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Rugby is a contact sport with almost unlimited body contact and with little or no padding. Governing bodies enforce the rules of the game very strictly in professional rugby. Rugby rules should always be adhered to when playing rugby for your own safety. Breaking the rules can lead to serious injury

In simple terms, rugby is a form of football played with an oval ball. There are two versions of the game - rugby league and rugby union. This information describes Rugby Union - the national sport of Wales.

  • There are two teams of 15 players each who pass, kick, carry and ground the ball in order to score as many points as possible
  • Players can only pass the ball behind them, not in front
  • The team scoring the greatest number of points at the end of the match is the winner
  • A game of rugby has two halves of 40 minutes each
  • There is one referee and two touch judges

The pitch

  • A rugby pitch has a goal at either end, as well as a dead ball line, a try line, a 22m line and a 10m line on either side of the halfway line
  • The try line is the furthest line from the halfway line (except for the dead ball line)
  • This is the line a player must pass to score a try


A player can score either through a try, a conversion, a penalty kick or a drop goal.

  • Try: this is when a player places the ball on the ground between the try line and the dead ball line of the opposing team's half.
  • A try is worth 5 points
  • Conversion: this is a chance to score two more points after a try is scored by kicking the ball between through the goalposts. The kick must be taken in line with where the try was scored
  • Penalty Kick: if a team commits a serious offence, a penalty is awarded to the opposition in which they can place kick a goal, taken from where the offence was committed. A penalty kick is worth 3 points
  • Drop Goal: this is scored when a player kicks the ball from his hand through the opposition's goal. The ball must touch the ground between being dropped and kicked

Kicking the ball

  • Kicking forms a major part of rugby and is used to start and restart the game, to score points, to win territory, to launch an attack and to get the team out of trouble (through a clearance kick)
  • Only a player in possession of the ball can be tackled - a tackled player must let go of the ball after he or she hits the ground
  • It is illegal to tackle a player above the shoulders or to punch, gouge, stamp on or kick another player

Common features in rugby

Common features of rugby include the scrum and the lineout, the touchline and the touch.

  • Scrum - this is where the eight forwards from each team bind together and push against each other. The ball is fed in to the scrum by the team with possession. The hookers (one of each team) are positioned at the back of the scrum and try to win the ball by hooking it back with their feet. The hookers must not contest for the ball until it is put into the scrum
  • Lineout - this happens when a ball is knocked off the sidelines of the pitch. The forwards line up in two lines parallel to the goal line and the hooker throws the ball in to the lineout. It must be thrown straight and travel more than five yards from the touchline Rugby Union
  • Rugby union is the national sport of Wales and New Zealand
  • Rugby union is dominated by eight major unions:
    • Wales
    • France
    • Australia
    • England
    • Scotland
    • New Zealand
    • South Africa
    • Ireland
  • Rugby union is a major sport played nationwide in each of these countries
  • The Welsh Rugby Union is the governing body of rugby union in Wales and is recognised by the International Rugby Board

Rugby League

  • Rugby league is similar to rugby union but teams are made up of 13 players, not 15, and allowed two substitutions
  • Scrums and tackles are different in rugby league - play stops after every tackle
  • Rugby league does not use the lineout to restart play after the ball goes out
  • The number of points awarded for the goals and tries is different in rugby league
  • In many schools in Wales, rugby union is a compulsory part of physical education, and most schools, villages, towns and cities have a rugby team you can join
  • Rugby league is played as both a professional and amateur sport in Ireland, France, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand - and it is the national sport of Papua New Guinea
  • There are semi-professional and amateur competitions of rugby league that take place in Wales, France, Russia, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, Japan, the U.S. and Serbia

Women's Rugby

  • There is a national welsh women's rugby union team called Wales Women
  • There is also a Women's Six Nations Championship, but with Spain instead of Italy
  • Although girls don't generally play rugby in schools, professional women's rugby is very well established, particularly in Wales
  • There are Welsh girls' U19s and U16s rugby teams
  • The Super League is an English tournament for top female rugby players
  • If you want to get involved in girls rugby, contact your local sports centre or the Welsh Rugby Union to find out about clubs near you

Events in rugby

Six Nations Championship (RBS 6 nations)

The Six Nations Championship is an annual international rugby union competition which is held between six European sides.

    The Six Nations are:
  • Wales
  • Scotland
  • England
  • Ireland
  • France
  • Italy

Rugby World Cup

The Rugby World Cup is also a rugby union contest.

Did you know...?

  • The first governing body of Welsh rugby was called the South Wales Football Union. It was re-founded in 1880 as the Welsh Football Union to organise an international match against England. In 1934, it became the Welsh Rugby Union
  • Wales won the Six Nations Championship in 2005 and has won it 23 times in total, more than any other team except England
  • Welsh rugby referee Derek Bevan has refereed the most internationals of any rugby referee in history - 29 in total. He refereed the opening game of the 1995 World Cup as his 29th international
  • Rugby is played in more than 100 different countries by millions of people

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