Want to Play Rugby?

Get in the game!

Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States. Many people are familiar with rugby as a fringe sport, but you may be surprised to learn that it is actually the second most popular sport in the world behind soccer. In fact, in Europe, Australia and South Africa, rugby teams and players are elevated to a star status that exceeds that of NFL players in the United States! Many teams fill 80,000 seat stadiums for international match play.

The allure of rugby is easy to understand, yet hard to explain. Who can’t appreciate the toughness required to play a fast-paced, hard-hitting game that is 60 minutes long with no timeouts and only a 5-minute half time? All players play both defense and offense at any given time during a game. And, most appealing is the fact that there is a position for everyone who wants to play – large or thin, short or tall. Above all, rugby is a social sport that praises competition but demands good sportsmanship. As part of the rugby tradition, the home team hosts the visiting team and an after game social, which is filled only with good cheer and camaraderie.

Check out these quick rugby facts about how the game is played. Want to learn more? Download a Beginner’s Guide to Rugby here.

Spectators Guide to Rugby

iRB Beginners Guide

Is Rugby Safe for Youth


Brief History: A student at the Rugby School in England, William Webb Ellis, was playing soccer in 1823 when he picked up the ball and ran down the field to score. From this point, the game of rugby was formed. Today, rugby is played in over 100 countries all because Mr. Ellis picked up the ball, and ran with it.

Scoring: There are four ways to score points in a rugby game.

  • Try – When the ball is grounded over the opponent’s goal line in their ‘try zone’, it is worth 5 points.
  • Conversion – After scoring a try, the scoring team gets an attempt to kick the ball over the crossbar and through the posts of the rugby uprights. A conversion is worth 2 points.
  • Penalty – If the opposition commits a penalty, a team can choose to kick at the goal. A penalty kick is worth 3 points.
  • Drop Goal – During play, a team may drop the ball on the ground and kick it over the goal, this is called a drop goal. This is worth 3 points.

Number of Players: Traditional rugby consists of 15 players on each side. Other versions of the game include 10 players on each side and seven players on each side, called “Sevens”. Rugby Sevens was recently added back into the Olympic Games for 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

Duration: Traditional rugby with 15 players on each side consists of 30 minute halves and a 5 minute half time.

Field: Rugby is played on a field not exceeding 100 meters in length (excluding two try zones) and 70 meters wide.

Passing: The rugby ball can only be passed laterally or backwards. There are no forward passes in rugby. If a forward pass is made it is an infringement of the rules and results in a scrum awarded to the other team.

Tackling: Rugby is a continuous, full contact sport. What this means is that once a tackle is made, play continues. A tackle occurs when the ball carrier is taken to the ground by a member of the opposition. Once tackled, a ball carrier must release the ball. Once a player makes a tackle, he/she must roll away from the play.

Ruck: Once a player is tackled to the ground, a ruck is formed when one or more players from each team close around the ball. The ball then emerges and play continues.

Maul: When the ball carrier is held up by a member of the opposition and by a member on his/her own team, it is called a maul. The ball can either be removed from the maul or taken to the ground, which then forms a ruck.

Scrum: A scrum is used to restart play after a minor infringement occurs (i.e. forward pass). The scrum consists of eight of the 15 players, called forwards. These eight players bind together and come head to head with the eight players of the opposition. The ball is thrown into the middle of the scrum on the ground and the players work with their feet to hook the ball behind them, making it available to play. The ball is then collected by the scrumhalf and passed out to the back line.

Lineout: When the ball goes out of bounds, play is restarted with a lineout. Two lines are formed with opposing teams. The ball is thrown in the air in the tunnel between the lines. Teams will lift players to contest for the ball.

Especially for Parents:

If your son or daughter has expressed interest in playing rugby. fear not! Rugby is supported by many parents and athletes who consider it to be the safest and best sporting experience of all scholastic sports.  Athletes all over the world play this game.  In fact, rugby is often seen as a “game for life.”  Unlike gridiron football, players may continue to participate long after their school athletic career has come to a close.  Players may continue to play rugby for years to come by joining local collegiate and adult clubs.  This letter is intended to help you better understand the game of rugby and lay to rest any fear or doubt you may have about your child’s participation.

Rugby features elements of physical contact, but is no more intense than other popular sports.  In comparison to gridiron football, some experts even consider it a safer game.  This logic is justified by several reasons, including the fact that rugby allows neither blocking nor rigid protective equipment.  This eliminates the incidence of athletes striking each other with hard plastic helmets and shoulder pads or encountering blind side contact.  Also, dangerous play is treated as a serious offense and not tolerated by officials.  Players may be ordered off the field or even suspended as rugby places equal importance on sportsmanship and winning.

Here are some other reasons rugby is appealing:

Possession:  Rugby is a game of possession, not yardage.  Coaching technique emphasizes passing before being tackled and other skills aimed at retaining possession.  This is in place of struggling to gain yards while opponents attempt to stop players at all costs.

Evasion:  The myth that rugby is less safe because it does not include blocking is simply untrue. As mentioned, players are less likely to fall victim to unexpected defensive hits.  In other sports, space is created by brute force.  Rugby encourages the use of evasion and misdirection, which creates opportunities to run plays and score points.  Nearly all collisions can be anticipated, allowing athletes to better prepare for contact situations.

Tackling:  Tacklers must wrap their arms around an opponent.  Absolutely no tackling is allowed above the shoulders.  If it occurs, it is strictly penalized.  This not only makes for safer play, but for higher success rates in completing tackles.  Coaches instruct players on how to tackle as well as how to receive a tackle.

Rugby has been the choice of many well-known individuals.  President Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul played rugby. Darren Nelson, former Minnesota Viking, played at Stanford.  Ted Kennedy played at Harvard, while Boris Karloff founded the Southern California Rugby Football Union.  Actors David Niven and Richard Harris played rugby both on and off the screen and even Sean Connery played during his school days.  These and many others are all proud members of the rugby community!

Finally, rugby players are all unique individuals who are unafraid of taking on a new challenge.  This legendary game mixes strength, speed, agility, and welcomes athletes of all shapes and sizes.  Be proud that your son or daughter wishes to stand out as a person as well as an athlete.  Welcome to your new sport!