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Player evades tackle
The school building of the Rugby Public School
Tackle in the rugby Bundesliga
Rugby goal with vertical poles and crossbar

Rugby ( English also rugby football ) belongs to the family of team sports that emerged together with football in England . American football and Canadian football later evolved from rugby. The most common variants are rugby union and rugby league . Rugby Union has established itself as the world's leading rugby sport since its professionalization in the 1990s , even if the low-contact variant of touch rugby is increasingly gaining ground in popular sport and the variant of rugby 7, which has become Olympic, is currently experiencing a development boost.

Basics of the game

Common to all rugby variants is the use of a ball in the form of an elongated ellipsoid of revolution . The aim is to carry or kick the ball past the opponent and thereby score points. This can be done in several ways:

  • Experiment (. Engl try ): An attempt is made, if it succeeds, drop the ball in the opponents' in-goal on the floor.
  • Increase (engl. Conversion ): After a successful test, the attacking team has the right to the resting ball from any point on an imaginary line parallel to the side registration line through the point at which the experiment was set between the H-shaped times Tangen about kicking the crossbar.
  • Flying kick (Engl. Dropkick ): A player kicks the ball, the first touching the ground must, from the current open play between the times Tangen and over the crossbar.
  • Penalty Kick (Engl. Penalty kick ): A successful kick to the times Tangen from a point at which a serious infraction of the opposing team took place.

The ball may only be thrown backwards or passed by hand. When the ball is thrown forward, however, has a crush be executed (Engl. Scrum ). The scrum describes the mutual tying of the players numbered 1 to 8, who then “push around the ball”. You could call it a kind of trial of strength: The players stand in front of each other in a stooped position with their backs straight, with the opponent nested in one another, and try to push the opponent away by pressing together and thus release the ball for their own team.

Kicking the ball is allowed in all directions. Only the player carrying the ball may be attacked. It is allowed to hinder this by clasping and holding down ( tackle ) below the shoulder line and, if possible, to bring it down. A player who touches the ground with more body area than the soles of his feet has to let go of the ball immediately and is no longer allowed to reach for it; if he does not, the opposing team gets the ball. If the player is on the ground, other players from both teams may push and push the ball, but may not use their hands. Hitting and tripping is strictly forbidden when holding down.

The playing attire consists of a sturdy jersey , shorts, knee socks and cleats . Wearing a mouthguard is mandatory. Hard protective clothing is not allowed. However, some players optionally wear a cap made of soft, thinly padded material, which is primarily intended to protect the ears, or a thin, foam-lined shoulder pad under the jersey.

The goal consists of two vertical poles , 5–6 m apart and a cross bar 3 m high. You are in the middle of the goal line . Protective pads are attached to the lower ends of the painting poles to prevent injuries. ( Rugby Union , Rugby 7 and Rugby League ).

Typical game elements rugby are arranged and ruck (engl. Jerk ), the packet (engl. Mouth ), the lane from the side line (engl. Lineout ) and the running and passing the so-called three-quarter row (engl. Three quarters ).


7-a-side rugby international match between Germany and Great Britain (World Games 2005)

Due to its history, rugby is now available in two fundamentally different variants, the most widespread rugby union ( fifteen rugby ) and the less widespread rugby league ( thirteen rugby ).

While the original rugby union sport was played on the pitch with 15 players (per team), there is now a variant in which seven players are on the pitch, 7-a-side rugby . Since the ball is mainly wielded by hand, rugby union can also be played in the sand, which is where beach rugby originated. Variants with twelve and ten rugby players are also possible, but there is no separate set of rules for them, the rules of the 15 rugby union apply . The almost contactless versions Touch Rugby and Tag Rugby, which emerged from the Rugby League, have recently become extremely popular .

Sports that evolved from the original rugby
Modern rugby sports football
  • American Football - Classic form of American football.
    • Arena Football - variant for indoor games with fewer players.
    • Touch Football - Like touch rugby without physical exertion.
  • Canadian Football - With more players and a larger field.
    • Canadian Flag Football - variant without physical effort.
  • Australian Football - Played on an oval field.


See also: History of football (rugby and football history are closely linked)

Francis Cadell : The Rugby Player (probably early 20th century)
German rugby team at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris

Legend has it that rugby was created during a football game in the city ​​of the same name . When William Webb Ellis's team faced defeat in 1823, he grabbed the ball in his hands and put it into the opponent's goal. Although there are reasonable doubts as to the veracity of the story - the ball was previously carried by hand in most variations of the game - the Rugby Union World Cup is named after William Webb Ellis (the Webb Ellis Cup ).

