A Complete Guide to Rugby

Rugby is a sport that requires you to rough it out on the field and not bat an eye lid if bruised. It is in short a sport that is truly machismo in its nature. Several people give up  during the initial training, but if you are a go getter and believe in persevering, then Rugby is definitely for you!

In a nutshell

Rugby is an age old sport that originated in Greece and Rome, but eventually found its official grounding in the UK and in major parts of Europe. Rugby is a highly rigorous sport that is played between 2 teams where players tackle a ball and aim to shoot it in the opponent’s goal by grinding it to the ground.

As far as the Indian context is concerned, Rugby is a niche sport and is not played on a large scale. Despite its recession in popularity, the Indian National Rugby team has participated on many national and international levels and has provided India with admirable players like Sailen Tudu, Nasser Hussain and Hrishikesh Pendse.

What is Rugby?

Rugby is a popular form of football that first developed at the Rugby School in Warwickshire. It is essentially a team game that is played with an oval ball that is carried, kicked and passed around, while points are scored by grounding the ball behind the opponent’s goal line.

There are various championships that exalt this game including the Rugby World Cup and Rugby Championship. The Indian National Rugby team has proved its excellence in the game for the last several years, despite being a minor sport, and has produced great players like Nasser Hussain, Hrishikesh Pendse, and Sailen Tudu.

Overview and History

  • Rugby’s roots can be traced back to the times of ancient Greeks and Romans who were known to have indulged in ball oriented games and sports. Most of these games involved the use of feet, and a popular Roman game known as ‘Harpastum’ is believed to have been inspired by the Greek game ‘Episkyros’, which is the closest to rugby in terms of technique and skill.
  • In the year 1871, English clubs met in order to form the Rugby Football Union, and in 1892, certain charges were pressed against the players for lack of professionalism in the game, thereafter which a new union was formed called the Northern Rugby football Union.
  • Around the 1800’s, rugby became an exceedingly popular game in the UK, and spread its way to different parts of Europe as well.
  • The first official rugby match was played in Scotland in December 1857 at the Edinburgh University where the players competed against the Edinburgh Academicals.
  • In 1863, the Football Association was formed which formalized the division between association football and rugby football.
  • In 1864, the first official rugby clubs were formed which gave rise to other clubs being set up across Cumberland, Lancashire and Yorkshire.
  • The British army played an immense role in popularizing the game within the British army regiments and beyond, and in 1871 the first rugby football match was played between England and Scotland.
  • In the year 1900 rugby was first introduced as an official sport at the Olympic games held in Paris, but it was featured for the last time in the 1924 Olympics. Till the year 2015 it has not been included in the list of Olympic sports.
  • In India, rugby is considered to be a minor sport, but has been played extensively under the official wings of Indian Rugby Football Union.
  • India too like other countries had several variations of games which were close to the likes of football, and rugby found its ground under the patronage of the British rulers who popularized this sport to a large extent. 
  • In India, the earliest rugby match can be traced back to the year 1871 where a scratch match was played between Calcutta and Madras. The first recorded match was played on December 25th 1872 in Calcutta where various teams including Wales, Scotland and Ireland participated.
  • In January 1873, rugby was established as an official sport in India, and the club colours that were chosen to represent the team were red and white.
  • In the 20th century, the Indian rugby team faced a low point where the game was driven out by the Irish consulate. However, due to an effective campaign led in the 1990’s, rugby got back on the sports arena, and was revitalized by those who patronized the sport.
  • Till the year 2015, there were 17,874 registered players in the country and India ranked 65th out of 96 nations according to the IRB (International Rugby Board).
  • Kolkata is considered to be the home for Indian rugby.
  • In 1998, the Indian rugby team was officially established, and their first match was held in Singapore where they lost 85-0.
  • In 2001, the Indian rugby team was admitted in the International Rugby Board, and in 2003 the team went on its first UK tour.
  • In 2008, the India Rugby Union team tried to qualify for the Rugby World Cup, and in order to do that India had to play at the 2008 Asian Five Nations. Unfortunately, the team lost by a significant margin.
  • Since rugby has not gained noteworthy importance in the field of Indian sports, it does not have an official stadium. If teams have to compete on national levels, they utilize university fields throughout the country.

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Rules Of Rugby

  • While playing rugby, the prime objective of the player is to score more points than the opponent in a span of 80 minutes, which is the allotted time slot for each match.
  • At the end, the team with the highest number of points is awarded the winner’s trophy or cup, except for one case in which a ‘draw’ is called for.
  • The team that has the ball must move up the field in ‘phases of play’, and the ball must not be passed forward. Although the players can run forward with the ball or kick the ball forward to chase it down.
  • The opposition team is supposed to stop the attacking team by retaining the ball.
  • As far as the scoring process is concerned, a ‘Try’ is awarded when a player places the ball down in their opponent’s dead ball area. In this case, 5 points are awarded to the respective team.
  • A conversion is when a free kick is given to the team that manages to earn 2 bonus points. A successful kick needs to pass between the upper post and the top bar on the goal.
  • A penalty kick provides the team with 3 points, and is awarded in case the opposing team causes a breach of rules or infringement.
  • A ‘Drop’ goal can be kicked out of the hand provided the ball bounces first, and this can provide the team with 3 points.
  • A traditional rugby match is broken down into two 40 minute halves with a 10 minute break in between.
  • 2 teams are set up to fight against each other, and each team can start with 15 players and 7 substitutes.
  • A typical rugby field is roughly 100 meters long, 70 meters wide.
  • A rugby game consists of one referee and two judges, and it’s the referee’s job to keep time, carry out decisions, and control the game till the time it’s over.
  • The game does come to an end if a player is fouled, if the ball goes out of play, or in case a drop goal is scored.
  • It is important for the defending team to tackle the player by grabbing him and pulling him to the floor. Although, a tackle cannot be executed above shoulder height, and in such a scenario a referee can call for a foul.
  • A ‘line out’ is called for if the ball goes into touch, and up to 7 players can enter a line out. Any of the players can be lifted in order to catch the ball being thrown in, and both teams can compete in order to win the ball.
  • A successful conversion, kick or penalty towards the goal only takes place when the player is able to kick the ball through the top section of the goal. However, if a player is not able to kick the ball, and is unsuccessful in his attempt, the ball is still considered to be in play until it crosses one of the playing field boundaries.
  • The players who are in the ‘attacking mode need to stay behind the ball while it is active, or they could run the risk of being called offside. The players who do not interfere with the play can be placed in front of the ball. 

