US ASSOCIATION OF RUGBY LEAGUE OFFICIAL

The Rules of Rugby League

There are multiple codes of Rugby for both club and international

Rugby League, which severed from Rugby Union in the 1800s and is the code played by the USARL. Rugby Union, which most of the USA refers to as Rugby along with Rugby Sevens (Also knows as Sevens) recently made popular at the Olympics.  Although Rugby League and Union are similar, it is easier to equate League into American Football terms due to the use of defined plays that are grouped into sets of 6 tackles (Set of 6 Downs), and each play starting with a “play the ball” (Snap). To save you the confusion of the unfortunate “names” of our sport. We suggest you think about LEAGUE as the 13 player code or Rugby XIIIs, UNION as the 15 player code and Rugby Sevens with 7 players a side. 

DOWNLOAD RUGBY LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL LAWS OF THE GAME 

DOWNLOAD USARL 2017 RULES & REGULATIONS

OBJECTIVE OF RUGBY LEAGUE

OBJECTIVE OF RUGBY LEAGUE

Score more points than your opponents

A Rugby League match lasts for 80 minutes (two 40 minute halves). Timekeepers monitor this and sound a siren or hooter as a signal to the ref when the game is over

You score tries (worth four points) by touching the ball down over your opponent’s try line. You can convert that to six by kicking a goal. The other means of scoring are a penalty goal (also worth two points) and a drop goal (worth one point)

MORE + CLOSE -
THE TEAMS

THE TEAMS

Rugby League has 13 (XIII) players on the field

Players do not leave the field at change of possession; therefore all players play both offense and defense. Although each player has a “position” you can refer to each player as a forward or a back. Forwards are usually the bigger guys that pound the ball much like a running back, while the backs are used in more set plays, like receivers in diverse wildcat formations with multiple passes of the ball. While most players play the entire 80 minutes, substitutions are made throughout the game for various reasons, such as injury, fatigue, or strategy.

There are two teams of 13 players with four reserves on the interchange bench. Each team can make a maximum of 12 changes involving any combination of players. Rugby League players have to be multi-skilled but some players do focus on roles within their teams including carrying the ball into the opposition line (forwards), attacking on the fringes (backs) and distributing the ball (hooker and half backs). All players work together in their team’s defensive formation.

 

MORE + CLOSE -
THE GAME OF RUGBY LEAGUE

THE GAME OF RUGBY LEAGUE

Controlled possession wins games

Like American football, the game is started with a kick-off. The team with possession then has 6 tackles (downs) to score.  Providing they do not lose the ball or commit a rule infraction, most sets of tackles will be used with 5 plays being run and then a kick on the 6th play for better field position. This is referred to as a “completion” of the set. 

Unlike football, the ball must be passed either laterally or backwards at all times. A forward pass is an infraction that will result in a penalty to the other team if deemed deliberate, or a scrum if deemed accidental. You also cannot “Block” other players, so defensive players have unrestricted access to the ball carrier. It is essentially 13 players who must be running backs in offense, and linebackers in defense, and they play no huddle, hurry up offense for the entire game.

 

MORE + CLOSE -
THE OFFENSE

THE OFFENSE

Quick plays force defenses to run more

After each tackle (or Down) on offense, the ball carrier must get to his feet as quickly as possible and “play the ball” (Snap) by putting the ball on the ground and rolling it back with one foot. He essentially becomes the “Center” for that play. The person who picks the ball up from the “play the ball” (Snap) is essentially the Quarterback for that play. We refer to this action as being the “Dummy Half” or “Acting Half”, usually filled by the “Hooker” for most plays, but can be any player in offense.

The Dummy Half picks up the ball and either runs (Quarterback Sneak) or passes the ball (hand off) to start the next play. Once the ball is picked up, the defense can advance. If the team has not scored after five plays (Downs), they usually kick for field position if far from their try line (end zone), or as a final attacking play if they are close to the try line.  Offense players are eligible to gather the kicked ball if they are behind the kicker at the time of the kick (on side), and advance until tackled or a try is scored.  If they are tackled on the 6th Tackle the ball possession is turned over to the other team.

