Malibu RFC

The Rules of Rugby

The Object of the Game is that two teams of fifteen players each, observing fair play according to the Laws and a sporting spirit, should by carrying, passing, kicking and grounding the ball score as many points as possible, the team scoring the greater number of points to be the winner of the match. Points are scored by scoring a Try, Conversion (goal scored after a try), Penalty Goal or Field Goal.

Rugby is a ball handling game. Each side (team) has 15 players; eight forwards and seven backs. Although the game of rugby contains similarities to American football, it has the speed and continuity of play like soccer. There are no personnel changes in rugby, substitutions are only allowed when a player is unable to continue in the game.

All 15 players have offensive and defensive responsibilities; every position must be able to run, pass, kick, and catch the ball. Rugby is played at a rapid pace, with few stoppages and frequent possession changes; therefore, ruggers have to be good, complete athletes.

The rugby game is governed by laws not rules, and the referee is the sole enforcer of those laws. The game clock is kept by the referee. Standard time for a match is two 40 minute halves; however, additional time is tacked on for treatment and recovery of injuries.

Game Start

A coin toss determines the team which will kickoff first. The kicking team will send their forwards to one side of the pitch at the 50 metre line. The opposing forwards will move in front of their opposites, but spread out behind the 10 metre line in preparation to receive the kick.

The kicker, who can be any member of the team, will set the ball on the ground and start the match on the referee's whistle most often kicking the ball high and short to the opposing forwards (he can also kick it long and deep or away from the forwards if desired). The kick must travel forwards at least 10 metres and land in bounds. The kicker's forwards will charge down the pitch attempting to catch the ball themselves. If a receiving team's forward successfully catches the ball, he will attempt to advance the ball normally running into a large amount of opposition. His supporting forwards will then often bind around him to prevent him being brought to the ground and losing possession of the ball.

The second half of a match is started in the same way except the teams have switched ends of the pitch and the team starting the match kicking now receives the ball.

Mauls and Rucks

If the ball is held up off the ground, once more than any two players have bound together a maul is formed. If the ball has gone to ground, then the group of bound players is called a ruck. The very important principle of rucks and mauls is that once they are set, two imaginary offsides lines become present at the back of each team's rucking/mauling players extending from touchline to touchline. Any player running into the zone who is not joining the ruck or maul, from behind this line, before the ball leaves is considered offside and a penalty can be awarded to the other team.


Offside is the most common penalty during a match. If a penalty is awarded within goal kicking distance of a team's kicker, the team captain may elect to have the kicker take an uncontested place kick at goal for three points from a spot determined by the referee called a mark. If the kick is successful, play is restarted at the 50 metre line with a drop kick back to the scoring team. After an unsuccessful penalty kick, play is usually restarted by a drop kick (a kick executed by allowing the ball to hit the ground before kicking it) to the kick attempting team from the 22 metre line. This restart is called a 22 metre dropout.

Other common penalties include violent play, barging, not releasing the ball, obstruction (blocking) and diving over a collapsed ruck. Other options available to a team awarded a penalty include restarting play by a tap kick through the mark with the opposing team ten meters away or an uncontested kick to touch which is awarded back to the team receiving the penalty award..

For minor infringements such as a foot up in the scrum, a free kick can be awarded. A free kick is just like a penalty kick except it cannot be taken directly at goal and if it goes to touch, the other team is awarded the ball for the lineout.

Scoring a try

If and when the ball is produced from a ruck or maul without penalty, usually by the scrumhalf, the ball will most often be passed to a forward charging back through the defence or to the flyhalf who has pre-determined a course of action. The flyhalf is the person normally determining all moves which the backs will run. Once he has received the ball he will then start a run, make a pass, or kick the ball. All of this must be done very quickly as the opposing backs and forwards will be quickly rushing up to tackle whomever has the ball.

The moves the backs run will include a number of different manoeuvres and ploys to put the backs into open running space. Common running tactics include loops, switches, dummies, and miss passes. A loop is where a player will make a short pass to another and then run around to the other side of that player to receive a return pass. A switch is where two players will cross paths allowing the ball carrier to pass behind himself to a runner running on a different angle. A dummy is a faked pass to another runner freezing or decoying the defender. A dummy switch is a switch where the ball carrier does not pass the ball to the crossing runner. A miss pass is a pass which is thrown past the first immediately available supporting player to runners further past him.

