Rugby for beginners

Rugby is a dynamic and free-flowing game featuring a combination of strength, speed and strategy. In this Rugby for Beginners guide, we describe the game in terms everyone can understand.

The goal

The goal of the game is to move a ball into an opponents territory. A team scores a try — worth 5 points — when they place the ball on the ground on or past the opponents try line.

The ebb and flow of offense and defense

In rugby, the ball advances through a combination of running and kicking. Passing the ball is common but all passes must be lateral or go backward to a teammate who in turn can advance the ball through running or kicking.

The defense can slow or prevent advancement of the ball by tackling the opposition ball carrier. Following a tackle, a contest for possession called a ruck forms over the ball and ball carrier (see photo). The team that wins the ruck has possession of the ball and may advance the ball as described above.

Thus, a rugby match involves many flowing, consecutive phases of attack (run, kick, and pass), tackle, and ruck.

Importantly, the defense may NOT interfere or obstruct the opposition in any way (i.e. no blocking or holding) except for tackling the ball carrier.

Breaks in play & restarts

In a rugby match, the clock keeps running. Despite this, play is not continuous for the entire match. A break in play occurs following each of these events:

  • one team scores a try or attempts to kick for points (see below)
  • an error occurs (such as passing the ball forward)
  • foul play occurs (such as tackling a player without the ball)
  • the ball leaves the field of play

Following each of these events, play restarts in a unique manner such as a kick or a contest for possession called a scrum or a line-out.

Once the restart is complete, the team now in possession resumes their attempt to advance the ball and score.

Kicking for points

In addition to scoring a try, teams may accumulate points by kicking the ball between their opponents goal posts. This occurs in three situations:

  • after a team scores a try the referee will award a conversion kick (conversion kicks are place kicks made using a kicking tee and are worth 2 points if successful).
  • when foul play occurs the referee will award a penalty kick (penalty kicks are place kicks made using a kicking tee and are worth 3 points if successful).
  • during an attack, the ball carrier may — at any time — attempt a drop-goal (drop-goals do not use a kicking tee and are worth 3 points if successful).

How to win at rugby for beginners

Of course, the winning team has the highest combined points from scoring tries and kicking.

In a typical match, the team that best combines the phases — attack, tackle, and ruck — without losing possession will score more often and be victorious.

Participating with honor

The core values of rugby are INTEGRITY, PASSION, SOLIDARITY, DISCIPLINE, and RESPECT. Upholding these values is an important part of rugby culture around the world. This includes the players, coaches, match officials, and spectators.