What is rugby?
The rules for the sport of rugby, which originated in England in the 1800s, can appear complicated at first glance. Basically the sport combines the running-game offense and tackling defense of American football with the constant running and kicking of soccer.
The primary objective is to score five points with a try, similar to football’s six-point touchdown. This is achieved by crossing the goal line and touching the ball down into the in-goal area, which equates to football’s end zone, including the goal posts. In rugby, however, the goal posts are on the goal line.
Like in football, where one-point conversion kicks follow touchdowns, conversion kicks follow tries in rugby. Rugby conversions, which count for two points, do not automatically come from a permanently set spot near the goal line in the center of the field.
Rugby conversion kicks must be made from a spot parallel to the portion of the in-goal area (or try zone) where the try was touched down by the scorer. No big deal when the try is made in the center of the field near the goal posts, but much more difficult when the try is made closer to the touch lines, which are rugby’s version of football’s sidelines.
Three-point field goals are also a part of rugby, but often come from set spots where a penalty kick is awarded because of an infraction of the rules. Like conversion kicks, these rugby field goals can be scored via a placekick, or from a dropkick, in which the player drops the ball out in front of him and boots it forward following a short bounce, hopefully through the goal posts.
Throughout the game, balls are carried up the field by a player, or kicked forward, but dribbling of the ball is not legal. Forward passes from one teammate are also illegal. Legal passes must be made in a lateral or backward direction as the team progresses toward the opponent’s try zone.
When a team is advancing the ball toward the opponent’s goal line, players are not permitted to block for one another. If a player carrying the ball is tackled down while still in possession of it, the ball must be surrendered.
Another example of the sport’s football-soccer blend is the rugby ball itself, which has an oblong shape, like a football with rounded ends.
Players wear no real padding — just shorts, shirts, cleats, and a healthy amount of courage.
During play, each rugby team has 15 players on the field, and each team can make seven substitutions during a game, which consists of two 40-minute halves. Like in soccer, a few minutes of extra time is added by the game officials after the 80 minutes are exhausted.
Once a player subs in for an injured player, that injured player cannot return to the game.
Those with a minimal understanding of rugby are likely familiar with the game’s odd-looking cluster of players in the scrum, which is used to restart play after a player is tackled down before releasing the ball — to a teammate, an opponent, or to the ground.
The scrum is a 16-player wedge of bodies (eight from each team) where both teams set up in opposing 3-4-1 alignments packed together. A player from one team rolls the ball into the center of the scrum, and the pack of players attempt to kick the ball backward toward their teammates and outside of the scrum to restart the offense.
Similar in layout to an American football field or soccer pitch, the rugby field from goal line to goal line is 100 meters, with in-goal areas (like football’s end zones) that can range from 10 to 22 meters beyond the goal line to the dead-ball lines, which would be like the back line of football’s end zones.
The field is 70 meters wide, and is bordered by touch lines.
Within the rectangle are three solid lines — a halfway line 50 meters from each goal line, plus two solid lines that run parallel to each goal line, 22 meters away.
There are also eight striped lines on the field — two each five meters and 15 meters inside of and parallel to each touch line, one each five meters outside of and parallel to the two goal lines, and one each 10 meters away from and parallel to the halfway line.
On each goal line is a set of goal posts that are in the field of play.
A player can score a try by touching the ball down in the in-goal area, or simply by touching the ball to one of the goal posts.
These goal posts also serve as the targets for two-point conversion kicks after a try is scored, or a three-point field goal attempt. Successful conversions or field goals must travel between the posts, and above the crossbar.