MORE + CLOSE -
THE DEFENSE

THE DEFENSE

players must stay 10 yards back from the “play the ball”

Two defenders are allowed line up directly in front of the tackled player, in the “Marker” position (similar to two defensive linemen) but they must stand “in-line” with the two offensive players during the “play the ball.” The “Marker Role” is typically filled by any player(s) who have been involved in the tackle.

Once the ball has been played, these “Markers” may move and attempt to tackle the Dummy Half (quarterback) or the next ball carrier. The remaining defensive players must stay 10 yards back from the “play the ball” (line of scrimmage), until the ball has been picked up from the “Dummy Half” position. They can only move forward from that line once the “play the ball” occurs.  The Forwards usually stay close to the “play the ball” area as they use their physical size to counteract the momentum of the offensive forwards.  Meanwhile, the Backs line up wider to counteract the speed and evasive moves performed by the offensive Backs (similar to keeping your linemen near the play to cover a running back and putting your defensive backs wider to cover speed and skill from a wide receiver or tight end).

 

MORE + CLOSE -
TACKLING

TACKLING

stopping the team with the ball from gaining ground

They can be spectacular, they can be boring, but the tackle plays a huge part in rugby league. It's the only legal way of stopping the team with the ball from gaining ground. There are certain laws which you must follow:

  • You can only tackle a player with the ball.

  • You cannot make contact with the head in the tackle, only from the chest downwards

  • You cannot hold the player down who you've tackled to deliberately stop them from playing the ball

  • Once the tackle has been made, it is illegal to try and move the player from the point where the tackle was made

  • Once a player has gone to ground, the tackler is not allowed to steal the ball

If you don't follow these laws, you are likely to give away needless penalties. Take care not to make any head-high tackles because they are dangerous. The referee, depending on how serious the tackle is, will show a yellow card or worse, a red. If a player is in mid-air attempting to catch a high kick, they cannot be tackled until they are back on the ground.

This is for safety reasons. Also, a player cannot take a voluntarily tackle - that is go to ground without being held by an opponent

MORE + CLOSE -
PASSING THE BALL

PASSING THE BALL

The ball must travel backwards unless kicked

There are few sports where the ball can only travel backwards. Rugby league is one of those, meaning the ball cannot be passed forwards at anytime. That even includes accidentally knocking the ball forwards with your hands or arm when you fumble the ball. 

So if the ball is knocked on forwards, the referee will stop play and award a scrum to the other team. However, the ball can travel forwards if a player is charging down a kick. If the referee sees a pass that goes forwards instead of backwards, they will blow up and call a scrum at the place where the pass was made. The opposition will have the advantage - the feed - at the scrum.

MORE + CLOSE -
OBJECTIVE DURING PLAY

OBJECTIVE DURING PLAY

completing “Sets of 6 Downs” is key in offense

A tackle is only effected when the player is secured on the ground (effectively held), or being dominated with backward momentum. With defense having to advance and retreat 10 yards for every play (down) to be “on side”, the advantage for the ball carrier is to land on his front during the tackle so he can quickly get to his feet and “play the ball” (snap) in an effort to create less organized defense, and tire them with constant movement. Defense counters by trying to get the tackled player on his back (Turtle him) so that he is slowed down with the “play the ball”(snap) and gives the defensive line more time to organize. This constant battle in every tackle is tough on all players, and basic wrestling technique is part of weekly preparation. Defense is exhausting, so completing “Sets of 6 Downs” is key in offense, as it is a players only chance to recover during the game. A combination of designed plays in each “Set”, targeting specific parts of the field with ball movement, and strategic kicks are used to maximize offensive advantage and tire defenses as much as possible.

The average set of plays (6 downs) should be completed in no more than 90 seconds. Defense can counter with dominant tackling that puts ball carriers on their back and makes them have to fight to gain their feet, that slows the “play the ball” (snap) and tires them during offense. As a rule, there should be some amount of discomfort for the ball carrier during every tackle, and he should have to fight from being flipped onto his back. The play ends when the referee verbally states the play is over, usually by yelling “Held” or stating the actual tackle number (down).

