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Rugby League Lists



Playing positions
The pitch
Restarting the Game
Tackles and possession
Fouls and misconduct


Objective: The object of the game is to score more points than the opposing team, by getting the ball into the opposing half of the field, and touching it down behind the goal line, or by kicking it through the opposing team's goalposts.

To start the game, a coin is tossed to decide who will kick off. The home captain tosses the coin, and the away captain calls. The winner chooses which end to defend. The loser kicks off.

A game of Rugby League last for 80 minutes, with a five minute interval between the two 40 minute halves.

The kick-off (place-kick) is taken from the centre spot, in the middle of the pitch. The ball must be kicked at least to the opponents 10 metre line. Thereafter, the side which gets possession of the ball must get the ball down to the opposing goal line by running, passing the ball sideways or backwards only, or kicking the ball.


Rules in rugby are sometimes referred to as laws.

The scrummage is often known as the scrum. The word scrummage has been used here as that is the technically correct term, but most people, including broadcasters, say 'scrum'. The word 'scrimmage' can also be used.



There are four ways of scoring in rugby.

Try 4 points
Conversion 2 points
Penalty 2 points
Drop goal 1 point

A try is scored when the ball is touched onto the ground beyond the opponents goal line. The scoring player must be holding the ball with either hands or arms when the ball hits the ground.

The try can also be scored if the player falls on the ball, as long as the scoring player is touching the ball somewhere between the waist and the neck.

A player can be tackled behind the goal line, but if momentum carries them over for the try, the try is valid.

Penalty try

A penalty try can be awarded if the referee decides that a player who was fouled was certain to score a try, and was prevented from doing so by the foul. The penalty try counts as the same number of points as a standard try.

The resulting conversion kick from the penalty try is always taken from in front of the posts, making it easier for the kicker.

If a player is fouled during or just after scoring, the referee may award a penalty, which is taken from in front of the posts, after the conversion.


Every try is followed by a kick at goal, also known as converting the try. The kick is taken at the same position on the field where the ball was grounded for the try. For any type of goal, the ball must be kicked between the upper half of the posts. See diagram for details.

Goal after a try

The diagram shows that the kick is taken from the field, parallel to the point at which the ball was grounded.

Because of this, players will try to ground the ball as centrally as possible, so that the kicker has the best chance of scoring the goal.

When taking the conversion, the kicker can place the ball on the imaginary parallel line extending back from where the ball was grounded. The touch-judges will say where the line is to start, and the kicker can then place the ball.

The defending team may not distract or interfere with the goal-kicker.

Penalty kick

When a team is awarded a penalty kick, they have two options. they can kick the ball from the ground, usually to attempt a shot on goal, or they can kick it into touch.

The rules for the penalty apply in a similar way as for the goal attempt after the try. The penalty kick must be taken at or behind the point of the offence.

If, before the kick, the kicking team commits an offence, a scrummage will be given at the point of the infringement. If the non-kicking team commits an offence, the kick will be moved forward from the point of the incident by 10 metres (11 yards) or 5 metres (16 feet) from the goal line, whichever is nearer.

This includes arguing with the referee, or any kind of verbal of physical obstruction or intimidation. If a goal (drop goal or penalty) is scored during or after an offence being committed by the non-kicking team, that score counts.

The non-offending team do not have to take a kick. They may elect instead to have a scrummage, in which case they may put the ball in.

If a goal is scored from a penalty kick, it is worth two points.

If they decide to kick the ball into touch, it can be kicked from the ground or released from the kicking player's hands and kicked before it hits the ground.

The advantage goes to the kicking side only if the ball bounces on the field before crossing the sideline.

What 'kicking into touch' means is when a player kicks the ball off the field so that when the ball leaves the field, it goes off in the opposing half of the field.

If and when the ball goes into touch, a player from the team with the advantage will re-start play with a tap kick opposite where the ball went out of play.

A tap kick is when the kicker just taps the ball from the foot. The ball can go in any direction, and does not have to go far. Often, the kicker will tap it forward then pick it up to continue play.

If the ball is kicked into touch, but it does not bounce before leaving the field of play, a scrum is formed at the point where the kick was made, with possession going to the non-kicking team.

