Laws of Football as played at Rugby School (1862)

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For works with similar titles, see Laws of Football as played at Rugby School.




At Rugby School.





This Plan does not represent the shape, but only the arrangement of the ground; it is better to have it an oblong than a square.

Plan of the Field of Play (Rugby School, 1862).png
AA. AA. Lines of Goal.
PP. PP. Goal Posts.
TT. TT. Lines of Touch.
M. Imaginary place where mark is made after a Touch Down in Goal.
O. Imaginary place whence kicked.
Q,Q,Q,Q. Touch in Goal.


Football is played on a large level field or piece of ground, near either end of which is erected a goal, composed of two upright posts eighteen feet high, with a crossbar placed ten feet from the ground. From each goal a line is cut, called the line of goal, to the edge of the field; all the part behind this line is in goal, the part between the goals being the field of action. The sides are marked off by lines similar to the lines of goal, and all the edge of the field outside them is said to be in touch. [The part behind the goal-line and also behind the touch line is called Touch-in-goal (see Plan).]

If the field in which the football is played is larger than the part on which the game is played, the touch lines and goal lines are considered as indefinitely produced. Thus much about the field.

The game is commenced by one side kicking off from the middle of the field, to do which a player good at place-kicking is chosen (see Rule 1).

The object of the game is to kick the ball over the adversary's goal, which can be done either by dropping a goal or placing a goal: the former in the course of the game, and by any player of the opposite side who may happen to have the ball in his hands: the latter only after a touch down in goal (or by a "fair catch," see p. 10). The touch down is accomplished in the following manner: any player who catches the ball, either fair or on the bound (provided he be not off his side) may run with it if he can, till he gets behind the line of goal of the opposite side, where he will touch it down as near as he can to the goal, if possible between the posts. This feat is called running in. If the touch down be too far from the goal posts to try a goal, one of the side who touched it down takes it up and makes a mark with his heel, and retires a little, and then punts it out slantwise towards his own side, who spread out to catch it. The moment it is punted the opposite side, who are standing at the mark, and along the line of goal (as in the case of a touch down, p. 8), may charge, as at p. 8, but if any of the other side have caught it and made his mark they are obliged to stop charging, and not go beyond the mark made by the catcher. He who has caught it then proceeds to place it for another to kick, as hereafter described in the case of a fair catch. If the touch down be near enough to try a goal, then two of his side are commissioned by the head of the side to take it out, one of them, who is to kick it, being naturally chosen for his expertness in place kicking. Then he who is going to kick it takes it up, brings it to the line of the goal, and touches it down in a line with the place at which the person who ran in touched it down. If the runner-in touched it between the posts, he touches it down at one of the posts (all this is to be done behind the line of goal). He then makes a mark with his heel on the spot, taking care to keep all the time within the line of goal. The players of the opposite side may then come as far as the mark, but no farther, and may stretch forward with the view of "mauling" (see infra) the two who are taking it out, if they do not succeed in the following action: The player who is to place-kick goes just out of the reach of the opposite side who are stretching forward. He then, still standing within the goal-line, kicks the ball gently off his toe into the hands of the other, who is standing just outside the goal line to receive it. The moment it is in his hands he makes a mark with his heel outside the line (of course as far as he can stretch in the direction of the goal post). The moment he has it in his hands the opposite side may charge, and try to get the ball away from him (called "mauling"). This however they cannot do when he has made his mark, so that only in the cases where he fails in making his mark directly, or if he makes it inside the goal line, or if he touches the ball before it is off the toe of the other, do they succeed in mauling him. When he has made his mark, he carries the ball out in a line with the mark, until it is at a suitable distance from the goal to kick; he then makes a small nick in the ground with his heel, for the ball to rest upon, and places it therein. The kicker then takes a short run and kicks it. The moment the ball is on the ground, the other side may charge from the goal line, or rather from on a level with the mark made by the player who took it out. If the ball goes over the cross-bar (whether it touches or not) at whatever height, it is a goal. If it rises directly over the end of one of the posts it is called a poster, and is no goal. If it touch any body but the kicker, before it has gone over the bar, it is no goal. If the ball be touched, when once outside the goal line, by anybody but him who is taking it out, the other side may charge and maul. Whenever a fair catch (see Rule 3) is made, the catcher makes his mark. At that mark, and on a level with it, the opposite side may stand, but not before it, and the catcher may either drop it himself, or place it for another to place-kick it. The rules about charging are the same as when it is touched down in goal.

When the ball goes outside the line of touch, the first player who touches it down, takes it up and walks with it to the touch line, and throws it out at right angles to the line of touch, or bounds it outside the line of touch, (i.e. in the field) and catches it again, and runs with it, or drop-kicks it himself. (See Rule 32.)

When the ball goes into touch in goal it is considered as out of the field, and is taken out by the side whose goal it is, as if they had touched it down in their own goal.

Whenever the ball rolls into either goal, either it is touched down by one of the opposite side, (in which case it is proceeded with as in the case of a running in), or it is touched down by one of the side whose goal it is; or, if the ball be bounding, one of the side whose goal it is takes it up, and runs with it out of goal, if he can. In the second case, when it is touched down by one of the side whose goal it is, they act as follows:— The opposing side retire, and one of the side who touched it down, takes it out, but not further than twenty five yards, and "drops" it; accordingly it is advisable to place posts on the touch line to mark the twenty-five yards.

When any body has the ball in his hands, any of the opposite side may maul him; if he cannot get free of them, or give the ball to some other of his own side (not in front of him) who can run with it, he cries "Have it down;" he then puts it down and kicks it, and all who have closed round him (the two sides must, however, be on their respective sides of the ball, or else they are off their side, in which case they cannot "hack,") begin kicking at the ball, and often encounter each others' shins. When a body is running with the ball, any of the opposite side may either maul him and pull him over, or get the ball from him, or else "hack" him over, but he may neither hold and hack him simultaneously, nor may he hold him after the ball is gone. When players are off their sides, they are made on their sides again — First, if the ball strike any body of the opposite side; Secondly, in the case of Rule 8.

