15s Rugby

For a comprehensive guide to rugby, be sure to check out the IRB's "A Beginner's Guide to Rugby Union"

The online guide features:

The basics of Rugby

How the Game is played

Interactive content with online quiz

Examples with diagrams, pictures, and videos


Rugby originated out of a variant of football (soccer) in the English School of Rugby that allowed participants to use their hands. Rugby folklore has it that William Webb Ellis first picked up the ball and ran with it. From there, the game spread through the UK, and as a result of colonialism, around the globe, becoming one of the world's most participated sports. 

Steeped in history and tradition, Rugby believes very much in the founding principles of the game that still remain at its core today. Rugby embraces a number of social and emotional concepts such as courage, loyalty, sportsmanship, discipline, and teamwork. This is outlined in the Player Charter of the Game

Rugby has four main principles of which is played and laws are based off of:

1) Conduct

At first glance it is difficult to find the guiding principles behind a game that to the casual observer appears to be a mass of contradictions. It is perfectly acceptable, for example, to be seen to be exerting extreme physical pressure on an opponent in an attempt to gain possession of the ball, but not wilfully or maliciously to inflict injury.

These are the boundaries within which players and referees must operate, and it is the capacity to make this fine distinction, combined with control and discipline, both individual and collective, upon which the code of conduct depends.

2) Spirit

Rugby owes much of its appeal to the fact that it is played both to the letter and within the Spirit of the Laws. The responsibility for ensuring that this happens lies not with one individual - it involves coaches, captains, players and referees.

It is through discipline, control, and mutual respect that the Spirit of the Game flourishes and, in the context of a Game as physically challenging as Rugby, these are the qualities which forge the fellowship and sense of fair play so essential to the Game’s ongoing success and survival. 

Old fashioned traditions and virtues they may be, but they have stood the test of time and, at all levels at which the Game is played, they remain as important to Rugby’s future as they have been throughout its long and distinguished past. The principles of Rugby are the fundamental elements upon which the Game is based and they enable participants to immediately identify the Game’s character and what makes it distinctive as a sport.

3) Object 

The object of the Game is that two teams, each of 15 players, observing fair play, according to the Laws and in a sporting spirit should, by carrying, passing, kicking and grounding the ball, score as many points as possible. 

Rugby is played by men and women and by boys and girls world wide. More than three million people aged from 6-60 regularly participate in the playing of the Game.

4) Contest and Continuity

The contest for possession of the ball is one of Rugby’s key features. These contests occur throughout the Game and in a number of different forms: 

• in contact
• in general play
• when play is re-started at scrums, lineouts and kick-offs.

The contests are balanced in such a way as to reward superior skill displayed in the preceding action. For example, a team forced to kick for touch because of its inability to maintain the play, is denied the throw-in to the lineout. Similarly, the team knocking the ball on or passing the ball forward is denied the throw-in at the subsequent scrum. The advantage then must always lie with the team throwing the ball in, although, here again, it is important that these areas of play can be fairly contested.

It is the aim of the team in possession to maintain continuity by denying the opposition the ball and, by skillful means, to advance and score points. Failure to do this will mean the surrendering of possession to the opposition either as a result of shortcomings on the part of the team in possession or because of the quality of the opposition defence. Contest and continuity, profit and loss.

As one team attempts to maintain continuity of possession, the opposing team strives to contest for possession. This provides the essential balance between continuity of play and continuity of possession. This balance of contestability and continuity applies to both set piece and general play.

Click here for a more thorough look at the IRB's Laws of Rugby. 

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