Your First Rugby Match: Everything You Need to Know

You’ve received an invite to watch your first rugby match live. There’s just one problem. This sport is entirely new to you. The last thing you want is to spend the game confused, unable to process the action in front of you. Also, who wants to look like a total newbie asking the person next to them what’s going on? No worries! These tips will help you enjoy the game like a long-time fan.

Bring a Patient Viewing Partner

Yes, the point of this article is to help you understand the game of rugby on your own. Still, if the person watching next to you is happy to follow along, that can only help. Fortunately, there are rugby fanatics who are passionate enough about the sport that they love playing teacher. It’s part of being an advocate for their beloved rugby.

It may be easier than you think to find someone to watch with you. Did you know that a rugby match is the perfect place for a first date? Check out an app like Hily to find someone who’s a sports fan, and is patient with inexperienced spectators.

Laws Not Rules

There are no rules in rugby, there are only laws. Most sports like tennis and football have rules. There, the officials monitor the game for violations of the rules and then respond accordingly with some sort of penalty, warning, or ejection. That’s not the case with rugby. Here, there are laws.

That may seem like splitting hairs, but there is a real difference. In rugby, referees are given leeway to interpret laws as they see fit. 

Imagine a rugby player committing a violation. It’s unintentional. They correct themselves immediately. Neither they nor their team gains any sort of unfair advantage from it. The other team is not disadvantaged. In other sports that wouldn’t matter. The rules are the rules and the prescribed penalty would be assigned. With rugby, the official has the leeway to simply let that go.

The Object of The Game

The ball in rugby is a pigskin. The object is to carry that across the goal line or to kick it through the goalposts. The winner is the team that does those things more. If you’ve watched American football, this sounds familiar to you. The difference is that in rugby play doesn’t stop until a point is scored, a law is broken, or the ball goes out of play. There is no defense or offense in rugby like there is in American football, nor special teams. 

Rugby teams do have assigned positions. These are:

  • Number Eight
  • Wing
  • Centre
  • Full-back
  • Flanker
  • Fly-half
  • Hooker
  • Prop
  • Scrum-half

Each player is expected to perform their position during the game, adjusting their strategy on the fly.

Running Passing And Kicking

Scoring is achieved by running, passing or kicking.


This is just what it sounds like. Here, the strategy is to tuck the ball in and run a distance until the player crosses the goal line or comes as close to it as possible.


Passing moves the ball around the field. It’s the ideal way to disrupt the other team’s strategy as it quickly changes the location of the pigskin. Keep in mind that forward passing is not allowed in rugby.


Players use kicking to move the ball down the field. Pop kicks are useful for launching the ball over the head of a facing opponent to be grabbed and run down the field immediately afterward. 

All of these things along with other actions are combined to create what each team hopes will be a winning strategy.

Your Comfort: What to Bring

If you look around the stands, you’ll see that fans bring a variety of items for their comfort. This makes the game more enjoyable. For your first trip, you might want to bring along:

  • Stadium seat cushion
  • Thermos for tea or a cold drink
  • Beer
  • A blanket for the ground
  • Snack foods
  • Charging bank for your phone

Keep in mind that the place you’re watching may have its own rules. For example, you may not be allowed to bring in your own alcoholic beverages if they sell those to make a profit.

Enjoy an Exciting Sport!

There’s much more to learn about this popular sport, but now you have a base level of understanding. That should help you get more out of it as a spectator, and the other fans enjoy the game alongside you.