The Rules of Rugby League
History of Rugby League Rules......how they have changed over time
The game shall be played by two teams of 13 players, with another 4 pre-named players available for six interchanges. The players are numbered 1 to 13 with additional numbers for substitutes. The numbers normally relate to the players position as shown.
- Full back - This player is the last line of defense and must be able to take bombs (high kicks) under pressure.
- Right wing three-quarter (Wing) - The wing is usually the faster player on the field. He usually take the ball after a back line movement and tends to score many tries.
- Right centre three-quarter (Centre) - the centre is usually a quick but solid player who has the ability to break the opositions line.
- Left centre three-quarter (Centre) - see right centre three-quarter
- Left wing three-quarter (Wing) - see right wing three-quarter
- Five-eighth half (Stand off) - the 5/8 is a key player and usually has a good kicking game and ball skills.
- Scrum half - the half back is the play maker around the ruck area. He decides to feed the back line or work with the forwards.
- Prop forward (Prop) - The props are the biggest players on the field and are relied upon to hit the ball up all day and to defend will.
- Hooking forward (Hooker) - the hooking role has changed over the years. It used to be a skill of hooking the ball during the scrum but is now more a defending and dummy-half role.
- Front-row forward (Prop or front-row) - see prop forward
- Second-row forward (Second-row) - the second rower is typically a combination between the props and the lock foward.
- Second-row forward (Second-row) - see above
- Loose forward (known as Lock forward in Australia) - the lock forward is a tought defended who usually tops the tackle count. He is also generally the quickest of the forwards.
A players equipment shall consist of a jersey, shorts, socks and studded boots. Protective clothing may be worn eg. sholder pads, head gear, mouth guard.
The colours of the jerseys worn by the teams shall be easily distinguishable and, if, they are similiar in colour then the away team will wear and alterbative strip (jersey).
The game is played with an oval air-inflated ball, typically made of leather. The dimensions of the ball are approximately 28cm long, 74cm longest circumference, 59cm widest circumferenc and weight 410g.
A try is scored when the ball is grounded in the opponents' in-goal (4 points). Once a try is scored a conversion attempt may be taken to kick the ball over the opponents' cross-bar (2 points). If the referee cannot decide if the try was scored he may consult the his touch judges or give the decision to the video referee (if the game is televised).
If a player is penalised for an infringement a penalty kick for goal may be taken if the penalty is within kicking range of the opponents' goal. This is typically a place kick. (2 points).
If at any time during the game the attacking team is within kicking range of the opponents' goal, a field goal make be taken. This is a drop punt (1 point). A successful field goal to be awarded even if the ball has been touched in flight.
When a kick at goal is being taken, the referee shall assign one touch-judge to each post. If there is no disagreement between the two touch-judges then their decision shall be accepted. In the event of disagreement, the referee will make the final decision.
If a player infringes an opponent who is touching down for a try, a penalty kick at goal shall be taken from in front of the goal-posts after the attempt to convert the try. If the try was not scored because of the infringement then a penalty try can be given. (8 points is both goals are kicked).
After any points are scored the ball shall be deemed dead and play restarted from the half-way line. The game shall be won by the side scoring the greater number of points. If both sides score an equal number of points, or if both sides fail to score, then the game shall be drawn. Finals and important games may go to extra time of 10 minutes each way.
A penalty kick shall be awarded against any player who is guilty of misconduct provided that is not to the disadvantage of the non-offending side. In the event of further misconduct by the offending side, the referee shall advance the mark 10m towards the offending team's goal-line.
A player may take a penalty kick by punting, drop-kicking, or place-kicking the ball from any point on or directly behind the mark (the place where the ingringement occured). The ball can be kicked in any direction (including backwards if the team requires room for a set play near the try line). If the ball is kicked into touch from a penalty kick the game is restarted by placing the ball on the ground 10m infield opposite the point of entry into touch.
