Rugby: A Beginner’s Guide

Saturday 15 March 2014 by

If you don’t already know from my Twitter, I am a massive rugby fan. And with the final England game of this year’s Six Nations later today, I am all a tingly with anticipation. Firstly, I apologise for calling England “we” from here on in, it’s habit… and secondly, we’re (sort of) in with a chance of winning the championship. Okay, when I say a chance… we have to beat Italy by around 50 points and Ireland need to lose to France tomorrow for us to win.

Anyway. I tried to explain the rules of rugby to a complete beginner this week, as I was wittering on about it and realised I was just getting a blank look in return. So, if you’re a complete rugby novice, here are the top five things to remember…

1.       The points system is a bit different

As with any sport, they have their own points system. Rugby (and we’re talking about Union here, not League) scores on the following:

  • 5 points: a try. This is where they place the ball over the try line
  • 3 points: a penalty. A kick over the uprights if the other team is being penalised for an infringement
  • 3 points: a drop goal. A kick over the uprights in play
  • 2 points: a conversion. A kick over the uprights following a try – meaning a try could be 5 or 7 points on the board


2.      There are 15 players

I won’t go in to all the positions, but there are 15 of them on the pitch, divided up between forwards and backs, and seven more players on the bench. Each position has a very specific role, so the number on their shirt dictates their actions on the pitch.

3.      They pass the ball backwards

Play does go forward, but the ball must always be passed backwards, behind the “gain” line, and the player runs forward on to the offensive. It sounds a bit weird if you don’t know what I mean, but you’ll get it pretty quickly after a couple of phases of play.

4.      Players can be sent off the pitch for ten minutes

A yellow card isn’t just a warning – it’s a sin bin. The player has to go off the pitch for ten minutes and the team has to continue play with 14 players. It’s a bit more effective than a football yellow card…

5.      It goes well with beer

In 2003, when the world cup was in Australia, the games were inevitably accompanied by bacon and sausage sandwiches (and champagne when England won). When we go to club matches, it is punctuated by the calls of “Carling!” and plastic cups of lukewarm beer and cider. But there is one key thing to remember when you watch the Rugby World Cup when it comes to the UK next year: beer tastes better with rugby.

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