Rules of rugby are overseen by World Rugby, formerly known as the International Rugby Board (IRB). The organisation has been responsible for producing and enforcing the rules since it was founded in 1886. Based in Dublin, the organisation has a wide remit. It governs the game, runs major tournaments such as the Rugby World Cup, and supports the 97 Member Unions and six regional associations to help grow and promote Rugby Union to a global market.
The Rules of Rugby are contained in The Laws of the Game Rugby Union 2012 outlines what is expected before and during the match, the variations to the rules for the U19s and 7s formats of the game and the referees calls. LineoutCoach will look at each aspect of the game in more detail so you have a quick guide to rugby explained in a way that is easy to understand.
Rules of Rugby: Before the match
Law 1 The Ground (Rugby field)
Law 2 The Ball (Rugby ball)
Law 3 Number of Players – The Team
Law 4 Players’ Clothing (Rugby gear)
Law 5 Time
Law 6 Match Officials
6.B Touch Judges and Assistant Referees
6.C Additional Persons
Rules of Rugby: During the match
Method of Playing the Match
Law 7 Mode of Play
Law 8 Advantage
Law 9 Method of Scoring
Law 10 Foul Play
Law 11 Offside and Onside in General Play
Law 12 Knock-on or Throw forward
In the Field of Play
Law 13 Kick-off and Restart Kicks
Law 14 Ball on the Ground – No Tackle
Law 15 Tackle: Ball carrier Brought to the Ground
Law 16 Ruck
Law 17 Maul
Law 18 Mark
Law 19 Touch and Lineout
Law 20 Scrum
Law 21 Penalty and Free Kicks
Law 22 In-goal
Rules of Rugby: Contact
Rugby is a physical contact sport and as such players can be injured during the course of a game. The Rules of Rugby have been devised to minimise this and players need to respect them and consider their own safety and that of their opponents. Recent incidents of players biting, eye gouging or breaking opponents arms while trying to clear the ball have all been followed up after the matches with lengthy bans and fines for players involved.
Rules of Rugby: Interpretation
Rugby Union rules are of course open to interpretation and there are degrees of intent. A referee is charged with enforcing these laws. He can chose to give a verbal warning, send the player to the sin-bin for 10 minutes or send them off entirely based on what he deems to be appropriate for the action taken.
Rules of Rugby: Dangerous play
The controversial spear tackle hit the headlines after the Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand when Sam Warburton was sent off for Wales in the semi final against France for lifting his opponent’s feet off the ground during a tackle. Commentators debated the point, was it as bad as it looked, were there other examples which hadn’t been punished, but the referee thought this constituted dangerous play under the current rules of rugby and the Welsh Captain watched the last 70 minutes of the match from the bench.
Rules of Rugby: Player Charter
In addition to the dos and dont’s of the rules of rugby, the document also contains the IRB charter which is based around the social and emotional ethos of the game.
Much is made of the unique character of rugby union – the loyalty and team work, focus and discipline of the players, sportsmanship to opponents and courage on the field – and the player charter sets standards for how to approach the sport both on and off the field.
The sport continues to grow around the world and it is hoped that the spirit of the game can be maintained for the enjoyment of players and fans.
Rules of Rugby: Rugby Gear
The rules of rugby extend to the pitch or field of play, the ball the players use and the clothes they wear. The size of the pitch, the air pressure in the ball and the studs in the rugby boots are all specified.
Safety is again a key consideration and the rules for rugby equipment aims to help players avoid injury.
Pictures taken from the World Rugby Laws of the Game Rugby Union