Players of the kicker's side must be behind the ball when it is kicke and players of the opposing team shall retire 10m. If the ball is kicked into touch without touching any other player the kicking team shall restart play with a free kick. If a penalty is awarded for an offence by the attacking team in the opponents' in-goal area the mark shall be 5m in the field-of-play opposite to where the offence occurred.
The game is 80 minutes' duration. At half-time there is an interval of 10 minutes. A team defends one in-goal for the first half of the game and then change ends for the second half.
If the ball is in play when time expires , the referee terminates play when next the ball goes out of play or a player in possession is tackled but time shall be extended to allow a penalty kick or a kick at goal to be taken, in which case the half is terminated when next the ball goes out of play or a tackle is effected, unless a further penalty is awarded, in which case time is extended for the kick to be taken.
Time may be called off for periods during the game for extended stopages eg. injuries.
The captains of the two teams shall toss for choice of ends in the presence of the referee. The team of the captain losing the toss shall kick off to start the game. A kick-off is a place-kick from the centre of the half-way line.
The non-scoring side will kick to restart play. If the kicker finds touch, the kicking team will get the loose and feed.
The game will commence with a free kick from the centre of the 20 metre line (ie The ball does not have to be tapped on the ground) if :-
- an attacking player last touches the ball before it goes out of play over the dead-ball-line, or into touch-in-goal except from a penalty kick or from a kick-off from the centre of the half-way line
- an attacking player infringes in the in-goal area. In the event of a deliberate breach by an attacking player a penalty kick is awarded 5m in the field-of-play in line with where the breach was committed
- a defending player, in his in-goal, takes a kick in general play from an opponent on the full.
The game is restarted with a drop-out by a defending player from the centre of his goal-line if
- a defending player last touches the ball before it goes over the dead-ball line or into touch-in-goal
- a defending player accidentally infringes in the in-goal area
- a defending player touches down in the in-goal area.
- a defending player in possession is tackled in the in-goal area.
- a defending player kicks the ball into touch on the full from his own in-goal area.
A player who kicks-off or drops-out shall be penalised if he:
- Advances in front of the appropriate line before kicking the ball.
- Kicks the ball on the full over the touch-line, touch-in-goal line, or over the dead-ball-line.
- Kicks the ball so that it fails to travel at least 10m forward in the field of play.
Any other player shall be penalised if he:
- Wilfully touches the ball from a kick-off or drop-out before it has travelled 10m forward in the field of play.
- Runs in front of one of his own team who is kicking-off or dropping-out.
- Approaches nearer than 10m to the line from which the kick is being taken when an opponent is kicking-off or dropping-out.
The ball is in touch when it or a player in contact with it touches the touch-line or the ground beyond the touch-line or any object on or outside the touch-line. The ball is in touch if a player jumps from touch and while off the ground touches the ball. The ball is not in touch if during flight it crosses the touch-line but is knocked back by a player who is off the ground after jumping from the field-of-play .
If the ball is kicked by, or bounces off, a player and it goes into touch on the full, a scrum is formed where contact with the ball was made.
40/20 Rule : A kick from general play from within a teams own 40 metre zone, which finds touch inside their opponents 20 metre zone, will result in the kickers team receiving the loose and feed at the ensuing scrum.
The ball is in touch-in-goal when it or a player in contact with it touches the touch-in-goal line, or any object on or outside the touch-in-goal lines. When a ball has entered touch or touch-in-goal, the point of entry shall be taken at the point at which the ball first crossed the touch or touch-in-goal.
Knock-on and Forward Pass
A player will be penalised if he deliberately knocks-on or passes forward. Once a knock-on occurs a scum shall be formed. To charge-down a kick is permissible and is not a knock-on.
In all aspects of play, a player who does not deliberately play at the ball (eg ricochet or rebound) will not be disadvantaged by the restart of play.
