Rugby union goal posts and try line.
The rules of rugby union are defined by World Rugby (originally the International Rugby Football Board, and later International Rugby Board) and dictate how the game should be played. They are enforced by a referee, generally with the help of two assistant referees.
When playing a game of rugby union the overall objective is to score more points than the opposition through tries and goals. A try worth five points is scored when a team grounds the ball in the opposition's in-goal. A conversion (kick at a goal) is then attempted by either place or drop kicking the ball between the H-shaped goal posts and above the crossbar, if successful this is worth two extra points.
Penalties are awarded for major infringements or foul play and the team that receives them can chose to take a shot at goal in an attempt to score three points. They can also use the penalty to kick for territory or tap the ball and continue running it. Three points are awarded if a team member drop kicks a goal during general play.
The game of rugby union evolved from early association football, with the rules of play being agreed upon before the start of each match. Rugby clubs broke away from The Football Association after they left out rules for "running with the ball" and "hacking" when framing their universal code in 1863. The first rugby laws were standardised in 1870 and the International Rugby Football Board (later named the IRB) was formed in 1886. In 1930 the IRFB was made responsible for developing any new laws. These laws have changed over time. The point value for scoring tries has increased from zero to five, penalties were initially worth just two points and drop goals four. The ball has changed too, going from a pig's bladder to a rubber bladder and becoming more oval in shape. Player numbers were initially 20 each side, but reduced to 15 in 1877. The laws are still being tweaked, with some of the biggest recent changes being introduced in 2009.
The game is usually played on a grass field approximately 70 metres (230 ft) by 100 metres (330 ft). At each end of the field are the goal posts and an in-goal area. Games last for eighty minutes and are divided into forty-minute halves. Each team defends one end and attempts to score points through tries and goals. One team kicks the ball towards the opposition starting play. At half time they swap ends, with the other team kicking off. After a successful kick-off the ball is in general play and can be passed, kicked, caught, picked up or grounded by any player. The ball can be kicked in any direction, but must be passed backwards. Players attempt to stop the opposition running the ball by tackling them. Rucks form when at least one player from each team is on their feet and the ball is on the ground. Mauls are formed when the ball carrier is held by at least one of the opposition and a teammate is also bound to them. Players can compete for the ball at tackles, rucks and mauls in accordance with the laws.
Scrums are used to start play after minor infringements (knock-ons and forward passes) and when the ball becomes unplayable. All eight members of the forwards must be involved in the scrum provided the team still has all fifteen players present. Players involved in the scrum stay bound to each other and the opposition until it is finished and the rest, except the scrum-half, must be positioned at least five metres back. The two teams push against each other and the hookers strike for the ball once the scrum half puts the ball into the "tunnel" (gap between the two front rows). The scrum half must put the ball straight down the centre of the tunnel, if the scrum half deliberately puts the ball in at an angle to his second rows feet, (feeding the ball), the opposition are awarded the 'put in'.
Lineouts are used to restart play when the ball has crossed the sidelines. Players form two parallel lines perpendicular to the sideline and the team that did not put the ball out throws it straight down the middle. Players in the lineout can be lifted by teammates as they attempt to win the ball.
HistoryEarly footballs with rubber bladders.
The early rules of football were determined by pupils before the game, with the legality of carrying or running with the ball often agreed shortly before commencement. The first set of written rules were published by pupils at Rugby School in 1845 and while a number of other clubs based their games on these rules there were still many variations played. The Football Association intended to frame a universal code of laws in 1863, but several newspapers published the 1848 Cambridge rules before they were finalised. The Cambridge rules included rules for "running with the ball" and "hacking" (kicking an opponent in the shins) which were not part of the Football Association draft. They decided not to include those rules in their release, causing a number of rugby clubs to break away from the Football Association.
The rules for playing rugby still differed between clubs, so in 1870 twenty one clubs formed the England-based Rugby Football Union (RFU) and standardised the laws of the game. As the game spread internationally disagreements arose over interpretations of the laws. Scotland, Ireland and Wales formed the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB) in 1886, with the RFU joining in 1890. The IRFB oversaw games between the four nations and in 1930 was made responsible for developing any new laws.