Like most forms of modern football, rugby league football is played outdoors on a rectangular grass field with goals at each end that are to be attacked and defended by two opposing teams. The rules of rugby league have changed significantly over the decades since rugby football split into the league and union codes. This article details the modern form of the game and how it is generally played today, however rules do vary slightly between specific competitions.Typical markings for a rugby league field
A game of rugby league consists of two forty-minute halves, played by two teams on a rectangular grass field of 120 metres in length and 58–68 metres in width depending on the individual ground. In the middle of the field is the 50 metre "halfway" line. Each side of the field, on either side of the 50 metre line, is identical. 10 metres from the 50 metre line is the 40 metre line, followed by the 30, 20, 10 metre and goal or 'try' lines. This makes up 100 metres of field that is used for general play.
At the middle of each goal line is a set of goal posts in the shape of the letter 'H', used for point scoring from kicks (drop goals, penalty goals and conversions). Six to twelve metres beyond each goal-line is the dead ball line. The area between these two lines is called the in-goal area, and varies from field to field.
The dead ball lines and the touch-lines (side lines) make up the boundary of the field of play. If the ball (or any part of the body of a player in possession of the ball) touches the ground on or beyond any of these lines, the ball is said to be dead and play must be restarted.
Players of rugby league all need to be particularly physically fit and tough because of the game's fast pace and the expansive size of the playing-field as well as the inherently rough physical contact involved. Depending on his exact role or position, a player's size, strength and/or speed can provide different advantages (or disadvantages). Effective teamwork is also extremely important as all players must work in concert with each other if they're to be successful.
Mode of play
After a coin toss with the two captains and referee, the winner elects to either kick off or receive the kick off and chooses which end of the field to attack for the first half (the ends changing over after the half-time break).Players chase the ball after a kick-off. They must be behind or in line with the kicker when his foot hits the ball.
Play commences once the ball has been kicked off from the ground in the centre of the field by one team to the other. The longer the kick, the more advantageous, as this forces the team receiving the ball to return it from deeper within their own territory. However a kick that is too long or misdirected and goes out of the field of play without first bouncing in it results in a penalty being awarded to the non-kicking team.
Each team is responsible for defending their end of the field, and they take turns throughout a game at defending and attacking. At half-time (the 40th minute of the game), the teams have a 10-minute break, then swap ends before resuming play.
The team with possession of the football is the team in attack. The primary aim of this team is to 'work' the ball out from their own end of the field, into a more favourable position towards the opposition's end, and score a try by grounding the ball in the opposition's in-goal area or on the goal line. In some circumstances the team in attack may opt to kick a one-point drop goal instead of attempting to score a try. Scoring will at least involve first gaining field position and, in the case of scoring a try, will almost certainly involve breaking the opposition's defensive line.
The objective of the defensive side is to prevent the team in possession from scoring and obtaining their shorter term objectives. The defensive team carries out these objectives by:
- maintaining the defensive line
- providing last-ditch defenders
- preventing a try
Favourable field position is an important aim in rugby league, a goal present in the minds of players at almost all times. Possession of the ball is the primary aim of each team. When in possession the aim is to maintain possession and score by running in packs and trying to minimise ball-handling errors and penalties conceded (which always result in a changeover of possession). When not in possession the aim is to prevent the opposition from scoring, prevent or reduce the incidence of the opposition carrying the ball forward, and ultimately to gain possession of the ball.
Point scoringA player attempting to score a try
There are four ways to score points in rugby league: tries and conversions, penalty goals and drop goals.