What is Rugby?

Images of PGR players at the Spring 2022 Nationals tournament at Notre Dame College, featured on The Rugby Breakdown Instagram page.

Rugby - The sport with a role for everyone

Here in the USA, rugby is a sport that many people have not encountered or have only heard of tangentially. If you are not familiar with our sport, don't worry! All are welcome. 

Rugby is a contact sport that can played with a variety of team sizes. There are leagues that play with 15 players per team on the field, 13, 10, 7, etc. Penn HS Girls Rugby, like many other teams in the USA, plays both a 15s season and a 7s season. Our 7s season is in fall (Aug-Oct), and our 15s season is in spring (Jan-May).

In rugby, the ball must be passed backwards at all times. The only forward movement of the ball that takes place is when a player runs forward with the ball, or if the ball is kicked. When a player is tackled, players from both teams form what is called a "ruck" over the tackled player to fight for possession of the ball. The ball is then passed from the ground under the ruck to either a line of "back" players, who continue passing the ball to the outside of the field where the Centers or Wing attempt to run around the defense to score, or to a small pod of "forwards," who crash into the defense to drive them back and attempt to break through the defensive line.

When penalties take place, the opposing teams are either called to form a "scrum" or the offending team is ordered to fall back 10 meters from where the referee directs.

For both seasons, we play on pitch with a 7,208-10,080 square meter playing area.

Image from Harrod Sport page "A Guide to Rugby Pitch Dimensions, Sizes and Markings: Everything you ever needed to know" Rugby Pitch Dimensions & Markings | Harrod Sport 

Since rugby is a less known sport in the USA, it can take some time to familiarize yourself with the rules, strategies, and gameplay involved. What we recommend if you are new to rugby is to just watch as much rugby as you can. Women's rugby and Men's rugby are played with all the same laws, equipment, and positions, but gameplay and strategy may look a bit different. If you are a parent or player for girls' rugby, we recommend watching primarily professional women's rugby. Full length women's rugby games from high school, collegiate, club, and professional leagues can all be found on YouTube and similar websites.

Common Terms and Phrases in Rugby

Some Laws, Specifics, and Helpful Information

In our spring seasons, we include classroom time for the players each week to learn the rules and strategies of rugby. The button below links to our Spring 2022 slideshow on the 15s team positions and substitution laws, as well as the laws for scoring and on/offsides. Laws for scoring are universal, but the 7s positions and substitutions are reduced to accommodate fewer players on the field. While most laws are the same for both 15s and 7s, the strategies for each can differ greatly. In High School, 15s games can have anywhere from 20–30-minute halves, while 7s games only have 7-minute halves.


Set-Pieces, Tackling, and Rucks

There are several types of contact in rugby. The most well-known is, of course, tackling. Tackling in rugby has specific guidelines and forms in order to be most effective and safe. Rugby Indiana describes "Rugby Form" with the following conditions: 

All rugby plays take place with that form as the baseline.