Other Specifications


Over the years, rugby players have used all types of gear in order to protect themselves during the game, with head protection gear being the most common one. Rugby is a full contact sport, and this is the sole reason why players use helmets that are comfortable and easy to wear. The helmets are made out of high impact plastic. In addition to this, players also use a mouth guard in order to shield their mouths from rigorous injuries on the ground.

The upper body protection gear is designed especially for rugby players, and is made to withstand the high intensity of the game.

Rugby shirts are usually made up of light durable material that is easy to move around in, and the famous rugby shorts are traditionally made of cotton and are made keeping the player’s comfort in mind.

Players also wear traditional style rugby boots which are similar to the boots worn in football. These boots do have a distinguishing feature which is a high cut design and provides the ankles with additional support.

The Rugby ball which was originally known as the ‘Quanco’ is diamond shaped, and that enables easy passing and tackling. 

Who are the governing bodies for Rugby?

The Rugby Football Union

The Rugby Football Union is the sole governing body for rugby union in England, and was established in 1871. Prior to this, rugby was mainly governed by World Rugby which was founded in 1886.

The RFU is a highly developed and visionary society that is owned by over 2000 member clubs, and represents over 2.5 million registered players. It forms the largest rugby union society in the world and is based at Twickenham Stadium, London.

Rugby Union In India

Despite the fact that rugby is a niche sport and played on a small scale, the Rugby Union In India oversees and organizes all the national and international tournaments. RUI was established around the 1800’s, and the first match was played in Calcutta, in the year 1875. 

Important Championships

On An International Level

Rugby World Cup

This prestigious event is solely a men’s rugby tournament that takes place every four years between the top international teams. The first Rugby World Cup was held in 1987, and this particular tournament was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. Till the year 2015, four countries have won the trophy, where New Zealand has won it 3 times, followed by Australia and South Africa who have won it twice and England who has won it once.

The Rugby Championship

The Rugby Championship is an international rugby union competition that is contested annually by Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The first match was held in 1903 where Australia and New Zealand played against each other.

Rugby Sevens at the 2010 Commonwealth Games

Rugby Sevens was played at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and was one of the only 2 sports that was contested only with male players. The competition took place in October 2010, and the venue was the Delhi University Stadium. India was the host nation. 

In India

All India and South Asia Rugby Tournament

This is a recreational league competition for all the national rugby teams that come under the Indian Rugby Union. The tournament has been played since 1924, and till the year 2015 Army Red and Bombay Gymkhana have been the leading champions.

Famous Personalities

Nasser Hussain

Till the year 2015, Nasser Hussain has been the captain for the Indian National Rugby team, and plays for the Gymkhana club in Mumbai. Besides this, Hussain has also played on international levels for Tynedale R.F.C and Northumbria University in New Castle upon Tyne, England. His career kick started on an international level in the year 1998 when he played in Singapore. He is well known in the Indian rugby circle and has won many medals and trophies on state level. Hussain is a player that has been a leading inspiration for all rugby players in India and beyond.

Hrishikesh Pendse

Known for his long footed strides and superb tackling skills with the rugby ball, Hrishikesh Pendse is a popular Indian rugby player who was picked up by the Japan Rugby Club in the year 2014 and was offered a seasonal contract. Besides excelling in the sport, Pendse has also served as the captain for the Indian National Rugby team and has won many medals and accolades on a national level. He is referred to as the rising star for Indian rugby.

Sailen Tudu

Fondly referred to as ‘Scrumdog Millionaire’, Sailedn Tudu has risen from the slum area in Calcutta and has made a distinct space for himself in rugby on a national as well as international level. Tudu was first spotted by a former British diplomat Paul Walsh, who was extremely impressed with Tudu’s amateur skills and introduced him to the ex-England captain Phil Vickery. One thing led to another, and Tudu was given a 40,000 pounds scholarship at Hartpury college in Gloucestershite. There was no looking back for Tudu, and  his remarkable career in rugby soon began after he completed his studies and training in the sport. He plays with the Gloucestershire side Longlevens, and is known for his astounding manoeuvring skills and tackling techniques on the rugby field. Besides playing on an international level, Tudu has also been tipped on the Indian national rugby team for many tournaments and championships.

Even though Rugby is a minor sport in India, there are various championships and tournaments that encourage this sport throughout the country on a national as well as an international level. At YoGems, we can help you get in touch with professional coaches and experts who can help train your child the right way!



Shivangi Gupta is a Content Writer Expert at YoGems. With years of experience in writing blogs, articles and guides, she writes about every sport. Also, she is good at sports and expert in shooting and won numerable awards at various events. She started receiving shooting training under her father at the age of 6. To get updated with her posts, stay tuned to the website.