In 2009 the World Rugby Member Unions identified Integrity, Passion, Solidarity, Discipline and Respect as the defining character-building characteristics of Rugby. These are now collectively known as the World Rugby values and are incorporated within the World Rugby Playing Charter, a guiding document aimed at preserving Rugby’s unique character and ethos both on and off the field of play. The core values enable participants immediately to understand the character of the Games and what makes it distinctive as a sport which is played by people of all shapes and sizes.
INTEGRITY Integrity is central to the fabric of the Game and is generated through honesty and fair play.
PASSION Rugby people have a passionate enthusiasm for the Game. Rugby generates excitement, emotional attachment and a sense of belonging to the global Rugby Family.
SOLIDARITY Rugby provides a unifying spirit that leads to life-long friendships, camaraderie, teamwork and loyalty which transcends cultural, geographic, political and religious differences.
DISCIPLINE Discipline is an integral part of the Game both on and off the field and is reflected through adherence to the Laws, the Regulations and Rugby’s core values.
RESPECT Respect for team mates, opponents, match officials and those involved in the Game is paramount.
1 & 3 Prop Along with the hooker, the loose-head and tight-head props make up what is known as the front row, which refers to their position in the scrum. To be successful, both props must be extremely strong in the neck, shoulders, upper body and legs, and they should relish head-to-head competition. While stopping their side of the scrum from moving backwards, the props also support the hooker's body weight, allowing him or her to see and strike the ball when it is put into the scrum. In the lineout, props should be able to support or lift the jumper to prevent the opposition winning the ball. Away from set pieces, props help to secure the ball when a player has been tackled, so it helps if they can combine their power with a degree of mobility. You’ll also often see them used as battering rams in attack, receiving short passes after a ruck or maul and hitting the opposition defence at pace in an attempt to occupy the defenders and make space for their own backs.
2 Hooker Lining up in the scrum between the two props, the hooker is one of the forwards’ key decision-makers. He or she will coordinate the timing at the scrum, and is also responsible for winning possession in the scrummage by hooking the ball back through the props' legs. To allow the hooker to do this effectively, the props support much of the hooker’s weight, leaving him or her free to concentrate on hooking the ball back, rather than pushing against the opposition forwards. For this reason the hooker is often the smallest member of a front-row trio. At the lineout he or she is responsible for throwing the ball in and must be able to accurately hit the lineout jumper who is expecting the ball. In open play the hooker plays a similar role to the props, securing possession at rucks and mauls, or taking short ‘crash’ passes.
4 & 5 Lock The second row forwards (also known as locks) are the engine room of the scrum and the target men in the lineout, meaning that they need to be tall, powerful players with excellent scrummaging technique and pinpoint timing. If they bind to each other and the props too loosely in the scrum their pack will lose power, and if they are not accurate and dynamic with their lineout jumping, it offers the opposition forwards a chance to steal possession. In open play the second row’s duties have evolved from being support players at rucks and mauls to ball carriers. If a marauding second row is comfortable with the ball in hand, their bulk and power makes them very difficult to stop.
6 & 7 Flanker Open-side and blind-side flankers are often considered to be the players with the fewest set responsibilities, but as such must be excellent all-rounders with inexhaustible energy. Speed, strength, fitness, tackling and handling skills are all vital. Flankers are more often than not at the centre of the action – winning balls at the ruck and maul, collecting short passes from tackled players and making their own big tackles in open play. While they can rarely be blamed for a loss, they can certainly be the key to victory. The open-side flanker plays on the far side of the scrum from the touchline and is often smaller in size than their blind-side partner, making them more mobile around the pitch. The blind-side flanker tends to have bigger, more physical role around the pitch, and also acts as a target jumper in the lineout.
8 Number Eight Support play, tackling and ball-carrying are the No.8’s areas of expertise, making his or her duties similar to the two flankers. Together the trio forms a unit called the back row. Binding on right at the back of the scrum, the No.8 is also the only player from the forwards who is allowed to pick the ball up from the base of the scrum. It is a move that is often used to gain vital yards when a team is scrummaging close to the opposition try line, and for it to be truly effective the No.8 must be an explosive, dynamic runner.
9 Scrum-Half Acting as the link between the forwards and the backs, the scrum half is a key player when it comes to building attacks. Playing just behind the forwards, a good scrum half will control exactly when the ball is fed out to the backs from the rear of a scrum, ruck or maul. A scrum half needs good vision, speed and awareness, quick hands and lightning reactions. They tend to be one of the smaller players on the pitch and so rely on protection from their own forwards. An indecisive or poorly protected scrum half makes easy meat for a rampaging opposition flanker.
10 Fly-Half The heartbeat of the side and arguably the most influential player on the pitch. Almost every attack will go through the fly half, who also has the responsibility of deciding when to pass the ball out to the centres and when to kick for position. The fly half must orchestrate the team's back line, deciding what rehearsed moves to put into action and reacting to gaps in defence. He or she is also the main target for the defending team's open-side flanker and so must be strong in the tackle. The fly half has to be able to relieve territorial pressure by kicking down the field into touch, and is often the team's designated place kicker for conversions, penalties and drop goal attempts. In defence he or she will marshal the backs to ensure each opposition player is covered, and a strong-tackling fly half can snuff out opposition attacks before they start.
