The basics of rugby are easy to learn.
Even if you aren’t familiar with rugby, you’ve probably seen echoes of it in soccer, the sport out of which rugby grew, or football or basketball – both began after rugby and also contain some of rugby’s familiar elements.
Scoring is similar to football. A try is worth five points and is earned by touching the ball to the ground in the opponent’s try zone, similar to scoring a touchdown in football. After a try a player can kick the ball through the goalposts for two extra points. At any time, a player may drop-kick the ball through the goalposts for three points.
The gameplay is continuous, like soccer or basketball. Teams use a mix of creativity, speed, and power to move the ball down the field. Unlike American football, forward passing is forbidden; passes can only go backwards.
Defenses stop an opposing player with the ball by tackling. Once a player is tackled, the carrier must release the ball and play continues (there are no downs, as in football)
The most popular version of rugby is called fifteens, or union, with 15 men or women on each team playing at one time. A variant called sevens is a faster match with only seven players with two seven minute halves; once only played in tournaments, sevens made its Olympic debut at Rio in 2016.
The best way to learn rugby is to watch a game in person. At Infinity Park, you can purchase a seat in the Coach’s Corner and learn directly from the Raptor’s coaching staff. Or, you can always find rugby players and hardcore fans in the stands; make a new friend and learn the game at the same time!
Try – 5 points – A try is scored by touching the ball to the ground in the opponent’s in-goal area. Breaking the plane is not enough. Not for rugby.
Conversion Kick – 2 points – When a player scores a try, it gives their team the right to score a goal by taking a kick at goal.
Penalty Kick – 3 points – When a team is awarded a penalty, it gives that team the right to attempt a penalty kick at goal.
Drop Goal – 3 points – A drop goal is scored by kicking a goal from a drop kick in open play.
The Set Piece
The set piece is a means of restarting the game.
Scrum – A contest for the ball involving 8 players who bind together and push against the other team’s assembled 8 for possession of the ball.
Line-Out – Looks somewhat like a jump-ball in basketball, with both teams lining up opposite each other, but one team then throws the ball down the middle of the tunnel.
Maul – Occurs when a player carrying the ball is held by one or more opponents, and one or more of the ball-carrier’s teammates bind on the ball-carrier.
Ruck – A ruck is formed when a ball carrier is tackled. A tackled player must release the ball immediately, however one or more players from each team, who are on their feet and in contact, close around the ball on the ground attempting to get possession. Once a ruck has been formed, players can’t use their hands to get the ball, only their feet.
Let’s take a look at the different player roles in union.
The Front Row
Your primary role is to anchor the scrum and provide lifting power and support for line-outs. You are pivotal in rucks and mauls.
You, the hooker, have two very important jobs. Win possession in the scrum and to throw the ball in for a line-out.
If you’re a lock your job is to win the ball in line-outs and restarts. You also push forward in scrum, rucks and mauls. Lock it down.
You are the enforcers. Go to a bakery because you are a turnover machine. Use your speed and physicality to win possession. Get possession at all cost. Do it now.
You do it all. You secure possession at the base of the scrum, carry the ball in open play, link the forwards and backs in attack and defend aggressively.
You provide the link between forwards and backs at the scrum and in rucks. In open play, you’ll need to judge whether to feed the backs or keep it close to the forwards.
You’re the field leader. You take the ball from the scrumhalf and then choose to kick, pass or make a run for it. Your knowledge and decision making affect the outcome of the game.
Speed is always a plus here. You will need to beat the defense to score a try, and on defense you’ll need that up-tempo pace to stop opposing offenses.
You are pivotal in offense and defense. On D you need to tackle opposing players, and on the attack you’ll need speed, power and creativity to break the defense.
You’re the last line of defense. You need a good boot and enjoy making death-defying tackles. You’ll need to return kicks to keep your offense in good field position.
Penalties & Infractions
Offside – Rugby’s offside Law restricts where on the field players can be, to ensure there is space to attack and defend. In general, a player is in an offside position if that player is further forward (nearer to the opponents’ goal line) than the team mate who is carrying the ball or the teammate who last played the ball. Being in an offside position is not, in itself, an offence, but an offside player may not take part in the game until they are on-side again. If an offside player takes part in the game, that player will be penalized.
Forward Pass or Knock On – In rugby, players may not use their hands to push the ball forward at all. The ball can only be progressed toward the goal by foot (running or kicking). A Forward Pass, the ball being thrown to another player who is closer to the goal than the passer, is never allowed. If a defensive player knocks the ball forward while tackling or attempting to gain possession this is called a knock on. It’s also considered a knock on If an offensive player mishandles the ball in a manner that advances the ball toward their goal line.
Failure to Release Player or Ball – After a tackle, the tackler must immediately release the ball carrier, and the ball carrier must immediately release the ball. Failure on either of these counts limits a fair contest for possession. If release does not occur within a reasonable time frame, the referee will award a penalty to the non-offending team.
Failure to Roll Away – Any players on the ground when a ruck or maul is formed must immediately roll away from the ball, so as to allow continuity of play for the team in possession. Failure to do so will result in the award of a penalty to the non-offending team.
Joining Ruck/Maul From the Side – When joining a ruck or maul, all players must do so from behind the hindmost foot of their hindmost teammate. If they join from the side, they are in an offside position and taking part in the game, and this will immediately be penalized with the award of a penalty to the opposing team.
Un-Playable Ball Ruck or Maul – If the ball becomes unplayable in a ruck or maul, e.g., underneath players who are on the ground, but neither team is at fault, the referee will award a scrum to the team who was in possession before the ruck or maul was formed.