When the ball is being run, a player tackled to the ground must immediately release the ball (the defender tackling the runner must release the runner after the tackle) making it available to both teams. Typically the tackled player will attempt to place the ball closest to his own supporting players. Those supporting players will make a decision to pickup the loose ball or drive over the ball and tackled player to bind together into a new ruck. The defending team will do the same thing in an attempt to push the attacking team backwards. If the ball is picked up and advanced again by either side, a maul can quickly ensue if the advance is checked by the defence and the ball does not go to the ground. Each time a successive ruck or maul is set, it is described as a phase of play.

Once a player makes a break over the tryline, he must touch the ball down to the ground to be awarded the 5 points for the try. If he loses the ball in the dead ball area, the ball will come out and play will be restarted with a 22 metre dropout. Often a player will cross the tryline close to one of the touchlines and will turn back towards the posts before touching down. This is done to provide a better angle for the person attempting the conversion kick. The kick for extra points must be taken from a mark perpendicular to the spot where the try was touched down. Thus the kicker's job is typically made much easier when the try is awarded centered between the posts.

The conversion kick is a place kick taken immediately after the try and worth 2 points. The defending team must retreat behind the tryline but can rush the kick once the kicker makes a move towards the ball to kick it through the uprights.


Very often a player will lose the ball forward during a tackle or just while running and receiving a pass, thus knocking-on. If the ball is quickly picked up by the other team, the referee will let play continue to allow the recovering team to take advantage of the mistake. If no advantage occurs, then the referee will whistle for a scrum to be set at a spot he indicates on the pitch also called a mark. The team that did not lose the ball is awarded the ball to put into the scrum. A scrum is also awarded whenever a pass is made in which the ball goes forward.

The typical procedure of scrummaging involves each set of front row players binding and the hookers calling for the locks to join the formation. The flankers join on each side of the locks setting their shoulders below a prop's outside buttock. The No. 8 joins at the back between the hips of the two locks. While this is occurring the captain of the forwards can be calling a move while the backs are shouting out code words signalling what move they will be running. The forward pack with the put in is then allowed the courtesy of initiating the coming together of the scrum. Upon a prearranged signal between the hooker and scrumhalf, the scrumhalf will roll the ball into the tunnel underneath the two locked together front rows. Each of the hookers will then attempt to push the ball behind him with a sweep of his foot. All of this is occurring while each pack is attempting to push the other backwards driving themselves over the ball.

If the ball is won cleanly, most often the scrumhalf will run to the back of the scrum to retrieve the ball from in front of the No. 8's feet and pass it to the backs, to a breaking loose forward, or make a run or kick of his own. The opposing scrumhalf will follow looking for a chance to snap up any loose ball. The No. 8 may also decide to pick up the ball himself, and start a back row move from the back or base of the scrum.

One exciting aspect of scrummaging is the pushover try. A pushover try is scored when a scrum is set close to the attacking tryline. The attacking scrum will keep the ball at the No. 8's feet driving the defending pack backwards across the tryline. Once the ball has been dragged across the tryline, the No. 8 or scrumhalf will touch the ball down for the try.

A Lineout

The other common set piece in rugby, besides the scrum, is the lineout. After a ball has been kicked or run into touch (out of bounds), the forwards of each team will line up at the spot indicated by the touch judge as the touch mark. Normally, the hooker of the team being awarded the ball will be the person to throw the ball back into the lineout. The other forwards will lineup at least 5 metres away from him but no further than 15 metres. The opposing team will lineup to match their counterparts. Someone on the team with the throw-in will call a coded signal indicating who the ball will be thrown to and any subsequent move. At the same time the flyhalf should also be calling a move. The hooker will then throw the ball to the intended receiver who has jumped into the air. Most often the throw is to the locks who are jumping in the second and fourth positions in the lineout supported by the players on either side of them. Once a jumper does jump, these supporting players are allowed to lift him higher into the air and hold him there. Once the ball is secured, most often many of the forwards on both sides of the ball bind together and a maul will ensue until the ball is produced for another phase.Teams in a fifteens match will consist of two groups of players, the forwards and the backs. Each position has a specific number and responsibilities during the two 40 minutes halves of a match.