If the ball bounced off a player, then went into touch, a scrum is formed at the point where the ball hit the player, with possession again going to the non-kicking side.

Drop goal / Field goal

A player may, at any time during open play attempt to drop kick the ball through the goalposts. A successful goal in this manner counts as one point.

A drop goal is when the ball is dropped from the hands, and kicked as soon as it hits the ground.


If the signal for the end of the half or the end of the game is sounded after the award of a penalty, the kick at goal, or tap kick to play for a try, if the team choose to do so, takes place, and if they score, it counts. In this case, play would end if and when the play was stopped with a completed tackle.

If the ball is kicked over the crossbar, but is blown back by wind or other occurrence, it does not matter. As long as the ball has completely gone over the crossbar, the goal stands.

The pitch for Rugby League

Pitch dimensions

The pitch for Rugby League.

Restarting the Game

Other ways the game is re-started

The game is sometimes re-started with a drop kick from under the posts. These are the reasons why this could happen. They are all to do with the in-goal area.

- If a player kicks a loose ball (a ball not is possession) over the dead-ball line.

- If a player touches down the loose ball in their own in-goal area
(for example, to prevent an opposing player from doing the same and scoring a try).

- If a defender infringes or is tackled in the in-goal area.

For all the above, play is re-started with a drop kick from under the posts.

- If an attacker infringes in the in-goal area, or is the last to touch the ball before it goes over the dead-ball or touch-in-goal line, the defending side can kick off with a place kick at their 22 metre line.

- If the ball goes dead after an unsuccessful goal-kick, the defending side can re-start play with a drop kick from the centre of the 22 metre line.

- If a player catches a kick in the in-goal area, that player (if attacking) will either ground the ball for a try, or if defending, will go forward with it. For safety, attacking players cannot tackle any player who has made a fair catch in the in-goal area. Instead, play is re-started with a tap kick from the 22 metre line, to the defending team.

- If a player catches a ball with one or both feet on the touch-line, the ball is considered out of play, as the line markings are not considered as part of the playing area. If the player had caught the ball on the dead-ball line after it was kicked during open play, the defending team would re-start play with a place-kick on the 22 metre line. The same applies if the attacking team kick the ball dead to behind the opposing line.

Tackles and possession

Usually the player who takes the kick-off will kick across the field to one of the wings. The opposing team's forwards try to stand where the ball will land, while the kicking team's forwards rush forward to try and get the ball themselves, or to prevent the receiving players from beginning an attack.

If this is sounding confusing, click here to see where players stand and what they do.

When a player has possession of the ball, they will attempt to run forward. The ball can be passed at any time. It must be passed backwards only. If a player passes forward deliberately, the referee may award a penalty to the opposing side.

The ball carrier may be tackled by opposing players. The tackle looks like a hold around the waist to pull that person down. But there are certain rules concerning tackling.

- Only the ball carrier can be tackled.

- A tackle must be made below the head.

- The ball carrier must not be tripped.

- No foul tactics, such as punching, can be used to tackle.

When a player is tackled, there will be a play-the-ball to restart play. This means that the player who was tackled will stand up and pass the ball backwards, between their legs, to a team-mate behind them, and play continues from there.

If there is any doubt or confusion about the tackle, the referee will call 'Held' to say that the tackle has been completed. When this happens, all defensive players must be at least 5 metres (16 feet) away, except for one defensive player.

The attacker places the ball on the ground, and drags it back with the foot to a team-mate known as the 'acting half-back'. The defender may attempt to hook the ball as soon as it touches the ground.

If the same team have the ball in five consecutive (one after the other) play-the-ball situations, they have a choice. If they are tackled one more time, possession automatically reverts to the opposing team. This is called a hand-over. If they feel they can avoid the tackle, they can play on.

When possession changes with a hand-over, play is re-started with a play-the-ball by the team who got possession. This does not count as one of their 'allowance' of five.

When a team is on their fifth tackle, the referee raises a hand and says 'Last'. That team then know to make their decision quickly.

The other option they have is to kick the ball upfield, into the opponent's half. This pushes the opposing team into their own half, but is also likely to give them possession.

