How to play rugby

The first steps to becoming an All Black

The All Blacks are known for their exciting, fast-paced style of rugby, but when you’re new to the sport it can be very confusing.

You will hear words like “try”, “scrum”, and “line out”, and you’ll see players crashing into one another in tackles, passing the ball backwards, and kicking the ball up, out, and through goal posts.

If you want to know what’s going on, you need to understand the fundamental rules and skills of rugby.

Once you learn the basics you will have a deeper appreciation for the sport. You might even be ready to play your first game.

Essential Rugby Skills

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Line-out

A line-out is used to put the ball back into play after it goes out of bounds. The forwards from each team line up next to one another and the hooker throws the ball in between them. The players can jump or be lifted into the air to compete for the ball.

Australia v New Zealand August 23 2014
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Pass

You can only pass the ball sideways or backwards to another player. Passing the ball forward is not allowed.

Black Ferns v Australia August 17 2019
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Kick

A typical kick in rugby is done by dropping the ball from your hands directly onto your foot. A dropkick is done by bouncing the ball on the ground for a split second before striking it. Kicks are used for a variety of reasons in rugby. You should always kick the ball forward with the intention of getting closer to the opposition’s goal line.

South Africa v New Zealand July 27 2019
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Scrum

A scrum is a formation used to restart play, usually after an accidental infringement. Forwards from each team (numbers 1-8) bind together and push against one another. The scrum-half places the ball in the middle of the scrum and the hookers attempt to get the ball back to their side.

Black Ferns v Australia August 25 2018
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Tackle

Tackling is the primary defensive skill in rugby. The best way to tackle is by keeping an eye on the ball carrier’s hips. Drive your shoulder into their hips or upper legs while positioning your head safely behind or to the side of them. Wrap your arms around them, drive with your legs and tackle them to the ground.

Warwick Talor New Zealand v Fiji May 27 1987

What do you need for a game of rugby?

For most Kiwi kids, a ball and any patch of grass will do.

But an official game of rugby requires two teams of 15 players and a field no bigger than 100 by 70 metres.

There are goal lines and goal posts at each end of the field, as well as touch lines on each side.

The main objective of rugby is to ground the ball over the opposition’s goal line to score a try, which is worth five points. You can score an extra two points by converting a try. This is done by kicking the ball between the goal posts and over the bar.

The other ways to score points are by kicking a penalty goal, awarded when the other team does something illegal, or a dropped goal, which is when a player bounces the ball on the ground before striking it through the posts.

Both of these are worth three points each.

During the game, teams are either on attack, which involves carrying, protecting, passing, kicking, and running with the ball, or defense, which involves tackling and competing for possession of the ball.

“Rugby is an invasion and evasion game. Once possession has been gained, the objective is to move the ball forward, by carrying or kicking, into opposition territory and ultimately score points.” - Peter Harold, NZR

Test your skills against the best

See how your skills compare against players from our Teams in Black or others in your group. Test your rugby talent – passing, line-outs, kicking and the scrum. You can release the energy and excitement in this interactive experience and have fun!

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A Position for Everyone

The good thing about rugby is that there’s a position for people of all sizes and abilities - from the small, fast halfback, to the tall, powerful lock.

If you take the time to master the basic skills of rugby, there’s no reason why you can’t be an All Black or Black Fern in the future.