Gaston County Rugby Football Club

Rugby 101 for Americans


This document is intended for the novice American Rugby player.  Its purpose is to give athletes who are accustomed to American style gridiron football a 10 minute overview of the game, before participating in their first game.


The pictures and some of the verbiage in this document were taken directly from:

International Rugby Board – Laws of the Game 2013


Written by

Bill Blackett – Level 3 IRB Referee




  • All of the kicking team must be BEHIND the ball.

  • All of the opposing team must be behind the 10 Meter line

  • The ball must go 10 meters or touched by an opposing team member before being played by a member of the kicking team

  • If the ball does not go 10 meters and is not touched by an opposing player, the opposing team gets to choose how to restart the game.



  • Unlike in American Football, play does not stop when the ball carrier is tackled

  • Also unlike American Football, the tackler has to wrap up the ball carrier and take them to ground – it is illegal to knock them down.

  • The ball carrier must immediately release the ball as soon as they are brought to ground

  • In order to ensure their team retains possession of the ball, the ball carrier should place the ball back towards his own team.




  • Immediately after the tackle the ball is contested in a play called a RUCK

  • Much like a front lineman in American football, players go into contact shoulder to shoulder and attempt to push each other off the ball.

  • Players must be on their feet and must not use their hands to touch the ball.

  • They are however encouraged to use their FEET to move the back towards their own team.


Offisides at Ruck


  • At a ruck, the offside line runs through the hindmost foot of the player of the same team. The player in the yellow  jersey on the right hand side is offside

  • Players must enter the ruck at a 90 degree angle from the offsides line.

  • Players must not enter the ruck from the side.  This results in a penalty kick to the other team (that’s very bad).


Line Outs


  • A lineout is how the game is restarted after the ball goes out of bounds

  • The team awarded the lineout dictates how many players are in the lineout.  The opposing team must have the same players or fewer.

Quick Throw In


  • A Quick throw in may occur before a line out is formed in order to catch the other team unprepared

  • In order to stop the other team from doing a quick throw in – at least two of our players must run to the spot where the ball went out of bounds

  • If our team is awarded a lineout, and the other team does not have 2 players at the spot – be prepared for a quick throw in



  • A Scrum is how the game is restarted after an infraction of the rules

  • Those in the Scrum must stay bound together until the ball has come out

  • Those not in the scrum must stay 5 meters back from the hind most foot of their team mate in the scrum

Knock and Throw Forward


  • A “Fumble” in American football is a penalty called a “Knock on” in rugby if the ball goes forward

  • One of the main differences between American Football and Rugby is that there are no forward passes in Rugby

  • In order to prevent knocking the ball on when receiving the ball from a punt: Turn your body sideways


Rugby Positions


Picture from


There are two main groups of players in Rugby:

Forwards (Numbers 1 thru 9)

Backs (Numbers 10 thru 15)

  • Forwards: follow the ball wherever it goes, and participate in Scrums and Lineouts.  It is the Forwards job to constantly fight for the ball.

  • Backs: Are positioned by the Fly Half.  It is the Backs job to get the ball out to the flanks and score.