 12 and 13 who are the inside and outside centres and 15 the fullback.

To finish up the basics of rugby, I’ll quickly talk about the laws of the game:

  1. Tackles: when a tackle is made the tackler releases the ‘tacklee’ and the tacklee releases the ball so that other players can use it.
  2. Advantage means that when one team makes an error the other team can try to take advantage of it, so the referee won’t stop play. If they can’t, play resumes where the original mistake took place.
  3. Offside means you can’t be involved if you are in front of a teammate who has played the ball or are behind the ball when the opposition has it.

And that’s it, the basics.  It might sound complicated right now, but if you bring this with you to your next match, I’m sure it will all start to make more sense!  It did for me!

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