How to Play Rugby in NZ: A Beginner’s Guide


If you are looking for a high-energy, fast-paced sport that requires teamwork, strength, and strategy, rugby may be the perfect fit for you. In New Zealand, rugby is more than just a sport — it’s a way of life. If you would like to learn how to play rugby in NZ, you’ve come to the right place. This beginner’s guide will give you the basics you need to get started.

Rugby is an incredibly dynamic and physically demanding team sport that brings together the thrill of full-contact action, strategic gameplay, and a strong emphasis on running, passing, tackling, and scoring tries. The objective is simple: outscore the opposing team by scoring tries, converting kicks, or adding penalties. However, mastering the intricacies of rugby requires an understanding of its core elements.

Here we will break down the fundamental skills, positions, and strategies that form the backbone of rugby. We will delve into the strategies and tactics used in rugby and emphasize the importance of these principles throughout the article, highlighting how they foster a positive playing environment and contribute to the overall spirit of the sport. Get ready to tackle, pass, and run your way into the heart of rugby as we embark on this journey together. Let’s dive in and discover the thrilling world of playing rugby.

Safety is of high importance in rugby

Safety is a critical aspect of rugby, with a strong focus on prioritizing the well-being and enjoyment of all players involved. Given the physical nature and intense contact inherent in the sport, it becomes crucial to manage the risks effectively and minimize the potential for injuries.

In rugby, there is a collective responsibility to foster a culture of safety. This includes promoting proper technique and formulating rules that prioritize player welfare. By ensuring that participants are educated on safe practices, such as correct tackling techniques and body positioning, we can greatly reduce the risk of injuries on the field.

The use of appropriate protective gear, including mouthguards, headgear, and padding, plays a significant role in safeguarding players from potential harm. These safety measures provide an extra layer of protection and help mitigate the impact of collisions and contact during matches.

It is crucial for all involved in rugby to remain vigilant and proactive in maintaining a safe playing environment. Regular coaching and training sessions focused on injury prevention can educate players on recognizing and avoiding dangerous situations. Additionally, consistent enforcement of the laws of the game by referees and officials ensures fair play and reduces the likelihood of reckless actions that may endanger players.

Understand the Rules

It’s necessary to understand the game’s rules to know how to play rugby. Rugby is played with two teams of 15 players each. The objective is to score more points than the other team by carrying or kicking the ball across the opponent’s goal line. The ball can only be passed backward, and players can be tackled but not blocked. It’s important to understand the rules of rugby to avoid penalties and understand how to move the ball effectively.

Scoring Formula

There are different ways to accumulate points in rugby, each with a unique score. Knowing these points is essential to learning how to play rugby, and they’re as follows:

  • Try: A try is worth five points and is scored by carrying the ball across the goal line and touching it to the ground.
  • Conversion: A conversion is worth two points and is scored by kicking the ball through the goalposts after a try.
  • Penalty: A penalty is worth three points and is awarded for an infringement of the rules by the opposing team.
  • Drop Goal: A drop goal is worth three points and is scored by dropping the ball onto the ground and kicking it through the goalposts during open play.

Game Structure

Game structure is essential to knowing how to play rugby. Rugby is played in two halves, with a break in between. Each half is 40 minutes long, with extra time played if the game is tied at the end. The game starts with a kickoff, and the team that receives the ball must advance it down the field by running, passing, or kicking the ball. When a player is tackled, the ball carrier must release the ball, and play continues. The game ends when the time runs out or one team has scored more points than the other.

The rugby field

The rugby field is a rectangular playing area with dimensions of approximately 100 meters long and 70 meters wide. It is divided into two halves by a halfway line. Each half is further divided into two parts by the 22-meter lines. The field has goal posts at each end, consisting of two vertical posts connected by a horizontal crossbar. The goal area, located behind the goal line, is where players score tries by grounding the ball with downward pressure. The field also has markings for various lines, including the touchlines, 5-meter lines, 10-meter lines, and the 22-meter lines, which indicate specific areas for different phases of play.