A player in possession may be tackled by an opposing player or players. It is illegal to tackle or obstruct a player who is not in possession. Once a player in possession has been tackled it is illegal for any player to move or try to move him from the point where the tackle is effected.
A player in possession shall not deliberately and unnecessarily allow himself to be tackled by voluntarily falling to the ground when not held by an opponent. If a tackled player, because of his momentum, slides along the ground, the tackle is deemed to have been effected where the slide ends.
If any doubt arises as to a tackle, the referee should give a verbal instruction to "play-on" or shout "held" as the case may be. If there is more than one tackler, the ball can not be intentionally stolen. In one-on-one tackles, the ball may be stolen.
A zero tackle will be awarded only when possession changes after a breach (eg. knock-on, forward pass). There will be no zero tackle from a kick in general play.
Mid-Air Tackles - A player who is in mid-air while fielding a kick cannot be tackled until he is on the ground.
A team in possession shall be allowed five successive "play-the-balls"; but if tackled a sixth time, the is a hand over. If there is an ingringement on the sixth tackle then there is also a handover.
The tackled player shall be immediately released and shall not be touched until the ball is in play. The tackled player shall without delay regain his feet where he was tackled, lift the ball clear of the ground, face his opponents' goal-line and drop or place the ball on the ground in front of his foremost foot.
A dummy-half stands directly behind his own player taking part in the play-the-ball. The ball must always be played backwards. The marker can not strike for the ball. The defensive side can move forward when ball hits ground rather than when it clears the ruck.
A scrum is formed to restart the game whenever play is not being restarted with a kick-off, a drop- out, a penalty kick or a play-the-ball.
To form a scrum not more than three forwards of either side shall interlock heads and arms and create a clear tunnel at right-angles to the touch-line. Not more than two second-row forwards on each team shall pack behind their respective front-rows by interlocking arms and placing their heads in the two spaces between the hooker and the front-row forwards. The loose(lock) forward of each side shall pack behind his second-row forwards by placing his head in the space between them.
It is permissible for the forwards to push once the scrum has been correctly formed, but if it moves an appreciable distance to the disadvantage of any one team before the ball has been put in, then the referee shall order the scrum to re-form in its original position.
At the scrum the non-offending team shall have the loose head and the put-in. The ball shall be put into the scrum from the referee's side It must be put in the centre of the tunnel formed by opposing front-row forwards. The ball shall not be put in until the scrum has been correctly formed.
When the ball is in the scrum it can only be played with the foot. All scrums will be packed no closer than 20 metres to the touch line.
A player is off-side except when he is in his own in-goal if the ball is kicked, touched or held by one of his own team behind him.
An off-side player shall not take any part in the game or attempt in any way to influence the course of the game. He shall not encroach within 10m of an opponent who is waiting for the ball and shall immediately retire 10m from any opponent who secures possession of the ball.
An off-side player is placed on-side if:
- An opponent moves 10m or more with the ball.
- An opponent touches the ball without retaining it.
- One of his own side kicks or knocks the ball forward and takes up a position in front of him in the field-of-play.
- He retires behind the point where the ball was last touched by one of his own team.
Downtown - Players who are in front of the kicker, can not advance past the point of the previous play-the-ball until the ball has passed the off-side players.
Opposing players shall retire 10m from the 22m line and shall not advance until the ball has been kicked. Defending players shall not advance in front of the ball before it is kicked. Any deliberate offence by either team shall incur a penalty to be awarded at the centre of the 22m line.
A player is guilty of misconduct if he:
- Deliberately trips, kicks or strikes another player.
- Attacks the head of an opponent when effecting a tackle.
- Drops knees first on to an opponent who is on the ground.
- Uses any dangerous tactics when effecting a tackle.
- Deliberately breaks the laws of the game.
- Uses foul or obscene language.
- Disputes a decision of the referee or touch-judge.
- Behaves in any way contrary to the true spirit of the game.
- Deliberately obstructs an opponent who is not in possession.
see how the Rules have changed over time