Rugby Union Rules: The laws of the game explained simply

Rugby Union laws

To the uninitiated, Rugby Union rules, commonly known as laws, can seem like a very complicated business.

Although the aim of the game is simple, there are many laws which make can make it hard for the new viewer to keep track of what is going on.

Luckily, help is at hand. To get you started, has broken down the basic rugby union rules into six very simple steps.


1. The Aim Of The Game

The aim during a game of rugby union is to score more points than the opposition by running, kicking and passing the oval-shaped ball over the designated tryline or by kicking it over the ‘H-shaped’ posts. You can run with the ball, kick it and pass it. However, passing forwards is not allowed in the rugby union rules.

2. The Duration

Each Rugby match lasts for 80 minutes, split into two halves of 40 and with a 15-minute break in-between, during which time the players can draw breath and eat an orange. (Note, and this is key, that upon resumption, the two teams will have changed ends.)

3. The Pitch

The playing area is a pristine-green rectangle measuring 100m from try line to try line. Each team defends an In-goal area that sits behind the goal posts, denoted by that try line, by the dead-ball line and by the two touchlines. Between the two try lines there will be a series of line markings at regular intervals, both solid and dotted. These divide the pitch into zones and indicate where restart kicks are taken from and where players must position themselves during set pieces.

4. The Personnel

Each team is made up of 15 men of varying dimensions, all of whom would cause significant pain and bruising should they fall on you. Within that team, you’ll find eight forwards and seven backs, which loosely covers how they line up on the pitch.

5. The Kick-Off

Before the start of the match, the referee tosses a coin to decide which team will kick off the match. The captain of the team that wins the toss gets to decide which end he wants to attack first, or whether his side or the opposition will kick off. The game is started by a place kick or a dropkick from the middle of the halfway line. The ball must travel forwards at least 10 metres from the kick-off.

6. The Scoring

Scoring in rugby union is as follows:

  • Five points are awarded for a try when a player has grounded the ball (i.e. touched down) over the tryline in the opposition’s goal area.
  • Two points are awarded for a conversion when a player has kicked the ball between the posts after a try has been scored.
  • Three points are awarded if a player successfully kicks the ball through the posts from a penalty kick or drop goal.