Generally, three or four of the swiftest runners, and most expert at dropping, keep some distance behind the rest, and are called back players; some, too, who are clever at "dodging," play half-back, i.e., midway between the back players and the rest.


A Drop Kick or Drop is accomplished by letting the ball drop from your hands on to the ground, and kicking it with your toe on the very instant it rises.

A Place Kick is kicking a ball after it has been placed on the ground, in a small nick made by the heel of the placer.

A Punt is a kick straight off the toe, without letting the ball touch the ground.

A Scrummage is that event previously described at page 12, after the ball is down.


N.B. — Rules 33, 36, 37, 40-45, and the notes to Rules 32 and 37, are, of course, intended solely for Rugbeians.

1.—Kick off from Middle must be a place-kick.

2.—Kick out must not be from more than twenty-five yards out of goal.

3.—Fair Catch is a catch direct from the foot, or a knock on from the hand of the opposite side.

4.—Charging is fair, in case of a place-kick, as soon as a ball has touched the ground; in case of a kick from a catch, as soon as the player offers to kick, but he may always draw back, unless he has actually touched the ball with his foot.

5.—Off Side. A player is off his side when the ball has been kicked, or thrown, or knocked on, or is being run with by any one of his own side behind him.

6.— A player entering a scrummage on the wrong side, is OFF his side.

7.— A player is OFF his side even when a player on his own side has kicked the ball from behind him and then run before him.

8.—On Side. A player is on side when the ball has been kicked, thrown, or knocked on, or run with (five yards) by any of the opposite side, or when it has touched the body of any player on the opposite side before him, i.e., in advance of him.

9.— A player being off his side is to consider himself as out of the game, and is not to touch the ball in any case whatever (either in or out of touch); or in any way to interrupt the play, and is of course incapable of holding the ball.

10.— A catch from a throw on is not a Fair Catch.

11.—Knocking On, as distinguished from throwing on, is altogether disallowed under any circumstances whatsoever.— In case of this rule being broken, a catch from such a knock on, shall be equivalent to a fair catch.

12.— If however, the ball be hit by the arm, and not by the hand, the catch from such a knock on, shall not be considered equivalent to a fair catch.

13.— It is not lawful to take the ball off the ground, except in touch, or after it has been touched down in goal, to take it out, for any purpose whatever.

14.— It is not lawful to take up the ball when rolling as distinguished from bounding.

15.— In a scrummage succeeding a maul, it is not lawful to touch the ball with the hand, except in the event of a Fair Catch.

16.—First of his side is the player nearest the ball on his side.

17.—Running in is allowed to any player on his side, provided he does not take the ball off the ground, or through touch.

18.—Running in. If in case of a run in, the ball be held in a maul, it shall be lawful for a player on the same side to take it from the runner in, provided he has entered the maul behind the runner in.

19.— No player out of a maul may be held, or pulled over, unless he is himself holding the ball.

20.— Though it is lawful to hold any player in a maul, this holding does not include attempts to throttle, or strangle, which are totally opposed to all the principles of the game.

21.— That any player obtaining a ball in a maul, do have it down as soon as possible when outside the twenty-five yard posts at either end.

22.— No player may be hacked and held at the same time.

23.— Hacking with the heel is unfair.

24.— Hacking above, or on the knee is unfair.

25.— No one wearing projecting nails, iron plates, or gutta percha, on the soles or heels of his boots or shoes, shall be allowed to play.

26.—Try at Goal. A ball touched between the goal posts may be brought up to either of them, but not between.

27.— The ball when punted must be within, and when caught, without the line of goal.

28.— The ball must be place-kicked and not dropped; and if it touch two hands the try will be lost.

29.— A goal may be dropped by any player on his side, if the ball has not been touched down in goal.

30.— It shall be a goal if the ball go over the bar (whether it touch or no) without having touched the dress or person of any player; but no player may stand on the goal bar to interrupt it going over.

31.— No goal may be kicked from touch.

32.—Touch. A ball in touch is dead; consequently the first player on his side must in any case touch it down, bring it to the edge of touch, and throw it straight out, but may take it himself if he can.[1]

33.— No player may take the ball out of the close, i.e., behind the line of trees beyond the goal.

34.— No player may stop the ball with anything but his own person.

35.— If a player take a punt when he is not entitled to it, the opposite side may take a punt or drop, without running, (after touching the ball on the ground) if the ball has not touched two hands, but such a drop may not be a goal.

36.— The part of the island which is in front of the line of goal is in touch, that behind it in goal.

37.— The discretion of sending into goal rests with heads of sides, or their deputies.[2]

38.— Heads of sides, or two deputies appointed by them, are the sole arbiters of all disputes.

39.— All matches are drawn after five days, or after three days if no goal has been kicked.

40.— Two big side balls must always be in the close during a match or big side.

41.— No football shall be played between the goals till the Sixth match.

42.— Three Præpostors constitute a big side.

43.— At a big side the two players highest in the School shall toss up.

44.— Old Rugbeians shall be allowed to play at the matches of football, not however without the consent of the two heads of the side; but no stranger may have a place-kick at goal.

45.— The walk in front of the Headmaster's House, leading to the Barby Road, is in goal.

Crossley and Billington, Printers, Rugby.


  1. The ditch round the Island is in touch, except that part behind the line of goal (which is in goal).
  2. No player who has not had leave to follow up before, may get a Cap or Jersey, without leave from the head of his house.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1925.

The author died in 1924, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.