Rugby Union

Known as the most physically intense game there is, Rugby Union is a big hit, literally. Rugby Union is a full-contact, team game, where hard hitting players inclusive of all shapes and sizes, from bulldozers to agile whippets thrive to secure their territory and conquer the oppositions. As complicated as the sport might seem, a simple read of your article can clear your confusions and make it more fun and intense to watch.


<< Go back to Sports Page

Rugby union, also known as rugby, is one of the two codes of rugby football (the other being rugby league). This game is played between two teams of 15 players using an oval-shaped ball on a field with H-shaped goalposts on each goal line.


Rugby might have originated from an incident in a game of English football at Rugby school in the year 1823 when William Webb-Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it. The game is sprung from the form of game played at Rugby School, which, through its graduates, was introduced to different universities. Albert Pell, a student at Cambridge, formed the first ‘football’ team.

Initially different schools used different rugby rules, as former pupils from Rugby and Eton attempted to carry their preferred rules through to their universities; but significant events in the early development of rugby football let to the production of the first set of written football laws at rugby school in the year 1845. The ‘Cambridge Rules’ further followed these rules in the year 1848. Eventually, in the year 1871, Rugby Football Union was formed.

The code for rugby was originally known as ‘rugby football’ but the schism in England in the year 1895 resulted in the formation rugby league, hence the sport took on the name ‘rugby union’ to differentiate itself from the league game. Despite the sport’s name being rugby union, it is also known as rugby throughout most of the world.

The world’s first international rugby union football was played between England and Scotland on 27 March 1871 where Scotland managed to beat England with the scores of 1 to 0 respectively. Later in the year 1881, Ireland and Wales had representative rugby teams; and in the year 1883, the first international rugby competition, the Home Nations Championship, had begun. The first rugby sevens tournament, the Melrose Sevens, was also initiated in the year 1883.  Later in the years 1888 and 1889, British Isles team visited Australia and New Zealand. Also New Zealand Native football team brought the first overseas team to British spectators. The tour for the British Isles team led to the foundations for the future British and Irish Lions tours.

Between 1905 and 1908, all three major Southern Hemisphere rugby countries sent their first touring teams, namely, New Zealand in 1905, South Africa in 1906 and Australia in 1908 to the Northern Hemisphere.

In the 1900s, Rugby Union was included four times as an event in the Olympic games. In 1973 the first officially sanctioned international sevens tournament took place at Murrayfield as a part of the Scottish Rugby Union centenary celebrations. In the year 1987, the first Rugby World Cup was held in Australia and New Zealand. The first World Cup Sevens tournament was held at Murrayfield in 1993. The Rugby Sevens was also added to Commonwealth Games in 1998.

Rugby Union, eventually, was declared ‘open’ game in the year 1995 which removed all restrictions on payments to the players. After the game was established as professional game, transnational club competitions were started with Heineken Cup and Super Rugby in the northern and the southern hemispheres respectively. The annual international tournament involving the Tri-nations, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, also kicked off in 1996.

General Information about Rugby Union

The match starts with 15 players on the field and 7 on the bench for each team.

  • Rugby Union field imageThe players are divided into eight forwards and seven backs.
  • The main responsibilities of the forward players are to gain and retain possession of the ball.
  • The forward players are divided into 3 rows, namely First row, Second row and Back row.
  • The front row consists of three players; two props, the loose-head prop and the tight-head prop, and the hooker. The hooker is a key position in attacking and defensive play and is also responsible for wining the ball in the scrum. The two props provide support to the hooker during scrums.
  • The second row consists of two locks; these are usually the tallest players in the team and specialize as lineout jumpers.
  • The back row, also called loose forwards, is the third row of the forward position. It consists of 2 flankers namely blindside flanker and open side flanker, and the number 8.  The role of the 2 flankers is to win possession through ‘turnovers’ whereas; the number 8 controls the ball after it has been heeled back from the front of the pack. This position provides a link between the forwards and the backs during attacking phases.
  • The role of the ‘backs’ is to create and convert point-scoring opportunities. Rugby Union Scrum imageThe backs are also divided into three groups, namely, halfbacks, three quarters and full backs. The halfbacks are the first to receive the ball from the scrumhalf following a breakdown, lineout or scrum and also need to be defensive with what actions to take and be effective at communicating with the outside backs. The three quarters’ primary role is to finish off moves and score tries. The fullbacks are dependable for catching skills and a good kicking game, hence they field any opposition kicks and act as the last line of defense.
  • There are 3 match officials, a referee and two assistant referees.

Rules for Rugby Union:

  •  Scoring

One out of the two teams that scores more points wins the game. The points can be scored through:

    • A try

    You can score by grounding the ball in the in-goal area. Each try is worth 5Scoring try image points and a subsequent conversion kick scores 2 points.

    • A drop goal

    A drop goal is also called penalty kick; you can score 3 points for each drop goal.

  • Playing Field
    • The rugby pitch is approximately 144 meters long and 70 meters wide.
    • The goal posts are H-shaped and consist of two poles, 5.6 meters apart, connected by horizontal crossbar 3 meters above the ground.
  • Match  Structure
    • The captains and the referee toss a coin to decide which team will kick off first.
    • Play starts with a drop kick with the players chasing the ball into the opposition’s territory, and the other side trying to retrieve the ball and advance it.
    • If the player with the ball is tackled, a ruck occur.
    • The games are divided into 40-minute halves, with a break in between each halves.
    • Any stoppages in the game do not count as part of the playing time.
    • If the time expires while the ball is in play, the game continues until the ball is “dead” unless the referee awards a penalty or free kick.
  • Passing and kicking
    • Forward passing is not allowed; the ball can be passed laterally or backwards.
    • Kicking it, running with it or within a scrum or maul, can move the ball forward.
    • Only the player with the ball can be tackled.
    • When a player’s arms knock the ball forward, the play is restarted with a scrum.
    • All the players are allowed to kick the ball forward in an attempt to gain territory.
    • If the ball is kicked into touch and bounces back in the field of play, the throw-in is taken where the ball went into touch.
    • If the ball is kicked directly into touch within 22-meter line the lineout is taken by the opposition where the ball went into touch but if the ball crosses the 22-meter line the lineout is taken where the kick was taken.
  • Breakdowns
    • The defending side can stop the player with the ball by either bringing them to ground or by contesting for possession with the ball carrier on their feet.
    • It is illegal to push, shoulder-charge, or to trip a player using feet or legs. However, hands may be used to tackle a player.
  • Set pieces
    • Lineout

    When the ball leaves the field, a lineout is awarded against the team that last touched the ball. A player throws the ball from the touchline down the center of the lines of forwards.

    • Scrum

    A scrum is a way of restarting the game safely and fairly after a minor infringement; it is awarded when the ball has been knocked or passed forward.

Australian Competitions, Tournaments and Tours

International Tournaments

  • Rugby World CupThe Wallabies Image
  • Bledisloe Cup
  • Tri Nations Series and the Rugby Championship
  • Ballymore Cup
  • End of the Year Tests

Domestic Tournaments

  • Super Rugby
  • Australian Rugby Championship
  • Club

Australian Rugby Union Team

FxPro Super Rugby Teams

  • Brumbies
  • Force
  • Rebels
  • Reds
  • Waratahs

Premier Rugby Teams

  • ACT
  • NSW
  • Queensland
  • Western Australia

<< Go back to Sports Page