 

MORE + CLOSE -
SCORING

SCORING

Try or Conversion earns points

Try (touchdown) = 4 points, occurs when a player touches the ball to the ground inside the try zone (end zone); merely breaking the try zone plane with the ball does not count.

Conversion (extra points) = 2 points, occurs when the ball is kicked between the goal posts after a try. The kick, by an accomplished kicker, must be taken with the ball placed on the ground (place kick) directly back from the point where the try was awarded. For this reason, it’s an advantage for the Try Scorer to place the ball as close to the goal posts as possible before being tackled.

Drop Goal = 1 point, can be taken at anytime during regular play. The ball is first dropped to the ground on its point and kicked simultaneously (drop kicked) between the goal posts.

Penalty Kicks = 2 points, occurs when certain fouls allow for a “kick at goal” that allows the team to kick for penalty points from the spot of the foul. Teams can also choose to kick the ball “in to touch” (Out of bounds) and restart play with a new set of tackles (downs) at that point for field advantage. This decision is determined based on field position, current score, and other factors that are believed to give the best scoring opportunity.

MORE + CLOSE -
PENALTIES AND INFRACTIONS

PENALTIES AND INFRACTIONS

infractions can be broken 2 categories

Unintentional rule infractions, including, but not limited to, a “knock on” (a fumble that causes the ball to go forward and then re-gathered by the offensive team), an accidental “forward pass,” or allowing the ball to travel into touch (out of bounds).  These types of infractions will result in a scrum, which is when the defensive team will be given the “feed” (they put the ball into the scrum) and usually acquire possession.

Deliberate rule infractions, include, but are not limited to, high tackles (those that make contact above the shoulder of the ball carrier), being off side in defense (inside the 10 yards during the play the ball), malicious attacking of another player, and holding a tackled player down longer than allowed. This will result in the team that is awarded the penalty to kick the ball into touch (out of the field of play) for field position and then restart a new set of 6 tackles at that point, or for extra points with a penalty kick at goal.

 

MORE + CLOSE -
RUGBY LEAGUE GLOSSARY

RUGBY LEAGUE GLOSSARY

Learn the lingo and terms first

PLAY THE BALL – (Snap) Similar to a snap in the NFL by initiating play.  When the ball carrier is tackled or stopped from moving forward, he stands up and places the ball on the ground and rolls it back with his foot, so the “dummy half” can pick it up and pass or run with the ball.

40/20 RULE – (Field position kick) A rule that if a player manages to bounce a kick in general play from inside his own 40 yard line, into touch (out of bounds) inside his opponents 20 yard area. This gives the offense possession and 6 more tackles in an attacking position. Kicks that are not 40/20 that go “into touch” (out of bounds) result in the opposing team getting position with scrum feed.

KNOCK-ON – (Fumble) Any time the ball is fumbled forward. Results in a scrum with the defense being awarded the feed.

DUMMY-HALF – (Acting as a Quarterback) Is the offensive action of picking up and distributing the ball after the play has occurred. This is not a permanent position, any player can be the dummy half at any point in the game; however is usually manned by the hooker.

IN TO TOUCH – (Out of Bounds) When the ball or player travels out of bounds it is considered to be in touch.

SCRUM – (Rugby Owns this One) Each team will create a six player triangle, 3 players in front, 2 in the middle, and 1 in the rear, and fight for the ball that is rolled into the middle. There are multiple rules infractions that can result in a scrum.

OFF-LOAD – (Pass/Hand-off) For a player to pass the ball to another.

CHANGE-OVER – (Change of Possession) A change-over is a turn-over.  This is when the attacking side loses possession of the ball.

HEAD AND FEED – (Control of feeding the ball into the scrum) A team is said to have the head and feed of a scrum. The feed refers the action of placing the ball into the scrum.

MORE + CLOSE -
RUGBY LEAGUE VS RUGBY UNION

RUGBY LEAGUE VS RUGBY UNION

13s VS 15s - XIIIS DIFFERENCES EXPLAINED AND MORE

Ninh explains the differences between Rugby League and Rugby Union and a whole lot more. Why are there two different kinds? What is the actual difference? Tune in and learn more!

MORE + CLOSE -
x