Spectator's Guide To Rugby

Do you have a son or daughter or friend, etc. who plays rugby and you want to go watch them play, but you don't know anything about rugby or rugby culture? Well your in the perfect place because on this page, we will teach you all about how to be an amazing spectator and have a great time watching a rugby game!

Rugby Law  #Respect

In rugby, the rules of the game are referred to as "laws". Check out World Rugby Laws here. 

Referees study rugby law and train to be able to determine and apply it in high pressure game situations.

You may notice players referring to the referee as "Sir" or "Ma'am". This is because in rugby the referee is the sole judge of rugby law and is a highly regarded position.

Watching the Game With Your Rugby Family #Solidarity

Rugby is known as a hooligans sport for gentleman. This means that however rough the game is, all those involved conduct themselves with dignity and treat others with respect. Everyone involved is a part of a world-wide rugby family. Rugby players, coaches, referees, administrators and spectators all over the world are united by a mutual passion for the great sport of rugby. Each of us want's to see our sport grow, and watch players excel in a safe, fun environment. This means on game day:

1. We Cheer For Good Rugby: When a team makes a good play or scores an exciting try, we cheer for them regardless of which team or player it is. This is a growing sport in America and seeing players and teams excel, is a good thing for rugby as a whole.

2. We Don't Boo, Yell or Curse: Again, this is a growing sport and a youth league. We want to create a positive environment for kids and parents to want to come back to. Check out these awesome fans at the 2018 Rugby World Cup 7's.

3. We Welcome New Rugby Parents: If you see someone who is new to rugby, welcome them in to the rugby family! Teach them about the game (or however much you know about the game) and make them feel welcome. 

4. We Don't Heckle the Referee: As  you read about referees above, you may have noticed that respecting referees is an important part of our game. That being said, we do not heckle them. We know heckling the referee is a great American past-time but it's better left for American sports at the professional level where officials are getting paid the big bucks and can't even here you from the stands anyway.

Referee shortages are rampant in youth sports across the U.S. due to out of control referee abuse. Older referees are retiring and no new ones are coming in because who would want to sacrifice their time on a weekend or evening to get yelled at and disrespected?

If you have a concern about a referee (or coach, player or other spectator for that matter), you may submit any complaints to the Rugby NorCal Operations Manager at cgein@rugbynorcal.org. All complaints will be treated as confidential and anonymous  and will be dealt with through proper disciplinary protocol.

Common Referee Signals

It can be frustrating to watch a game and not know what is going on. Here are some common signals you might see from the referee during a game and what they mean.

Click here to see a complete list of rugby referee signals.

Try Scored

If a player scores a try, you will see the referee blow their whistle and hold their arm up straight like this.

Try Held Up

In rugby, for a try to count, the scoring player must touch the ball to the ground in the try zone. If an opposing player is under the ball, preventing it from touching the ground, the try does not count. If this happens, the referee will blow the whistle and motion like this. Play will resume with a scrum, five meters from the try line.

Forward Pass

The ball may not be passed forward in rugby. If a player passes the ball forward, the referee will blow the whistle, motion like this and award a scrum to the opposing team.

Scrum Down

If a minor penalty occurs such as a knock on or forward pass, the referee will blow their whistle and stick their arm out straight toward the team that will recieve the ball and order a scrum down.

Scrum Down (secondary signal)

After a the whistle is blown and the referee points to the team who the ball will be awarded to, the referee may also put their hands together to signal for a scrum.

Penalty

If a more serious penalty occurs, such as a player is offside, a tackler is not releasing the tackled player, etc. the referee will blow their whistle and point their arm at a diagonal angle toward the team that the ball will be awarded to. The offending team must immediately get back 10 meters and allow the ball to be played. The team who is awarded the penalty may choose to kick the ball off their foot and run with it, kick the ball to the touch line (sideline), or attempt to kick the ball through the posts for 3 points.

Offside

Offside lines are created at a ruck, maul, scrum, lineout or when a player kicks the ball. If an opposing player is offside, the referee may blow their whistle and signal like this after pointing their arm at a diagonal toward the team that the penalty is awarded to.

Not Releasing A Tackled Player

Once a player is tackled, the tackler is obligated to release the tackled player. If they do not, a penalty occurs and they referee may blow the whistle and signal like this after pointing their arm at a diagonal toward the team that the penalty is awarded to.

Not Rolling Away

After a tackle occurs, the tackler must immediately release the tackled player AND get out of the way so that they are not in the way of the ball being played. If they do not get out of they way, the referee may blow their whistle and signal like this after pointing their arm at a diagonal toward the team that the penalty is awarded to.

Not Releasing The Ball

Once a player is tackled, they must immediately release the ball and allow it to be played. If they do not, then a penalty occurs and the referee may blow their whistle and signal like this after pointing their arm at a diagonal toward the team that the penalty is awarded to.

Knock-On

Sometimes a player may accidentally drop the ball. If they drop it backwards (away from their own try line) then no infraction has occurred and play may resume. If they drop it forward (toward their own try line) and advantage (see advantage video) has not been awarded, then the referee will blow their whistle and award a scrum down to the non-offending team. They may then signal like this to signal that a knock-on has occurred.

High Tackle

Players must not tackle other players above the shoulders. If this happens, the referee may blow the whistle and signal like this. The referee may choose to award a penalty or a red or yellow card.

Not Thrown In Straight

When a lineout occurs, the team throwing the ball in must throw it directly down the tunnel between the two teams at the lineout. If the ball is not thrown in straight, the referee will blow the whistle, signal like this, and award the ball to the opposing team to throw in.

Hands In The Ruck

Once a ruck has formed, players may not put their hands in the ruck to grab the ball. If this happens, a penalty occurs and the referee may blow the whistle and signal like this after pointing their arm at a diagonal toward the team that the penalty is awarded to.

Advantage

If a team gains an advantage following an infringement by their opponents, the referee may allow play to continue in an effort to keep the game flowing.

To learn more about the advantage rule, click here