The Sport of Rugby

This brief overview of rugby will hopefully give you a general idea of the sport. It takes many people years to learn all of the rules and finer aspects of the game. This is intended for a US audience. For a downloadable PDF, click here.

The basics


The main objective in rugby is to score more points than your opponent, and like American football, you score points by carrying a ball into an endzone. But this may be where the similarities end. Here are some of the biggest differences:

1. play is continuous - the game doesn't stop between "plays" - the game doesn't stop when somebody gets tackled. The action keeps going...and going...and going...for 80 minutes. So you better be in shape!
2. everybody plays offense AND defense - possession of the ball can switch between teams in the blink of an eye. You may be the ball carrier one second, and the defender the next. With such dynamic play, not only do you have to be in shape, but you have to be constantly aware and thinking.
3. there is no blocking - this is considered "obstruction" and results in a penalty. So, if you have the ball, don't expect anybody to clear a path for you!
4. there are no forward passes - you may only pass the ball sideways or backwards. the only way you can advance the ball forward is by kicking it.

These key differences, along with many other smaller ones, give rugby a completely different dynamic than American football. Most people who play rugby after American football or soccer find it much more demanding and much more fun.


The different styles of rugby


There are multiple styles of rugby being played around the world.

Rugby Union:
This is currently the primary style of rugby played in the USA. There are 15 players on each team and matches are 80 minutes long (two 40-minute halves). The UGA Rugby team has historically played this since 1967, and currently plays union during the Spring season.

Rugby League:
The main difference between League and Union is what happens when a player gets tackled.
There are other differences, such as number of players (13 vs 15), what are legal tackles are (shoulder charges are illegal in union, but legal in league), what happens when the ball goes out of bounds, how tries are scored, and others. Rugby league is very popular in the southern hemisphere (in Australia and New Zealand, for example).

Sevens Rugby:
This variation of rugby is similar to rugby union in the style of play, but there are only 7 players per team and there are two 7-minute halves in a game. While this may not seem like much time, these games are extremely fast-paced, and arguably more physically demanding because the players are virtually sprinting the entire time. This is the style of rugby which will be played in the Olympics in 2016, and therefore has been gaining coverage on major TV networks (NBC). UGA Rugby also competes in Sevens Rugby during the fall season.


Come out and give it a try!


Hopefully this was enough of an introduction to get you interested in the sport. Come out to a practice or two and see how you like it! And feel free to contact us if you have any questions.