Rugby 101: Rules
During this off-season, we figured it would be a perfect time to brush up on our rugby basics and help our fans that are new to the sport learn what it is all about.
For this part one, we will be covering the rules of the game, but first, let’s start with the basic mechanics.
There are 2 teams of 15 players per side. The main goal is to advance the ball into your opponent’s territory and touch the ball to the ground past your opponent’s try line. Scoring this way is called a “try.”
Each try is worth 5 points. After the try, the offensive team attempts to kick the ball through the posts for an additional 2 points. An offensive team may elect to kick the ball through the posts for 3 points if the defensive team concedes a penalty.
You can only pass the ball backward or directly sideways. If you pass the ball forward, it is a penalty. You are allowed to kick the ball to gain forward ground.
When tackling, a player must use his shoulders and arms in an attempt to wrap up the offensive player. A tackler cannot make any contact above the shoulders or when the offensive player’s feet are off the ground.
If these rules are broken, a penalty is called. Depending on the severity of the infringement, a referee may issue a yellow card. This forces the offending player to sit off of the field for 10 minutes, which also penalizes the team as there are now only 14 players compared to the opponent’s 15. A red card may also be issued, which disqualifies the player for the remainder of the match.
Moving on, here are the most common rugby terms and what they mean.
The in-goal area of the defensive team’s territory.
When an offensive team touches the ball down in the opponent’s try zone.
This is when the ball touches the ground and at least one player from the offensive and defensive teams are engaged in contact over it, while on their feet. A ball cannot be handled in the ruck. A ball can be picked up once it reaches a teammate’s hindmost foot.
This occurs when a ball handler is held up by the defense and the offense binds to the ball handler as well. The teams attempt to gain territory by moving the maul forward or backward. The ball must remain off the ground, and at least 3 players must be involved.
This is how the ball is restarted after the ball travels beyond the field of play. The offensive team’s hooker throws the ball into play. Both offense and defense line up to face the ball handler. The ball is thrown in a straight line into play where players are lifted into the air in an attempt to win the ball.
The forwards from both teams bind and attempt to win possession of the ball. The non-penalized team has their scrum-half place the ball into the middle of the bound teams, and the hooker attempts to kick the ball backwards toward their teammates. A scrum is generally the result of a penalty.
Lastly, here are some common referee signals to look out for during a match.
Forward Pass & Knock On
A forward pass is when an offensive player passes the ball forward, rather than backward. A knock on is when a player mishandles the ball, causing the ball to move forward.
Failure To Roll Away
When a defender tackles the ball handler, the tackler must roll away from the ball handler as soon as possible so that the ball can be brought back into play.
Joining The Ruck/Maul From The Side
When the defender tackles a ball handler, the defending team can contest the ruck to gain possession of the ball. The defenders can only contest a ruck from the hindmost foot of the hindmost teammate.
Failure To Release The Player/Ball
When a ball handler is tackled to the ground, they must release the ball immediately so that the offense can protect the possession and the defense can fairly contest for possession. As with the failure to roll away penalty, a defender must release the ball handler immediately once on the ground.
When a minor infringement is called on the defending team, the referee may play an advantage. This means that the play will continue if the referee deems it beneficial to the offensive team. If there is no advantage to the offensive team, the referee will stop the play and bring the ball back to the part of the field where the original penalty was called.
This occurs when a defender makes contact with an opposing player above the shoulders. A defender must also attempt to use their arms and wrap a ball handler during a tackle. A defender cannot make contact with an offensive player whose feet are off of the ground. A tackler must not bring an offensive player’s legs above horizontal level during a tackle.
A player cannot be further forward than the ball or the ball handler. If a player is offside but is not in the play, or attempting to be in the play, a penalty will not be called. However, the player cannot be back into play until they are back onside.
Look out for part two on our website next week, when we discuss the players’ positions and numbers as well as scoring.
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