Rugby League for Dummies

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

Rugby League is played by two teams on a rectangular field with a length generally double the width.  The in-goal areas, located at each end of the field, are used to score a try.  At the intersection between the field of play and each in-goal area are also a set of goal posts in the shape of an H, used for point scoring via a field goal, penalty goal, or conversion.  The aim is (obviously) to score more points than the other team, and each of the above scores carry different numbers of points.  Tries (touchdowns) are worth four points, Conversions and Penalty goals are worth two points, and a Field goal, also known as a Drop Goal, is worth one point.

Rugby League consists of an attacking team who has possession of the ball, and a defending team (team opposing the attacking team), who must attempt to stop the attacking team from scoring by smashing/tackling them.  In order to score points the attacking team must move up field.  To do this they use a combination of kicking and running head-on into the defensive line to either force back the defense or break the defensive line.  The defending team must devise tactics to limit the effectiveness of the attacking team's ball running and kicking.

In rugby league, the attacking team has six tackles to attempt to score.  The defending team tries to stop the attacking team from scoring by tackling the player with the ball.  When a player is tackled, the entire defending team, with the exception of two markers, must move back 10 meters towards their own in-goal area.  The tackled player must then play the ball.

After each tackle the attacking team is usually closer to the opposition's in-goal area and hence goal posts.  If the attacking team is tackled a sixth time, a change over, also known as a hand over, takes place where the defending team becomes attacking and vice versa..

Starting the Game
The team that wins the coin toss has the choice of which end of the pitch to defend. The losers then ‘kick-off’ from the half-way line. The ball must travel at least 10 metres and bounce in the field of play. If it doesn’t do this the team kicking off will be penalised. Also when a team concedes a score it has to restart with same type of kick from the half-way line.

Every time a player is tackled, all defenders, apart from a maximum of two markers, have to retreat 10 metres from the play-the-ball area. This will be marked by the referee (in other words the defending side retire back to the referee). The defending side may advance when the ball is rolled back by the foot. If they move forward early, or don’t retire far enough back, it’s a penalty.

Six Tackles
A tackle is completed when the ball or the ball-carrying arm of the player has touched the ground and a tackler is touching him. After six tackles the ball must be handed over.

If a player is in front of a teammate who kicks the ball forward, he is offside. He’s back onside if the receiver who gets the ball runs 10 metres, or fumbles the ball, or the kicker overtakes him.

Foul Play
High tackles (contact above the shoulders) are not allowed, and incur a penalty (a kick for goal, a kick to touch followed by a fresh ‘set of six’ tackles, or - if the team wishes – just a ‘set of six’ tackles). Stealing the ball from a player when there is more than one player involved in the tackle, or impeding a man when he hasn’t got the ball is also illegal.

40/20 Rule
If a player standing no more than 40 metres away from his own try line manages to a kick a ball in general play which bounces in the field of play then goes into touch inside his opponents’ 20-metre area, his side gets the head and feed at the scrum, almost certainly giving them possession again and six more tackles in an attacking position.