The Laws of the Game

As a new feature on the website once a week we will bring you the Laws of the Game. The first article gives an overview of the game of rugby union

Kath McCarthy | 21/03/2006

As a new feature on the website once a week we will bring you the Laws of the Game. The first article gives an overview of the game of rugby union.

Object of the Game
The Object of the Game is that two teams, each of fifteen players, observing fair play, according to the Laws and in a sporting spirit should, by carrying, passing, kicking and grounding the ball, score as many points as possible.

Contest and Continuity
The contest for possession of the ball is one of rugby’s key features. These contests occur throughout the game and in a number of different forms:
In contact
In general play
When play is re-started at scrums, line-outs and kick-offs.
The contests are balanced in such a way as to reward superior skills displayed in the preceding action. For example, a team forced to kick for touch because of its inability to maintain the play, is denied the throw-in to the line-out. Similarly, the team knocking the ball on or passing the ball forward is denied the throw-in at the subsequent scrum. The advantage then must always lie with the team throwing the ball in, although, here again, it is important that these areas of play can be fairly contested.

It is the aim of the team in possession to maintain continuity by denying the opposition the ball and, by skilful means, to advance and score points. Failure to do this will mean the surrendering of possession to the opposition either as a result of shortcomings on the part of the team in possession or because of the quality of the opposition defence. Contest and continuity, profit and loss. As one team attempts to maintain continuity of possession, the opposing team strives to contest for possession. This provides the essential balance between continuity of play and continuity of possession. This balance of contestability and continuity applies to both set piece and general play.

Principles of the Laws
The principles upon which the laws of the game are based are:

A Sport For All
The laws provide players of different physiques, skills, genders and ages with the opportunity to participate at their levels of ability in a controlled, competitive and enjoyable environment. It is incumbent upon all who play rugby to have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the Laws of the game.

Maintaining The Identity
The laws ensure that rugby’s distinctive features are maintained through scrums, line outs, mauls, rucks, kick offs and re-starts. Also the key feature relating to contest and continuity – the backward pass, the offensive tackle.

Enjoyment and Entertainment
The laws provide the framework for a game that is both enjoyable to play and entertaining to watch. If, on occasions, these objectives appear to be incompatible, enjoyment and entertainment are enhanced by enabling the players to give full rein to their skills. To achieve the correct balance, the laws are constantly under review.

There is an over-riding obligation on the players to observe the laws and to respect the principles of fair play. The laws must be applied in such a way as to ensure that the game is played according to the principles of play. The referee and his touch judges can achieve this through fairness, consistency, sensitivity and, at the highest level, management. In return, it is the responsibility of coaches, captains and players to respect the authority of the match officials.

The object of the game is that two teams of fifteen or seven players each, observing fair play according to the laws and sporting spirit, should by carrying, passing, kicking and grounding the ball, score as many points as possible, the team scoring the greater number of points being the winner of the match.

It is the duty of the referee to apply fairly all the laws of the game in every match except when an experimental law variation (EVL) has been authorised by the IRB Council. It is the duty of the unions to ensure that the game at every level is conducted in accordance with disciplined and sporting behaviour. This principle cannot be upheld solely by the referee; its observance also rests on unions, affiliated bodies and clubs.

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