11 & 14 Wing Playing out wide on the side of the pitch, the winger is a team’s finisher in attack. A winger is also often the last line of defence when they don’t have the ball and as such, pace is their major resource.
12 & 13 Centre The inside centre – who stands closest to the fly half when the backs line up – and the outside centre tend to be strong, dynamic runners with a good eye for exposing gaps in the opposition defence. In attack they tend to run very direct lines. The centres take on their opposite number in an attempt to either break the defensive line, or draw in enough opposition defenders to create space and try-scoring opportunities for their team-mates. As such they need to be strong and powerful, and when attack turns into defence, they must also be accomplished at tackling. The inside centre is often the more creative in a centre pairing and should be able to pass and kick nearly as well as the fly half. In either defence or attack, the inside centre tends to be all action – dishing out the tackles and then drawing the opposition defence. Meanwhile, the outside centre tends to be the faster of the two and the ability to offload the ball quickly to the wingers is also vital. 15 Full-back Lining up behind the entire back line, the full back is the closest thing that rugby has to a sweeper in defence. But they also receive deep kicks from the opposition, so they must be comfortable catching high balls and launching attacks from the resulting possession. As such, the full back must have enough tactical awareness to recognise when to counter-kick, and when to run with the ball, often from deep within his or her half. Having started life as a winger, ex-England, Sale and British Lions player Jason Robinson was an excellent example of a running full back who also had the ability to kick his way out of trouble – the perfect combination for a number 15. This high-pressure position is not for the faint-hearted, but those who can combine tackling, kicking, catching and running with a cool head can excel here.
Frequently asked questions
HOW WAS RUGBY INVENTED? Legend has it that in 1823, during a game of school football in the town of Rugby, England, a young man named William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran towards the opposition’s goal line. Two centuries later, Rugby Football has evolved into one of the world’s most popular sports, with millions of people playing, watching and enjoying the Game. At the heart of Rugby is a unique ethos which it has retained over the years. Not only is the Game played to the Laws, but within the spirit of the Laws. Through discipline, control and mutual self-respect, a fellowship and sense of fair play are forged, defining Rugby as the Game it is.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO PLAY RUGBY? Before playing Rugby, it’s important to understand the equipment you’ll need. Firstly, you’ll need a sturdy pair of boots with studs or cleats which are appropriate to the conditions. These are essential to providing the purchase you’ll require, especially in contact situations. It is recommended that you wear a mouth guard to protect the teeth and jaw, and some players choose to wear approved head gear and/or padded equipment, worn under the shirt.
WHAT ARE THE DIMENSIONS OF A RUGBY PITCH? A rugby pitch should be between 94-100 metres long, and between 68-70 metres wide. The length is from try line to try line, and does not include the dead ball area beyond the try line, which can be 10-22 metres deep.
WHAT’S THE POINTS SYSTEM IN RUGBY? You can score different numbers of points depending on what you do in the game.
Try - 5 points - A try is scored when the ball is grounded over the opponents’ goal line in the in-goal area. A penalty try can be awarded if a player would have scored a try but for foul play by the opposition.
Conversion - 2 points - After scoring a try, that team can attempt to add two further points by kicking the ball over the crossbar and between the posts from a place in line with where the try was scored.
Penalty - 3 points - When awarded a penalty after an infringement by the opposition, a team may choose to kick at goal.
Drop goal - 3 points - A drop goal is scored when a player kicks for goal in open play by dropping the ball onto the ground and kicking it on the half-volley.
I AM REALLY SMALL FOR MY AGE (12) BUT REALLY LOVE THE SPORT, CAN I STILL PLAY? Rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes and that is one of the sport’s main strengths and attractions because the sum of a team’s parts is always greater than any one individual. In rugby there are forwards, whose role and job it is generally to win the ball from the opposition and compete at most of the more contact-driven areas such as the scrum, the line-out, the ruck and the maul. Forwards tend to be heavier, more powerful players and also taller for winning the ball at the line-out and the restart.
There are also backs, who tend to be a bit faster and whose game is based more on taking advantage of the space created by the forwards’ hard work. Even among the backs there are players who need to be better at passing, kicking, strategizing and simply running, so whatever size or shape, age or gender you are, there should be a position ready-made for you.
It’s worth pointing out that in the Olympic sport of Rugby Sevens – where there are seven players on each team – there are also forwards and backs. These players still perform distinct jobs, but in general the players are of a more similar size and shape overall because the non-stop nature of the game leads to a different kind of fitness requirement. There are also non-contact forms of Rugby such as touch and tag, meaning that there really is a form of the Game for all abilities, shapes and sizes.
