Rugby Union Rules for Beginners

Here we attempt to clarify rugby union rules, not just for beginners but also for those among us who are not as acquainted with the rules as we might like to think (in fact, this article might be more for me than anyone else!).

Rugby Union Rules for Beginners

Drawing of a rugby ball

First thing to note about the game of rugby union and its constitution:  the sports has LAWS instead of RULES.  And as with any law, these change from time to time.

And if you really took the time to learn the laws, you’ll soon find that you know a lot more than the average spectator at the game!

Second thing to note about rugby union rules for beginners is that scoring a goal by crossing the end line and touching it on the ground is called a TRY.

A TRY is so called because in the days of yore, points were awarded only for kicking the ball between the goal posts.  So when one crossed the line, it was a good try ol’ chap but no cigar.  You were then given a chance to kick the ball to see if you can convert your try into a goal.

To this day, they still say “to convert the try”.  But this time, more points are awarded for a TRY.

Thus, scores in a game of rugby are earned as follows:  5 points for a TRY, 2 points for a conversion, 3 points for a penalty kick and 3 points if you drop-kick the ball between the posts before anyone has had a chance to tackle you.

Trying to drop-kick quickly before you are tackled by the opposing team is actually an extremely hard feat to achieve.  Doing this at a World Cup Final launches one into the stratosphere of national hero and guarantees fame to last several lifetimes.

This is exactly what Jonny Wilkinson did when he stole the game from Australia in the 2003 Rugby World Cup with only 35 seconds to go.  Have a look at the video below.  Hear the excitement in the voice of Ian Robertson (the commentator) as it reaches a crescendo.

Third thing to note about the rules of rugby is that even when the whistle goes, the game is not over as long as the ball is in play.

And that made the last few seconds of the 2003 Rugby World Cup game in the video above even more nail biting.  Despite the whistle having gone, the game was not over until the ball is dead.  Ian Robertson was desperate for the ball to be kicked off the pitch.  Because he knew the rules/laws of rugby.  And he knew of times, in the past, when rugby teams at the very top levels have stolen the game in the dying seconds.

Fourth thing to note about rugby union rules … well, I cannot say it any clearer than this video by the English Rugby Union!:

How is the game played by non-cartoon players?

Head on over to the Britannica by clicking on the image below to check out their take on the rugby union rules for beginners:

Playing the game of rugby union, within the rules

And there you have it …

There’s your glimpse into the very physical and exciting world of ruggers!

For some introductory reading, have a browse through these:

You now know some rugby union rules, some rugby union terms.

Will you become a fan of the egg-shaped ball?

See you on the sidelines!

Friendly tip

Don’t tackle just anyone running at you!  They might be coming in for a friendly hug.

Illustration of a rugby union tackle

But if you must, go for the body.  Less likelihood of causing long-term damages that might result in a body bag.

If you’re looking for more insights into basic rugby tackling, check out the WikiHow illustrations – just click on the image.

For those well acquainted with tackling, share your tips in the comments below.

Read up on some articles related to the game here:


  1. Because am a big NFL fan, I developed a liking for Rugby. I like watching it very much even though i still don’t understand the scoring system. I do know what a Try is though, it is similar to a touchdown in NFL. Jamaica where am from is now ranked in the top 100 which is just awesome. I think we have qualified for the World Cup next year. The sport is getting very popular here on the Island. Am hoping to see a few college games next season.

    • Yes, I think, as regional champions, Jamaica have qualified to play in the World Sevens Series qualifying tournament in Hong Kong next April. (Sevens is the 7-a-side version of rugby and is now an Olympic sport). 

      With the wealth of athletic talent in Jamaica, I would love to see them take rugby more seriously. I think Jamaica would be awesome in rugby 7s if they can pick up the game across the country. Usain Bolt, instead of trying to play professional soccer, should have tried rugby 7s instead. Imagine Yohann Blake as a rugby player too!? They could be at the next Olympics in a new sport if they get into it now! 

      They could well emulate US rugby sevens star Perry Baker, a former college US football player who switched to rugby only a few years ago and who was voted Player of The Year last year.

  2. In short this is quiet interesting, I am a fan of football, Liverpool fans for that matter, I had never really take my time to watch Rugby before, but after watching the video the interest arouse inside. But their Laws are more technique than football game. Those laws are good for the player’s in other to save them away from frequent injuries.
    I really got interest in scrum, lineout and tackle. A game like this are more demanding than football.
    From today I will continue watching Rugby like the way I have key interest in football, good game.

    Thanks for this piece of info.

    My question:
    Between Rugby and Football game which game pay more? in terms of income.

    • In global terms, football (soccer) is the most popular sport in the world. So naturally, their players are among the highest paid. The most highly paid players earn about 500,000 pounds a week, or about 25 million pounds a year.

      Among team sports, football/soccer would be among the highest, along with baseball, gridiron and basketball.

      After those three sports would come rugby and cricket. The top rugby players earn about 2-3 million pounds a year.

      Of course, sportsmen’s incomes are a reflection not so much of athletic ability but more of the size, as well as spending power, of the audiences these sports have.

  3. As soon as I saw this article I remember that one of my best friends brother is really into Rugby. He actually goes for classes every day after school. So without skipping a beat I shared this article with my best friends brother and really liked it. He thanked so much because he told me that this was really useful for him.

    So is should thank you for it. Thank you for writing this amazing article and sharing with all of us.

  4. Until Recently Rugby really hasnt been my thing.  I am from a city in Alberta Canada where our football and hockey teams seem to take most of the fans.  I was looking for a sport that was a little more affordable for the spectator.

    All I could hope was that it would be exciting.  Well Im glad to say it was and is exciting and slowly day by day I am learning more about the game.

    Im very grateful to find a website like this to help me further understand the game.  I will be watching for more posts about rugby from you.

    • Glad to be of help. Rugby in Canada has always been a bit of a cult favourite, rather than a mainstream sport, because it doesn’t pay as well as hockey and football. Canada does punch above its weight in rugby, and is one of the few “Tier 2 ” nations that have played in every Rugby World Cup. You could do worse than follow their exploits as well as those playing in the Canadian club circuit. Enjoy the game.

  5. So in watching your video, I never realized just how similar Rugby is to football.  My son was talking about Rugby.  I am in the US, and we don’t really play Rugby here, but at his school they are going to start a rec team, which I think is pretty interesting.  So I was looking around about the sport, and now I’m seeing the similarities, which excites me.  Great write-up and fun video.  Thanks.

    • Well, US football did start off as an offshoot of rugby so naturally there would be similarities. Many American football players have ended up switching to rugby easily. Check out players such as Carlin Isles and Perry Baker, who play 7s rugby for USA, as well as Superbowl champion Nate Ebner, who has played both very well.

  6. Finally, I was searching for the rules for our school for some time now.

    I live in Thailand and the kids love to play rugby. None of the teachers know the right rules though. I’ll be presenting them with this surprise.

    I think they have to change quite a bit in the way they used to play the game 🙂

    • Glad to have been of help.
      The Thais do love their rugby and are good at it, despite their generally small stature, which they compensate for with genuine toughness.
      They are especially good at army and police level and the two main rugby schools of Vajiravudh and King’s, and I hope that continues.
      Am happy to hear of people like you working to keep the profile and standards high. Keep up the good work!

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