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Laws of the Game

A referee talking to a woman rugby player on a pitch.

Photo: RFU Archive

The following link provides a full listing of the laws of rugby union. The laws of the game are distinct from the RFU's rugby regulations.

The principles upon which the laws of the game are based are:

A Sport For All

The laws provide players of different physiques, skills, genders and ages with the opportunity to participate at their levels of ability in a controlled, competitive and enjoyable environment. It is incumbent upon all who play rugby to have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the laws of the game.

Maintaining the Identity

The laws ensure that rugby’s distinctive features are maintained through scrums, lineouts, mauls, rucks, kick-offs and re-starts. Also the key features relating to contest and continuity - the backward pass, the offensive tackle.

Enjoyment and Entertainment

The laws provide the framework for a game that is both enjoyable to play and entertaining to watch. If, on occasions, these objectives appear to be incompatible, enjoyment and entertainment are enhanced by enabling the players to give full rein to their skills. To achieve the correct balance, the laws are constantly under review.


There is an over-riding obligation on the players to observe the laws and to respect the principles of fair play.

The Laws must be applied in such a way as to ensure that the game is played according to the principles of play. The referee and touch judges can achieve this through fairness, consistency, sensitivity and, at the highest levels, management. In return it is the responsibility of coaches, captains and players to respect the authority of the match officials.


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