Obviously, players will try to avoid being tackled. They can run in all directions, and of course, pass the ball around to try an exploit gaps in the defensive lines. All players can go anywhere on the pitch, and all can score tries and goals.

Fouls and misconduct

For technical offences, the referee will award a scrummage to re-start the game. Six forwards group together, as do the front row of the opposing team. The heads interlock and the ball is put into the middle of the scrum.

Scrum positions

This diagram shows the formation of players on one side of the scrum.

The object here is for each team to try and push each other off the ball. The ball is put in between them, and once one team had been pushed back enough, the hooker (number 9) can 'hook' the ball with the foot and get it back through the scrum, for one of the back players to pick up and continue play with.

Points cannot be scored in a scrummage. The ball cannot be pushed over the goal line to score a try, although it can be picked up and run around or through the scrum for the try.

Scrum advantage

The diagram shows who has advantage at the scrum. The arrow is the direction of play, and the blue team the non-offending team. Player A, the scrum-half, puts the ball in. The non-offending team will have their heads on the outside (closest to the ball). The yellow dot shows where the referee would stand.

All player not involved in the scrum must be at least 5 metres (16 feet) away from the pack, until the ball has emerged.


Like many sports, Rugby League has an offside rule.

- In a play-the-ball situation, like after a completed tackle, the defending side must be at least 5 metres (16 feet) away, or they are offside.

- A player is also offside if they interfere with play while in front of the ball . Being in front of the ball means if they are closer to the opposing end of the field than the ball. Player can be in that position as long as they do not take part in play until they are back onside.

Offside in a play-the-ball situation

At the play-the-ball, the referee will move the defensive player 5 metres (16 feet) back from the tackled player. If they come forward, a penalty is awarded.

If the ball is kicked downfield, and players on the kicking side reach the player who catches it before the other non-kicking players get there, they can be offside. They have to let the catching player either run 5 metres (16 feet) without interference.

If the player catching the ball does not hold it, and a team-mate gets it without first getting behind the player who dropped it, the player who recovered the ball would be offside.

Essentially, a player must be between their own goal-line and a team-mate to receive the ball and stay onside. If the referee deems the offside to be accidental, a scrummage is given, with possession going to the non-offending team. If the referee deems the offside to be deliberate, a penalty is usually awarded.

Bad behaviour, misconduct

There are ten offences which a referee can penalize a player for committing.

All of the following are likely to incur a penalty against the team. The offending player could be sent to the sin bin for five or ten minutes, leaving the team short of players. Players can also be sent off completely, and then take no further part in the game. If this happens, the team continues with one less player.

- Tripping another player or striking another player.

- Tackling around the head.

- Dropping the knees on a player who is on the ground.

- Using a dangerous throw in a tackle.

- Deliberately breaking the Laws of the Game.

- Using offensive language.

- Disputing the decision of the referee or touch-judges.

- Re-entering the field of play after an absence without gaining prior permission of the relevant official, in this case the referee or touch-judge.

- Behaving against the spirit of the game.

- Deliberately obstructing an opponent who is not is possession.


The referee may allow to play to continue, even after an infringement of the Laws, if it is deemed that the non-offending team could gain or maintain advantage by continuing to play. If there are points scored while playing advantage, they do count.

However, the offending player or team can still be penalized after the run of play ends.

Differential penalty

These are given for scrum offences. The difference is that the team who are awarded the penalty do not have the option of kicking at goal. To re-start the game, the non-offending team has to kick the ball into touch, or take a tap kick.

Kicking the ball into touch from a penalty is called a free kick. The ball can be kicked in any direction, but no score can be made from this.

A normal penalty may be awarded instead, for foul play and offside. The referee will make the decision.


This happens if a player is deemed to have deliberately knocked the ball or passed it forward, by hitting the ball with a hand or an arm and it goes on the ground.

If a player tries to catch a ball and misses, they must re-gather it before it hits the ground (or a goal post or crossbar), otherwise a scrummage will be awarded to the opposing team, with them having the possession.

Charging down an opponent's kick (running into it and using your body to block the ball) does not count as a knock-on.

A player can prevent a knock-on by gathering the ball after it hits another player's body, if they catch it before it hits the ground. Also, if it bounces of a part of the body other than the arms or hands, the ball is good, and can be played.