In 1863, the English Football Association (FA) was founded with the aim of standardizing the still diverse football rules . Due to disputes about rule changes, some clubs withdrew from the association and founded on January 26, 1871 with the Rugby Football Union (RFU), a competing association, which gradually standardized the rules of the rugby school in the following years. On March 27th of the same year, the first international match between Scotland and England took place in Edinburgh .

In 1895 there was a further separation, this time within the RFU , due to a dispute over the amateur idea. 21 clubs, mainly from working-class districts in the north of England, split off as the Northern Rugby Union (today Rugby Football League ), established their own rules and allowed the sport to become more professional. The Rugby League variant developed from the changed rules . To this day, both variants of rugby exist side by side. International meetings of national teams are held according to the rules of both rugby union and rugby league. Professional athletes have also been admitted to rugby union since 1995.


Rugby in its various forms is extremely popular , especially in parts of the British Commonwealth and countries in the southern hemisphere . Leading nations are New Zealand , Australia , South Africa and Argentina in the southern hemisphere and France , England , Wales , Ireland , Scotland and Italy in Europe. Rugby is also the national sport in the oceanic countries of Fiji , Samoa and Tonga . In addition to these countries, Japan , the USA , Romania , Namibia , Canada , Georgia and Spain regularly take part in the Rugby Union World Cups and have a distinct rugby culture. The strongholds of rugby league are England, New Zealand and especially Australia.

In German-speaking countries, the term rugby is usually understood to mean rugby union. But there are also efforts in Germany , Austria and Switzerland to build a rugby league culture. Variants such as touch rugby are enjoying growing popularity in schools.

Rugby: Local derby in Bocholt, the smallest German city with two rugby clubs

From 1900 to 1924 rugby union was a discipline of the Olympic Games . On September 9, 2009, the IOC decided to reinstate rugby in 2016, using the rugby 7 format .

Rugby culture

There is a saying in Great Britain: Football is a gentleman's game played by ruffians and rugby is a ruffian's game played by gentlemen ("Football is a gentleman's sport played by bullies and rugby is a gentlemanly brawler ").

In many traditional rugby nations Rugby Union is generally regarded as a sport of the " establishment which is mainly played by the upper class and the upper middle class". It is also the preferred variant in private schools and high schools. In contrast, rugby league is traditionally seen as a sport for the " working class " and the lower middle class , especially in the north of England and east Australia . One exception to these stereotypes is Wales in particular , where rugby union is associated with teams from small villages inhabited by miners and industrial workers. In New Zealand , southern France , parts of southern England, Scotland , Ireland and the Pacific Islands, rugby union is also widespread among the working class.

In Great Britain, rugby union fans sometimes also call their sport “rugger”. New Zealanders generally call rugby "footy" or "football", the main variations simply "union" or "league".

Differences between the individual types of rugby and football

The main differences between rugby and gridiron football :

  • Basically, rugby compared to Gridiron Football is a fluid game, which is only interrupted after a rule violation, a ball in the sideline or baseline, after scoring points or the so-called killing. In American football, on the other hand, the game is interrupted after each move as soon as the ball carrier is on the ground (the ball carrier rarely changes during a game move). This means that as soon as the ball carrier is brought to the ground by the opponent ( tackle ), the ball touches the ground or points are scored, there is often a longer interruption. The game play in rugby is therefore more similar to that in football .
  • Forward passes are generally not allowed in rugby. In rugby, the ability to play the ball forward is reduced to carrying and kicking.
  • Rugby is played relatively with little protective clothing (this also applies to flag football, although it is one of the gridiron variants).
  • In Gridiron Football, players who are not in possession of the ball may also be attacked (see block ), whereas in rugby the defending team may only attack the player who is carrying the ball, who in turn is the only attacker allowed to exercise limited physical defenses against the attacking defenders.
  • While there are entangled formations in rugby (such as the parcel or the scrum), these are prohibited in gridiron football. At the beginning of a move, in so-called scrimmage (the counterpart to the scrum), the teams face each other without physical contact. The players of a team are not allowed to hook each other, interlace or push their own ball carrier forward. Attacking an opponent who is already attacking (blocking or tackling) a teammate is also not permitted. If the counterpart to a package is formed, the turn ends.
Differences between soccer , rugby and gridiron football variants
Rugby union 7-a-side rugby Rugby league American football Canadian football Australian football International Rules Football Gaelic football Soccer Futsal
Number of players 15th 7th 13 11 12 18th 15th 15th 11 6th
of which in a crowd (scrum) or scrimmage 8 (3-4-1) 3 6 (3-2-1) (at least) 7 (at least) 7
ball (rotational)
elliptical ( rugby ball )
elliptical ( rugby ball )
elliptical ( rugby ball )
elliptical with pointed ends ( football )
elliptical with pointed ends ( football )
elliptical (like rugby ball )
spherical spherical spherical spherical
matchfield rectangular rectangular rectangular rectangular rectangular elliptical rectangular rectangular rectangular rectangular (hall)
Goal (Mal, Goal) H-shaped H-shaped H-shaped fork-shaped fork-shaped 4 posts H-shaped + 2 posts (below net) H-shaped (below net) 2 posts with crossbar (full of net) 2 posts with crossbar (full of net)
Rating Try 5 Try 5 Try 4 Touchdown 6 Touchdown 6 Goal 6 Goal 6 Goal 3 Goal 1 Goal 1
Increase (conversion) 2 Increase (conversion) 2 Conversion 2 Point after touchdown 1 Kick after touchdown 1 Behind 1 Behind 1 Point 1 Penalty  (penalty) 1 Penalty  (penalty) 1
Penalty kick 3 Penalty kick 3 Penalty 2 Two-point conversion 2 Field Goal 3 Over 3
Drop kick 3 Drop kick 1 Field Goal 3 Safety 2
Safety 2 Rouge Point 1
allowed ball transport wear wear wear wear wear bounce carry (tap the floor at least every 10 steps) carry (tap the floor at least every 10 steps) to step to step
fit backwards fit backwards fit backwards fit fit fisted fit fit bounce (any part of the body except arm ) bounce (any part of the body except arm )
to step to step to step kick (punt) kick (punt, dribble) to step to step to step
Ball transport not permitted pass / throw forward pass / throw forward pass / throw forward fit, throw wear wear fit, throw, carry fit, throw, carry
Tackle only player in possession of the ball only player in possession of the ball only player in possession of the ball all players all players only player in possession of the ball only player in possession of the ball
Continuation of the game after the end of the game Alley (line out) Alley (line out) Scrum Scrimmage Scrimmage Boundary throw-in (by referee) or free kick Free kick out of hand Free kick out of hand Throw-in One kick
Ball possession changes automatically after 6 consecutive tackles after 4 downs if no 10 yd space gain after 3 downs if no 10 yd space gain