WE KEEP HEARING LOTS ABOUT HOW DANGEROUS THE SPORT IS. IS THIS REALLY THE CASE? Rugby is a physical sport, but a sport that delivers significant social and health benefits. Player welfare is the number one priority for World Rugby and its Member Unions and education of the best-possible techniques to train and play is important for being physically and mentally prepared. You also need to understand how to play safely. The World Rugby Rugby Ready programme, and other national union programmes, educate, aid and support players, coaches, match officials and Unions on the importance of sufficient preparation for training and playing in order for Rugby to be played and enjoyed while reducing the risk of serious injury. I am reaching my twilight years in terms of playing (32) but still want to be involved in the sport can you recommend what I could do next?
There are other disciplines of Rugby which are designed to allow anyone to start playing, or continue to play, with more or less emphasis on skills, running, handling, evasion, support play and contact. Examples of these variations include Tag, Touch, Tip, Flag and Beach Rugby. As an example, in Tag, players wear tags which hang from a belt. Removal of one of these tag constitutes a tackle, and the ball carrier must then pass within three seconds. One of the key attractions of these versions of Rugby is that the non-contact nature means that people of all ages, both sexes and of any fitness level can play together on a variety of surfaces, without the fear of getting hurt. In addition, the simple rules for all formats of modified Rugby, as well as the need for minimal equipment, make the different game variations an ideal introduction for beginners wishing to get involved in the sport.
HOW DO I FIND A CLUB? Whether it’s for your own involvement, or because you’d like to introduce your son or daughter to the Game, your nearest club is the best place to start. Please see our Links page for club details.
WHY CAN YOU ONLY PASS THE BALL BACKWARDS IN RUGBY? In rugby you need to move forwards to score, by carrying the ball over the opponents’ goal line and forcing it to the ground to score, but it's true that you are only allowed to pass the ball backwards by hand. A player may pass (throw the ball) to a team mate who is in a better position to continue the attack, but the pass must not travel towards the opposing team’s goal line. It must travel either directly across the field, or back in the direction of the passer’s own goal line. By carrying the ball forwards and passing backwards, territory is gained. If a forward pass is made, the referee will stop the game and award a scrum with the throw-in going to the team which was not in possession.
This apparent contradiction creates a need for fine teamwork and great discipline, as little can be achieved by any one individual player. Only by working as a team can players move the ball forward towards their opponents’ goal line and eventually go on to win the game. The ball can be kicked forwards, but even then the kicker’s team mates must be behind the ball at the moment the ball is kicked.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TACKLE, A RUCK AND A MAUL? These are often grouped together as they often happen in quick succession, but they are actually distinct areas.
Tackle: Only the ball-carrier can be tackled by an opposing player. A tackle occurs when the ball carrier is held by one or more opponents and is brought to ground, i.e. has one or both knees on the ground, is sitting on the ground or is on top of another player who is on the ground. To maintain the continuity of the game, the ball carrier must release the ball immediately after the tackle, the tackler must release the ball carrier and both players must roll away from the ball. This allows other players to come in and contest for the ball, thereby starting a new phase of play.
Ruck: A ruck is formed if the ball is on the ground and one or more players from each team who are on their feet close around it. Players must not handle the ball in the ruck, and must use their feet to move the ball or drive over it so that it emerges at the team’s hindmost foot, at which point it can be picked up. Maul:A maul occurs when the ball carrier is held by one or more opponents and one or more of the ball carrier’s team mates holds on (binds) as well (a maul therefore needs a minimum of three players). The ball must be off the ground. The team in possession of the ball can attempt to gain territory by driving their opponents back towards the opponents’ goal line. The ball can then be passed backwards between players in the maul and eventually passed to a player who is not in the maul, or a player can leave the maul carrying the ball and run with it.
WHY DOES THE GAME SOMETIMES CARRY ON EVEN AFTER ONE OF THE TEAMS HAS MADE A MISTAKE, OR COMMITTED A FOUL? Sometimes, during a game, an infringement of the Laws may be committed where a stoppage in play would deprive the non-offending team of an opportunity to score. Even though the Laws state that the non-offending team should be awarded a penalty, free kick or scrum, the referee can choose to play ‘advantage’, giving the non-offending team the opportunity to continue with open play and attempt to score a try. In this instance, the referee will allow play to continue rather than penalise the offence. If no ‘advantage’ is gained, then the referee blows the whistle and goes back to the infringement.
HOW DOES OFFSIDE WORK IN RUGBY? Rugby’s offside Law restricts where on the field players can be, to ensure there is space to attack and defend. In general, a player is in an offside position if that player is further forward (nearer to the opponents’ goal line) than the team mate who is carrying the ball or the team mate who last played the ball. Being in an offside position is not, in itself, an offence, but an offside player may not take part in the game until they are onside again. If an offside player takes part in the game, that player will be penalised.
HOW DOES THE TELEVISION MATCH OFFICIAL WORK IN RUGBY? Televised matches have an official who uses replays to advise the referee on decisions according to what the replays show. However you choose to watch the Game, don’t just focus on the ball, try concentrating on the alignment of attackers and defenders and the positioning of certain players, e.g. fly half, number 8 and full back.