This website uses cookies. By continuing to browse you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more by viewing our privacy and cookie policy.

Shaping the Game

Introducing Children To Rugby Union & Retaining Their Interest into Adulthood.

The trial rules from Shaping the Game for U7, U8 and U9 have proved to be successful and will now be called the New Rules of Play. Therefore the Shaping the Game link will cease to function from June 30 and will be replaced by

The New Rules of Play for Under 7, 8 and 9 have been trialed in three participating Counties – Durham, Hampshire and Warwickshire for the past two years.

The long term objective of the trial:

  • Provide a progressive player pathway that will enhance the way in which our players are developed in a more incremental manner
  • Provide a game which is in line with the principles of Child Development based on extensive research and expertise
  • Increase involvement of all players
  • Emphasis on competitive performance not competitive outcome
  • Encourage less structure (encourage skills and discourage fear of failure)
  • Make the game easier to understand and referee
  • Less emphasis on contact and more on continuity in early years
  • Rewarding intention to tackle in early years as much as ability to tackle

The trial is based on the recommendations from research, commissioned by the RFU in 2007, by Exeter University. The research had a brief to examine the Age Grade Regulations and make recommendations on changes that should be made to the mini and youth game, with the express aim being to develop an improvement in young players’ skills and higher levels of retention into the adult game.

A synopsis of the research findings is as follows:

  • For children under the age of 12, there should be limited focus on structure and drills
  • Children learn best by doing and acquire most of their skills by playing small sided games with limited rules and regulations
  • Important building blocks (learning) of decision-making and skills can be optimally developed from the age of 7 onwards, and have a lasting effect throughout a player’s future
  • Reducing numbers is a way to increase involvement and provide more opportunities for each individual to be involved in decision-making scenarios
  • Children do not need the sort of structures, rules and rituals associated with adult games. Younger children should have limited structure imposed upon them and learn skills within these constraints
  • Profound inequalities in body size during 7-18 years of age mean that a game heavily focused on contact and set-pieces encourages a “bigger is better” mentality from a very young age, rather than skilled play and decision-making
  • More structure needs to be added as children develop into adult forms of the game
  • Contact skills are a vital and characteristic feature of Rugby Union and the acquisition and practice of these skills is essential
  • In order to provide emphasis on ball handling, evasion & support at younger ages, contact will need to be de-emphasized. It is not suggested that contact should be eliminated, but that children should be looking for spaces and not contact

The trial will run for one more year with a focus on the Under 10 rules (one year completed) and Under 11 rules.

The following downloads provide the new Under 7 rules (PDF 81kB), the new Under 8 rules (PDF 86kB), the new Under 9 rules (PDF 118kB) and the new Under 10 rules (PDF 109kB).


A full time PhD student from Exeter University has been assigned to gather evidence and report back and a Working Group established with representatives from the pilot areas to observe, monitor and review and make recommendations for future developments

Further downloads are available for participating CBs and clubs:


Find your local Rugby club

IBM TryTracker