Rugby School
is in Session

Even though the game of rugby has been around since the 1800s, we understand that not everyone is familiar with the terms, rules and the strategies of rugby. Understanding some of the fundamentals will make it more fun to watch - and give you the knowledge you need to cheer your heart out at our next match!

General Rules

Scoring Points

Try – 5 points:

A “try” is scored when a player touches the ball to the ground in their opponent’s scoring area.

Conversion – 2 points:

After a successful try, a team may attempt to kick the ball through the goal posts, this is known as a “conversion.”

Penalty Kick – 3 points:

After a penalty is called, a team can choose to attempt to score by kicking the ball through the goal posts.

Drop Goal – 3 points:

When a team has possession of the ball, at any time they may attempt to drop-kick it through the goal posts.

Moving the Ball

There are three legal ways to move the ball closer to the opponent’s scoring zone. The ball remains “in play” until points are scored, or a penalty is called. Unlike American football, even if someone is tackled, the game continues on.

In this way, rugby is more closely related to soccer.


The easiest way to advance the ball is to run with it. However, the defending team is free to tackle the player with the ball. If this happens, the attacking team may lose possession. (See “ruck” below.)


A team may pass the ball as many times as they would like. However, they may only pass the ball sideways (laterally) or backwards.


A player can drop-kick the ball forward to gain territory at any time.

Reasons to Stop Play

A Line-Out:

Similar to soccer, basketball, or American football, when the ball goes outside the boundaries of the field (or a player holding the ball goes outside those boundaries) play is paused, and the players line up in a special formation, as seen here.

The non-offending team gets the opportunity to throw the ball back onto the field. The teams form two parallel lines and the player with the ball throws it between them. In many cases, players will lift one another up in the air to catch it.

In this example, the blue team was out of bounds, and so the yellow team gets to throw the ball back in.


One of the most iconic elements of rugby, is the scrum. If a player throws the ball forwards, or if a player drops the ball, and it rolls forwards the referee will immediately stop the game.

Players from each team will get in a specific formation, and push against each other. During a scrum, nobody in the formation is allowed to touch the ball with their hands. The ball is thrown into the middle, and the teams will fight to move the ball behind them (either by kicking it backwards, or pushing their opponents away) so that a player on their side can pick it up, and continue play.

Gaining Possession


If a defending player tries to tackle an opponent, but the runner does not go down, a “maul” will take place. In many cases, the attackers (team in possession of the ball) will send players to push the player with the ball forward. The defending team will then send players to push against the attacking team, in an effort to gain control of the ball.

During this time, the player with the ball will usually try to turn his back to the defenders, and pass the ball to one of his or her teammates. If the maul goes on for too long, the referee will call for a scrum.


If a player is tackled to the ground, special rules apply. The defender who tackled the player, must immediately let go of that player. At the same time, the attacker (who has the ball) must release the ball. Players can then try to win possession by kicking it with their feet, and pushing the other team away from it. Similar to the scrum, players engaged in the ruck cannot grab the ball. It must be passed (kicked) out of the ruck to someone else on their team.


The Houston SaberCats

Passing Our Skills Along:

The SaberCats seek to train the next generation of rugby players through intensive player development and growth. To accomplish this, we run an academy focused on high-performance expectations and community.

The intent of our High Performance Academy is to create a clear development pathway from junior rugby to the professional world.

Join us at Dyer Stadium:

The best way to learn more about professional rugby, is to come watch a game! Join us at Dyer Stadium, where we will be competing with some of the league’s best teams throughout our 2018 season.

Come and join the #ROAR.

Rugby Laws

Welcome to Rugby Laws, a series produced in collaboration with Houston’s own KHOU 11. In this series Head Coach Justin Fitzpatrick, alongside SaberCats players, gives you an introduction to elements of professional rugby.