Many Americans see rugby broadcasts on TV and think its rules are nearly identical to those of American football. In reality, though rugby has a very different ruleset, despite the commonalities of tackling and the ‘touchdown’ style of scoring (called a ‘try’ in rugby). It’s crucial that you learn these rules beforehand if you’re planning on playing rugby for the first time, as many of the them exist for the purpose of keeping players safe. Here are the 5 most important rules to know before you try rugby:
1. Teams Have 15 Players and Up to 7 Substitutes
Rugby is played with 15 players on the field for each side, but teams are also allowed a maximum of seven substitutes to be rotated in when starters feel exhausted or suffer injuries. Even if some of the potential substitutes ride the bench for most of the game, their presence is crucial in the event that a player gets injured.
2. The Off-Side Rule
While rugby also has an off-side rule, ‘off sides’ means something very different than it does in American football. In rugby, a player is off sides if they’re ahead of a teammate who is currently carrying the ball or the teammate that last played the ball.
3. Forward Passes
Rugby players are only allowed to pass the ball to a teammate who is adjacent to them or behind them. Forward passes are illegal in American football as well with the notable exception of the quarterback, a position that doesn’t exist in rugby.
4. There Needs to be One Ref and Two Touch Judges
Referees in rugby are responsible for keeping time, make executive decisions and keep order on the field, while touch judges assist the referee and judge when players are out of touch (out of bounds). Both roles are essential for keeping rugby games as safe and orderly as possible.
5. Foul Play
Foul play is called when a referee or judge decides a player has done something dangerous or unsportsmanlike on the field. Player penalized in this way can be sent to the ‘sin bin’, and forced to sit out for several minutes, or they may be sent off the field completely. It all depends on the severity of their actions and whether or not other players were put in danger.
While these rules don’t encompass the entire ruleset of rugby, knowing at least these five is enough to keep you and the other players safe is you’re playing for the first time. The most important things to remember are to never be ahead of the play on offense, substitute when necessary and avoid reckless play. The last thing anyone wants is for a game that’s supposed to be loads of fun to result in serious injuries to anyone involved.