The scrum in rugby is a formation where players from both teams bind together and contest for possession of the ball. It involves players interlocking and engaging with their opponents in the front row, while the ball is rolled into the middle of the scrum.

Develop Your Skills

Once you understand how to play rugby, it’s time to start developing your skills. Rugby requires a combination of strength, speed, and agility, so it’s critical to focus on your fitness. Strength training, running, and agility drills can all help you become a better rugby player.

You’ll also need to work on your ball-handling skills, passing, kicking, and tackling. Practice with a partner or join a local rugby club to get more experience on how to play rugby.

Rugby vocabulary


A set-piece formation where players bind together and contest for the ball. The front row engages while the ball is rolled into the scrum.


A phase of play when a player is brought to the ground, and both teams compete for possession over the ball on the ground.


Similar to a ruck, players hold the ball carrier, and both teams push for possession while the ball is not on the ground.


Restarting play after the ball goes out of bounds by throwing it in between two lines of players.


A scoring opportunity after a try is scored.


When a player loses control of the ball forward, resulting in a scrum for the opposing team.

Drop goal

Scoring by kicking the ball through the goalposts during open play.


Bringing down an opponent carrying the ball to the ground defensively.


Being in front of the last teammate to touch the ball or an offside line during gameplay.


The primary method of scoring, a try is awarded when a player grounds the ball with downward pressure behind the opposition’s goal line.

Join a Rugby Club

Joining a rugby club is one of the best ways to learn how to play rugby in NZ. You’ll get to practice with experienced players, receive coaching, and learn more about the game. Rugby clubs are also a great way to meet new people and make friends who share your passion for the sport.

What is SANZAAR?

Rugby positions explained

Props (Loosehead Prop and Tighthead Prop)

Positioned in the front row of the scrum, props provide stability and contribute to open play with tackles and physicality.


Positioned between the props, the hooker hooks the ball in the scrum and accurately throws in during lineouts. They also carry the ball and tackle in open play.

Locks (Second Row)

Positioned behind the props and hooker, locks provide strength, stability, and compete for the ball in scrums and lineouts. They contribute physically and play a role in driving mauls.

Flankers (Openside Flanker and Blindside Flanker)

Positioned on either side of the scrum, flankers support the forwards, win turnovers, tackle opponents, and provide mobility around the field.

Number 8

Positioned at the back of the scrum, the number 8 controls the ball, links forwards and backs, and creates attacking opportunities as a strong ball carrier.


A vital link between forwards and backs, the scrum-half distributes the ball quickly and accurately, supports the fly-half, makes tackles, and organizes the defensive line.


The fly-half is responsible for key tactical decisions, executing kicks, distributing the ball, and orchestrating attacking moves.

Centers (Inside Center and Outside Center)

Positioned in the midfield, centers play crucial roles in attack and defense, running powerful lines, distributing the ball, and making tackles.


Positioned on the edges of the backline, wings are fast players who finish attacking moves, provide outside support, and mark opposition wings in defense. 


Positioned at the back of the backline, the fullback catches high kicks, organizes the defense, and acts as the last line of defense. They join attacking moves and provide an additional option in the backline when needed.


Scoring in rugby involves several methods: 


A player grounds the ball with downward pressure behind the opposition’s goal line, worth 5 points.


After a try, a kick is attempted through the goalposts, worth 2 additional points.

Penalty Kick

A kick awarded for an opponent’s infringement, worth 3 points.

Drop Goal

A player kicks the ball through the goalposts during open play, worth 3 points.

Penalty Try

Awarded if a try-scoring opportunity is illegally prevented by the opposition, automatically worth 7 points.

Penalty Goal

A kick awarded for an opponent’s infringement, taken without attempting to score a try, worth 3 points.


Can’t see the reasons to learn how to play rugby? Playing rugby in NZ is a fantastic way to get fit, make new friends, and enjoy the thrill of competition. By understanding the rules, developing your skills, joining a rugby club, and playing with passion and respect, you can know how to play netball excellently. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a ball and get started today!