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Rugby Rules 101. Watching Your First Game


Standing on the sidelines watching a sport you can generally work out the rules and find out what’s going on. some sports a harder to follow and not all the rules are obvious.

I found Rugby a little hard to follow at first so here’s a 101 on watching your first rugby game.

Game play boils down to a few key rules. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:

The Basics

15 players each (variations exist with fewer players).

Pass Backwards: Unlike American football, you can only pass the ball backwards or sideways by hand. No forward Parses. You can’t even fumble forward, that’s a knock-on and a turnover.

You can run with the ball, but be prepared to be tackled. You can always kick the ball forward for your team to chase after. There is no down count like American Football.

Tackling: When a player with the ball is tackled, they must release the ball within one second. This creates a ruck or maul. A ruck is a contest where players fight for possession while staying on their feet and pushing against each other. A maul is similar but with players bound together around the ball carrier. Both aim to retain or win back possession.

If you are not on your feet you are not allowed to play.

You are not allowed to go around a player on the ground, you must go over them.

After a tackle, ruck, or maul, the ball needs to be released for play to continue. This can be done by a teammate kicking it out of the ruck or placing it back for someone to pick up and play again.


Try: Grounding the ball in the opponent’s in-goal area is worth 5 points. This is similar to a touchdown.

Conversion Kick: After a try, you get a chance to score an additional 2 points by kicking the ball over the crossbar between the goalposts.

Penalty Kick: If the other team breaks a rule, you might be awarded a penalty kick. A successful kick through the goalposts scores 3 points.