Rugby union, a thrilling and physically demanding sport, captivates fans across the globe with its intense action and strategic gameplay.

Whether you're a player or an avid spectator, understanding the intricacies of rugby rules is vital to fully appreciate and engage with the game.

In this article, we will delve into the fundamental rules of rugby union, shedding light on key aspects that govern this dynamic sport.

The Objective and Equipment

Rugby union is a team sport played with two opposing teams, each consisting of 15 players, with the primary objective of scoring points by advancing the ball into the opponent's in-goal area and grounding it.

The team that accumulates the most points within the allotted time emerges as the winner.

Union matches take place on a rectangular field, typically made of natural or artificial turf, and the teams compete to gain possession of an oval-shaped ball.

Game Flow and Duration

Rugby matches are divided into two halves, with each half lasting 40 minutes in professional games, although amateur and youth games may have shorter halves.

The game begins with a kick-off, where one team kicks the ball to the opposing team to initiate play.

Possession of the ball alternates between the teams, with players passing the ball backward to maintain forward momentum.

The match ends when the time runs out, unless extended for additional time due to certain circumstances.


Scoring in rugby involves different methods that reward both individual and team efforts.

The primary way to score points is by scoring a try, which occurs when a player successfully grounds the ball in the opponent's in-goal area.

A try is worth five points. After scoring a try, the team is awarded an opportunity to convert the try into additional points through a conversion kick, worth two points, taken from a spot perpendicular to where the try was scored.

Alternatively, teams can score points through penalty kicks or drop goals. A penalty kick is awarded when the opposing team commits a foul, and if successful, it earns the team three points.

A drop goal, on the other hand, is scored by kicking the ball through the opponent's goal posts during open play, and it is also worth three points.

Forward Pass and Offside Rule

Unlike other sports like American football, a forward pass is not allowed in rugby. The ball must always be passed backward, or laterally, to teammates.

A forward pass is considered a violation and results in a turnover of possession to the opposing team.

The offside rule in rugby ensures fair play and encourages an even contest. In general terms, players must be behind the ball carrier or behind the ball itself when it is played.

Being in an offside position can lead to penalties and free kicks for the opposing team.

Rucks, Mauls, and Scrums

Rugby features various phases of play, including rucks, mauls, and scrums.

A ruck occurs when one or more players from each team, who are on their feet and in contact, compete for the ball on the ground after a tackle.

A maul, on the other hand, happens when a player carrying the ball is held by one or more opponents, and teammates bind onto them. Both rucks and mauls are crucial for retaining possession and advancing the ball.

Scrums are formed when there is an infringement or stoppage, typically due to a minor rule violation. Players from each team bind together and compete for the ball by pushing against the opposition.

The scrum-half from the team awarded the put-in to the scrum feeds the ball into the scrum, and both teams engage in a contest to win possession.

Penalties, Yellow Cards, and Red Cards In Rugby Union

Rugby rules incorporate penalties to maintain discipline and fair play. When a player commits an offense, such as high tackling or obstruction, the opposing team is awarded a penalty.

Penalties allow teams to kick for touch, gain territorial advantage, or opt for a scrum or lineout.

In cases of severe or repeated infractions, referees can issue yellow cards or red cards.

A yellow card results in a temporary suspension of the player for ten minutes, while a red card leads to a player's permanent expulsion from the match.

Lineouts and Kickoffs

Lineouts are formed when the ball goes into touch, or out of bounds. Players from both teams form two parallel lines, and a player from the team not responsible for the ball going out throws it back into play.

Lineouts are an opportunity to contest for possession and execute planned strategies to gain an advantage.

Kickoffs occur at the start of the match, after halftime, and after a team scores points. The team kicking off launches the ball deep into the opponent's half, and players from the receiving team attempt to secure the ball and launch an attack.

Learning More About Union Rules

Understanding rugby rules is essential for players and fans alike to fully embrace the excitement and strategic depth of the game.

By familiarizing yourself with the key aspects discussed in this article, such as scoring, forward passes, offside rules, rucks, mauls, scrums, penalties, and lineouts, you will gain a deeper appreciation for the intricacies of rugby.

Embrace the spirit of fair play and competitiveness that rugby embodies and immerse yourself in the captivating world of this dynamic sport.


Alex is a sports betting tipster, specialising in Premier League football, the Champions League and horse racing.

He loves placing a weekly accumulator on the football at the weekend and dreams of landing the big winner that will take him back to Las Vegas.

As well as writing sports betting tips for 888sport since 2015, Alex has produced content for several international media companies, such as and The SPORTBible.