Rugby 101

Rugby is the ultimate team sport. It is exhilarating and demanding, both physically and mentally. It is pursued passionately by players and fans alike.  

All are bound together by sinews of tradition which extends a world-wide Rugby fraternity. At the core of these traditions, and the principal reason for the success of the game, is a unique code of conduct, some of it written, some unwritten, but all grounded firmly on the sportsmanship, fair play, and mutual respect.

Similar to Football, the object of Rugby is to advance the ball into opponents’ end zone. To score, the ball must be physically grounded for a try to be awarded. There is no forward pass or blocking in Rugby. Following a tackle play continues.

Rugby has the physicality of football and the gameplay of soccer. There are no set plays, the game doesn’t stop unless there is a score, penalty, or the ball goes out of bounds. A full game of rugby has 40 minute halves with only one stoppage at halftime. Every kickoff has the possibility of being an onside kick.

Object of the Game

Two teams of 15 players 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. The players do so, each observing fair play, and sporting spirit, according to the Laws.


If a team infringes, but their opponents gain an advantage, the play continues without stopping.


Try: 5 Points

Conversion Kick:          2 Points

Penalty Goal:                3 Points

Drop Goal:                    3 Points

Penalty Try:                  7 Points

Tackle, Ruck, Maul

Following a tackle, other players on their feet may contest of the ball. If the ball is on the ground between them, it is called a ruck, and players may only use their feet to gain possession. If the ball is in the possession of the the player on his feet, who is help by his opponents and teammates, it is called a maul.


Scrums are used to restart play after a minor or technical infringement of the Laws (penalty), There are eight players per team in the scrum who compete for the ball. 


Line-outs are used to restart play when the ball has gone into touch (out of bounds), similar to a jump-ball in basketball. Receivers from either team form a line facing where the ball will be thrown in. In order to gain possession of the ball, players must be lifted. 

Backs - The group of players normally numbered 9 through 15 who do not participate in scrums and lineouts, except for the scrumhalf. The backs provide more of the speed, agility, and evasiveness. Much like wide receivers and running backs on a football team.
Forwards - The group of players, normally numbered 1 through 8 who form the scrum and lineouts. Forwards are typically the larger, more physical positions on the field (much like lineman on a football team) and are responsible for scrums, lineouts, rucks and mauls. Forwards do however run the ball unlike football lineman.
Front Row - The common name for Prop/Hooker/Prop combination at the front of a scrum.
Loose Forwards - The combination of the flankers and eight-man.
Lineout - The set play restarting play after the ball has been taken or kicked to touch.
Maul - A maul occurs when the player with the ball is wrapped up, but taken to the ground and players from both sides sides bind together and push the ball forward (or backward in the case of defense).
Offsides - During ricks, scrums, and mauls an imaginary line is present which any player crossing before the set piece is completed commits a penalty.
Grubber - A kick of the ball which causes the ball to bounce and roll along the ground with the intention of being recollected. Often used to attack on offense.
Conversion - After scoring a try, the scoring team attempts to kick the ball through the uprights from any point on an imaginary line that runs the length of the field through where the ball was touched down, in rugby union, the conversion is worth 2 points.
Knock On - Losing, dropping, or knocking the ball forward from a player’s hand resulting in the ball being awarded to the other team in a scrum.


The Ref

Many signals that a referee makes are immediately understandable. They reflect the play that has just occurred. Signals are used by the referee to indicate to the players and spectators why penalties have been awarded, when a team has been awarded a free kick, given advantage in play, and for scoring play. The referee is the person responsible for knowing how much time has been played and is left to be played. When it comes to time, what he say’s, goes. 


- To indicate that a team has advantage, the referee will stretch his arm out at waist height, pointing it towards the non-offending team. The indication lasts for around five seconds. It means that rather than stop play to give a penalty, the referee is allowing play to continue when the non-offending team are on attack.


- Feeding the scrum is the team gets to put the ball into the scrum. The referee points his arm towards the team that gets the scrum feed while standing facing the sideline, with his arm horizontal and at waist height.


- The referee makes an emphasized hand gesture as if he has just made an imaginary pass that has gone well forward. He will give the scrum put in to the team that did not make the mistake.


- The referee raises his arm, bent square at the elbow. The arm will be pointing towards the team that has been given the free kick.


- The referee bends forwards and lowers his arm towards the ground. He then moves his arm backwards and forwards as if he has handled an imaginary ball on the ground.


- The referee will hold is arm straight over his neck, under his chin. This shows to all the players that someone has made an illegal high tackle.


- The referee will point his arm downwards and move it up and down. This shows to all the players on the pitch that a player did not stay on their feet as they joined a ruck.


- The referee raises his arm above his head and moves his open hand backwards and forwards. Then, he will tap the palm of that hand with the other, to show to all the players that the ball has been knocked forward.


- The referee crosses both his arms across his chest, like a pair of open scissors. This indicates to all the players that one player has stopped another illegally.


- The referee faces the sideline and with his arm straight and angled upwards, points towards the non-offending team. The non-offending team has the options of a penalty kick or a scrum.


- The referee raises one hand above his head with his shoulders in line with the touch line. He will then move that arm backwards and forwards to show the ball was not thrown in straight by the hooker.


- The referee stands on the try line and, facing the team that scored, raises his arm straight above his head while he blows his whistle. His back will be towards the dead ball line.

These signals will help you to understand the game of rugby and get excited when some of the great teams are playing. There are many more things to learn about rugby like about the rugby pitch and rugby scoring. Add these to what you have now mastered with the referee’s signals and you will be able to follow some of the great rugby tournaments. Rugby is a very challenging game physically and when people really start to follow it they become extremely passionate supporters of their favorite team.



NOLA Gold’s Instagram

Keep Up With Our Team