The rugby field is roughly 160 yd (146 m) long and 75 yd (69 m) wide, with goal lines 110 yd (101 m) apart and two in-goals (corresponding to football's end zones) 25 yd (23 m) deep. A halfway line divides the field, which is further subdivided by other lines parallel to the goal line. The goal posts have measurements similar to those used in American football, and the ball, although larger and more rounded, is similar to the American football.
Players may kick, carry, or pass (to the sides or to the rear) the ball; though tackling is permitted, blocking is forbidden. Unlike American football, rugby features almost continuous play; after penalties and out-of-bounds plays, however, a scrum (in which the two opposing lines of forwards kick the ball thrown between them) starts play again. Various points are scored for carrying the ball into the opponent's in-goal (a try), conversions (kicking the ball between the goal posts after a try), field goal kicks, and penalty kicks. A rugby match is in halves of 40 min, and may end in a tie.
Sevens is a form of rugby with seven players on each side and halves of 7 min (10 min for a championship or series final), but the field and most other aspects of the game are similar to regular rugby. There are Rugby League and Rugby Union versions of sevens, whose development dates to the 1880s; the Rugby Union version, rugby sevens, has become the more popular form internationally. There are also versions of rugby with nine and ten players on a side.
A Rugby League World Cup was first held in 1954 and a world cup for Rugby Union was established in 1987. Rugby sevens has become popular internationally since the 1970s; a world cup tournament was first held in 1993, and the sport was included in the Olympics in 2016. Outside the British Isles, the sport has been popular in Australia, New Zealand, parts of the South Pacific, South Africa, France, and Romania. Since the late 20th cent., it has gained a measure of popularity in American colleges, initially as a club sport, sometimes played in the spring by football players. Like soccer, there are women's leagues and women's World Cup competitions, and women's rugby sevens is also an Olympic sport.
See R. Williams, Skillful Rugby (1980); K. Quinn, The Encyclopedia of World Rugby (1991).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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