Laws of Football as played at Rugby School (1851)

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The following book of Rules is to be regarded rather as a set of Decisions on certain disputed points in Football, than as containing all the Laws of the Game, which are too well known to render any explanation necessary to Rugbæans.

R U L E S .


Kick off from Middle must be a place-kick.


Kick out must not be from more than 25 yards out of goal, nor from more than 10 yards if a place-kick.


Fair Catch is a catch direct from the foot.


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.


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

On Side. — A Player is on his side when the ball has been kicked, thrown, or knocked on, or run with (5 yards) or when it has rebounded from the body of any player on the opposite side.


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 or course incapable of holding the ball.


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.

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.


It is not lawful to take the ball off the ground, except in touch, either for a kick or throw on.


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


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


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.


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

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.


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


No hacking with the heel, or unless below the knee, is fair.


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.


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


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


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


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.


No goal may be kicked from touch.


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.


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


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


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 drop may not be a goal.


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


The discretion of sending into goal rests with heads of sides, or their deputies.[1]


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


All matches are drawn after 5 days, or after 3 days if no goal has been kicked.


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


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


Three Præpostors constitute a big-side.


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


Old Rugbæans 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.


  1. 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, 1924.

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.