Rugby rules are easy to learn

Friday, March 14, 2008 | 9:20 p.m. CDT; updated 8:54 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — There are two different types of rugby: union and league. Union is the most common type of rugby, and it is what the University of Missouri Rugby Club plays. Some of the most important rules are:

Matches last 80 minutes, divided into 40-minute halves.

Each team consists of 15 players on the field at one time. There are eight forwards, numbered 1 to 8. There are seven backs, numbered 9 to 15.

There are two ways to score points. A try — equivalent to a touchdown in American football — is worth five points and is awarded when a team touches to ball to the ground inside of the opponent’s in-goal area.

The other way to score points is a goal — similar to a field goal in American football. A dropped goal is scored in open play where the ball must bounce off of the ground before being kicked. It is worth three points. Second, a penalty goal — awarded when the opposing team breaks a rule — can be kicked from off of the ground or by means of a drop kick. It is also worth three points. Last, is a conversion — awarded after a try is scored — it may be done by either a drop kick or a place kick. A conversion is worth two points.

The play field, or pitch, can be no longer than 100 meters in length, excluding the in-goal area, which is around 10 meters long. The width of the pitch can be no more than 70 meters.

The team in possession of the ball moves up the field in hopes of scoring a try. However, the ball may only be pitched backwards, as forward passes are illegal. Any teammate closer to the opposing goal than the ball carrier is considered offside and is not allowed to interfere with play. Therefore, blocking as associated with American football is prohibited.

The team on the defensive attempts to tackle the ball carrier. A tackled player must either pass the ball backwards or release the ball, allowing the defensive side to contest possession of the ball.

A scrum is a means of restarting play after a minor foul. It involves eight players from each team, known as the pack or forward pack, binding together in three rows and interlocking with the opposing teams forwards. At this point the ball is fed into the gap between the two forward packs and they both compete for the ball to win possession. Teams can be penalized for intentionally causing the scrum to collapse, and for not putting the ball into the scrum correctly.

A ruck is formed when at least one player from each side bind onto each other with the ball on the ground between them. A ruck often ensues following the tackle-ball phase. As soon as at least two players, one from each side, are in physical contact together with the ball on the ground, a ruck has formed. This physical contact, or binding, is generally by locking shoulders while facing each other. Additional players may join the ruck, but must do so from behind the rearmost foot of the hindmost teammate in the ruck; this is often referred to as “coming through the gate”. Players must also be on their feet to join the ruck, and must bind onto the ruck with their whole arm around the body of a teammate. In a ruck, no player may use his hands to win the ball; instead, each side attempts to push the other side back, and players use their feet to hook the ball back towards their own side — an action known as rucking the ball. The team with possession attempts to ruck the ball back towards their own goal line, where is it picked up by one of their own players. Once the ball is out of the ruck, the ruck is over.

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