Guide to Rugby
Play begins with a kickoff. The player with the ball may run with it, kick it, or pass it to any other player, either laterally or behind him. His opponents may tackle the man carrying the ball at any time and only the man with the ball can be tackled. Tackles must be made using an arm and shoulder and high tackles are not permitted.
The rugby field of play measures no more than 100 meters in length and no more than 70 meters in width. The playing area is the field-of-play and in-goal.
At each end of the playing area are the in-goal areas, which must be between 10 and 22 meters in length and 70 meters in width, bounded by the goal line, touch-in-goal lines and the dead ball line. The goal line is included in the in-goal.
There are 15 players on each team consisting of 8 forwards and 7 backs. The forwards are involved in line-outs and scrums and have the task of winning possession of the ball for the backs. Backs play more to the open field and attempt to outmaneuver their opponents by passing, kicking, or running with the ball.
Positions on the Field
Rugby forwards often handle the ball and must be adept at passing and catching while the backs must be prepared to occasionally ruck and maul. Unlike American football, all players are responsible for both offense and defense. Because there are so many variables during a rugby match, there is a minimum of programmed play-calling. Players must think and react for themselves. It is an exciting, intense game of constant attacks and counterattacks.
To the Attack
It is usually the forwards job to secure possession of the ball and then put it out to the backs for a successful offensive maneuver. The ball can be advanced in three ways; it can be carried forward, passed laterally or backward, or kicked.
If the backs' offensive maneuver breaks down, rugby forwards can handle the ball and become a dynamic offensive force themselves.
On the Defense
How do you stop the advance? Simple. Tackle the man with the ball. A player must release the ball once held on the ground. The opponent then obtains possession of the ball and initiates his own attack. There are no "First Downs" in rugby. Ruggers play until they score.
Penalties are assessed against players for various infractions. Blocking, offsides, intentionally throwing the ball forward, or illegally playing the ball with the hands in a scrum are the most common. For these penalties, the team offended against, kicks the ball from the point of the infraction. It may be a drop-kick, a punt, a place kick, or it may merely be tapped with the foot and then passed to the kicker's teammates. Field position usually dictates the type of kick taken. With a penalty kick the kicker often tries to send the ball in-touch. When the ball goes in-touch as a result of a penalty kick, the kicking team throws the ball in the line-out.
In rugby, there is the principle of Law #8, known as advantage. It states that the referee should not stop the game for an infringement during play that is followed by an advantage gained by the non-offending team. The advantage can be territorial or tactical.
The scrimmage line in rugby is, for the most part, absent or at least mobile. Its rugger counterpart is the offside line, an imaginary line that runs across the field through the ball - while it moves! To qualify to take part in the action, a rugby player must play from behind the ball, both offensively and defensively, thus, the futility of the forward pass. Likewise, throwing a block doesn't make sense. And finally, only in rugby is there the criminality of a man chasing the ball when it has just been kicked from behind him by a teammate.
A kickoff is marked from midfield and must go 10 yards. Each team of players strikes up and down the field until one is fortunate and skillful enough to break through, cross the opponent's goal line, and touch the ball down onto the ground.
A player who is on-side scores a try when he carries the ball into his opponents' in-goal, or the ball is in his opponents' in-goal, AND he first touches it down on the ground there.
A goal is scored by kicking the ball over the opponents' crossbar and between the goal posts from the field-of-play by any place kick or drop kick, without touching the ground, or a player of the kicker's team.
Try - 5 points
Conversion (goal after a try is scored) - 2 points
Goal from a Penalty Kick - 3 points
Dropped Goal - 3 points