The impressions of a rugby match were processed by Arthur Honegger in one of his symphonic movements (more on this in the article Rugby (Honegger) ).

See also

Portal: Rugby  - Overview of Wikipedia content on rugby



  • Ralf Iwan: Rugby - Everything you need to know. Meyer & Meyer, Aachen 2019, ISBN 978-3-84037-647-4 .
  • Denis Frank: 111 reasons to love rugby - a declaration of love to the greatest sport in the world. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-8626-5800-8 .
  • Dieter Kuhn u. Marcus Rosenstein: Rugby - fight in alley and crowd. 3rd edition, Weinmann, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-87892-060-1 .
  • Günter Berends u. Fabian Saak: Rugby at school. Hofmann, Schorndorf 2008, ISBN 978-3-7780-0221-6 .
  • Dieter Kuhn u. Peter Ianusevici: Rugby - frame training concept for children and young people in competitive sport. Limpert, Wiebelsheim 2002, ISBN 978-3-7853-1650-4 .
  • Claus-Peter Bach: Rugby - The official rules. Falken, Munich 1997, ISBN 978-3-8068-1216-9 .
  • Claus-Peter Bach: Rugby made understandable. Copress, Munich 1992, ISBN 978-3-7679-0388-3 .

English (selection)

  • Tony Collins: The Oval World - A Global History of Rugby. 2nd ed., Bloomsbury, London 2016, ISBN 978-1-4088-3157-1 .
  • Tony Williams et al. John McKittrick: Rugby Skills, Tactics and Rules. 4th ed., Bloomsbury, London 2015, ISBN 978-1-4729-1372-2 .
  • Cick Cain et al. Greg Growden: Rugby Union for Dummies. 3rd ed., Wiley & Sons, Hoboken 2011, ISBN 978-1-119-99092-5 .
  • Huw Richards: A Game for Hooligans - The History of Rugby Union. Mainstream, Edinburgh 2007, ISBN 978-1-84596-255-5 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ ; the saying is attributed to Oscar Wilde .
  2. ^ Phillips, Buchler: Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence to Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport
  3. ^ D. Sommerville: The Encyclopedia of Rugby Union. Aurum Press, UK, 1997, ISBN 1-85410-481-0 .
  4. ^ T. Collins: Australian Nationalism and Working-Class Britishness: The Case of Rugby League Football. History Compass, Volume 3, No. 1. 2005.
  5. ^ T. Collins: Rugby's Great Split: Class, Culture and the Origins of Rugby League Football. Routledge, London 1998, ISBN 0-7146-4867-1 .
  6. Oxford English Dictionary : "Slang or colloquial alteration of RUGBY (in the sense of 'Rugby football"). Freq. attrib. rugger tackle ”.
  7. ^ The New Zealand Pocket Oxford Dictionary. ISBN 0-19-558379-5 .