today is Mar 23, 2023

Rugby Basics 101

Here is a great video to learn the basics of rugby, especially for American fans. The video is narrated by former USA Eagles 15s, USA 7s, and Seattle Seawolves star Shalom Suniula. (If you look carefully, you will notice him in a lot of the Seawolves clips). Below the video you'll find a transcript, to make it easier to follow.



Welcome to Rugby 101!

It's said that the game of rugby as we know was born in 1823 as a variation of soccer when William Webb Ellis decided to pick up the ball and run with it. Since then, the sport has evolved and is considered the predecessor of American football. 

Today rugby is seen as a melting pot of American sports we all love. Take the physicality of football, but leave out the pads, helmets, and the constant stoppage of gameplay. Take the flowing grace of soccer, but add in the sheer power needed to drive the ball across the pitch. Take the constant ball exchange of basketball, but add multiple ways to score points. And take the intensity of hockey, but add mutual respect amongst all players and refs. We even call the ref "Sir" in rugby.

To sum it all up, Winston Churchill once famously said, "Rugby is a hooligans' game played by gentlemen." 

Churchill on rugby and hooliganism


The Laws of Rugby

Now let's go over the rules of the game, or laws as we call them. 

A rugby match consists of two halves of 40 minutes each, and is played on a field or a pitch that is 100 meters long.

The two teams field 15 players, each made up of eight forwards and seven backs, and have eight reserves available on the bench. But all players are involved in offense, defense, tackling, ball handling, and scoring.

The main goal is to score more points than the opposing teams, and there are several ways you can score points. 

  • The first way is to score with a try. You can score a try by running with the ball over the opponent's goal line, similar to a touchdown in football, except in rugby you have to actually touch the ball down on the ground. Scoring a try is worth five points, and after a try you have the opportunity to score two additional points through a conversion (kick). 
  • The kick to convert the try must be taken in line from where the try was scored, and must pass through the goal post and above the crossbar.
  • The third way to score points is with a penalty kick. If your opponent commits a foul, you may choose to kick the ball just like a field goal in football, and that's worth three points.
  • drop goal is the fourth way to score points at any time during the match. You can drop the ball in front of you and kick it immediately after it hits the ground. If you're able to kick through the post, just like in conversion or penalty kick you are awarded three points as a result. 

A unique thing about rugby is that a player can't pass the ball forwards. They can only pass the ball backwards or sideways.

Teams advance towards the opposition try line by either running with the ball or kicking it forward. Your opponents try to stop you by tackling, and can only do so if you have possession of the ball. 

While it looks intense, rugby is known for the safety of its tackling technique. Over the past several years, football teams have attempted to adopt a rugby style tackling technique to increase player safety. In rugby, the focus is on safe and efficient tackling to bring your opponent down. When the ball carrier is tackled, they must release the ball immediately and the tackler must let go of the player.

The maul is another key part of the game and is essentially a ruck standing up. Players bind together and push the opposing team backwards to gain field position. This is a common strategy for powerfully driving a try in.

When the ball travels outside the field of play, the match is restarted with a line out. Players from both teams, usually the forwards, line up in parallel lines facing the ball handler on the sidelines. The offensive player throws the ball between the two lines, and both teams can lift players in the air in order to win possession.

scrum is a form of restarting play, and consists of both sets of forwards pushing against each other in formation while the ball is rolled between them. In general, both teams have an equal opportunity to win possession if they can succeed in driving the other team backwards and securing the ball using their feet.

After each rugby match ends, all players, coaches, refs, reporters, and fans come together for an after-match celebration over food and drinks. It's the most unique aspect of our sport that we come together with our opponents regardless of win or loss to celebrate the sport of rugby itself. 

And that's it! Rugby 101. Hopefully we'll see you at a match soon!