If a defensive player charges the ball down and the attacking player re-gathers it, the tackle count is set back, if necessary, to the attacking team. If the defender had got possession of the ball, play would continue.

If a player knocks a ball forward, and an opponent prevents them from retrieving it, the knock-on would not count, as there would have been an obstruction. In this case, the team whose player did not do the obstructing would receive a penalty.


The only time the game is stopped is when a player in possession infringes a law, or after foul play, or an injury.

The time taken to remove players from the field, make decisions on penalties, and so on, will be added on to the game at the end of the half.

Teams switch halves (change the direction they are aiming for) in the second half.

Playing positions:

The shirt numbers are as follows.


1 Full-back
The full back is the main defender, who must be capable of tackling and kicking well, to both stop attacks and clear the ball.

2 Right wing
Open the game up along the right side of the field (right wing) by running and attempting to score tries. Also spreads across the back to provide defence.

3 Centre three quarter
Attacking players, the centre three quarters run along the middle, and work with the wingers and stand-off half in driving the ball forwards.

4 Centre three quarter
See above.

5 Left wing
Open the game up along the left side of the field (left wing) by running and attempting to score tries. Also spreads across the back to provide defence.

6 Stand-off half
Controls the ball supply to the backs, and makes the decision how and when to attack through the wing three-quarters.


7 Scrum-half
The scrum half is the player who puts the ball into the scrum and runs around to collect it via the hooker.

8 Open-side prop
The two props are usually the two biggest, strongest, heaviest players in the side. Their strength is used in the overall force of the pack when the scrums are pushing. They may not need to even touch the ball during a scrum, their size itself being the main factor.

9 Hooker
The hooker is the player at the front-middle in the scrum and 'hooks' the ball, passing it back to players behind.

10 Blind-side prop
The two props are usually the two biggest, strongest, heaviest players in the side. Their strength is used in the overall force of the pack when the scrums are pushing. They may not need to even touch the ball during a scrum, their size itself being the main factor.

11 Second-row forward
Mobile, active players who make a lot of runs and do a lot of tackling, and often set the pace of the game.

12 Second-row forward
See above.

13 Loose forward
One of the first players away after the scrum, will provide support for the scrum-half and the backs.


For professional games, there will be one referee and two touch-judges, one at each side of the field. The referee is on the pitch, following the action around, and has ultimate control over all players and the two touch-judges.

The referee is responsible for awarding tries or goals, although the touch-judges have flags that they raise to indicate the score has been made. The referee can also suspend play for any reason, and can send players off the field for minutes at a time or for the entire game.

The referee will sound the whistle in six instances.

- A try has been scored.

- The ball has gone out of play.

- An infringement of the Laws (except where advantage applies).

- If the ball or a player comes into contact irregularly with the referee, a touch-judge, someone not officially connected with the game, or an object on the pitch.

- When anything not covered in the Laws happens, and one team get an unfair advantage.

- When a stoppage is necessary for any reason.

The referee cannot change a decision once it has been made, even if they themselves have made it. The only exception is when a touch-judge reports something that the referee missed before making the decision.

The touch-judges do what their name suggests, they keep a watch along the side-lines, and assist the referee in making decisions.


The pitch

Rugby League is played on a grass surface. The in-goal areas are between 6 and 11 metres (19 to 37 feet) long. See the diagram above for more details.

The ball

The ball is oval shaped. The outer casing should be leather or similar material. When dry and clean, the ball should weigh between 380 and 440 grams (13 to 15 and a half ounces), and measure 73 to 75 centimetres (just under to just over 29 inches) at its widest, and also longest, circumference. It should be between 27 and 29 centimetres (just over 10 and a half to 11 and a half inches) long.

The goal posts

Goal posts

The two upright posts are the posts themselves, and the bar that joins the two is called the crossbar. The minimum height of the whole goalpost is 13.1 metres (43 feet). The goal posts are made of wood or tubular metal.

Flag posts

There are flags placed along the edges of the field at the join of the goal-lines and the touch-lines. They are flexible, and are not more than 1.25 metres (4 feet) high.

Rugby League Lists


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