Laws of the Rugby Football Union (March 1886)

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For works with similar titles, see Laws of the Rugby Football Union.

1. — A Drop Kick is made by letting the ball fall from the hands, and kicking it the very instant it rises.

2. — A Place kick is made by kicking the ball after it has been placed in a nick made in the ground for the purpose of keeping it at rest.

3. — A Punt is made by letting the ball fall from the hands, and kicking it before it touches the ground.

4. — Each Goal shall be composed of two upright posts, exceeding 11 feet in height from the ground, and placed 18 feet 6 inches apart, with a cross-bar 10 feet from the ground.

5. — A Goal can only be obtained by kicking the ball from the field of play direct (i.e., without touching the ground or the dress or person of any player of either side) over the cross-bar of the opponents' goal, whether it touch such cross-bar or the posts or not; but if the ball goes directly over either of the goal posts, it is not a goal. A goal may be obtained by any kind of kick except a punt.

6. — A Try is gained when a player touches the ball down in his opponents' goal.

7. — A match shall be decided by a majority of goals; but if the number of goals be equal, or no goal be kicked, by a majority of tries. If no goal be kicked or try obtained, the match shall be drawn. When a goal is kicked from a try, the goal only is scored.

8. — The ball is dead when it rests absolutely motionless on the ground.

9. — A Touch Down is when a player, putting his hand upon the ball on the ground in touch or in goal, stops it so that it remains dead or fairly so.

10. — A Tackle is when the holder of the ball is held by one or more players of the opposite side.

11. — A Scrummage takes place when the holder of the ball, being in the field of play, puts it down on the ground in front of him, and all who have closed round on their respective sides endeavour to push their opponents back, and by kicking the ball to drive it in the direction of the opposite goal-line. A Scrummage ceases to be a scrummage when the ball is in touch or goal.

12. — A player may take up the ball whenever it is rolling or bounding, except in a scrummage.

13. — It is not lawful to take up the ball when dead (except in order to bring it out after it has been touched down in touch or in goal) for any purpose whatever; whenever the ball shall have been so unlawfully taken up, it shall at once be brought back to where it was so taken up, and there put down.

14. — In a scrummage it is not lawful to touch the ball with the hand under any circumstances whatever.

15. — It is lawful for any player who has the ball to run with it, and if he does so it is called a run. If a player runs with the ball until he gets behind his opponents' goal line and there touches it down, it is called a run in.

16. — It is lawful to run in anywhere across the goal-line.

17. — The goal-line is in goal, and the touch-line is in touch.

18. — In the event of any player holding or running with the ball being tackled, and the ball fairly held, he must at once cry down, and immediately put it down.

19. — A Maul in Goal is when the ball is held inside the goal-line and one of the opposing side endeavours to touch it down. Those players only who are touching the ball with the hand when the maul begins, and then for so long only as they retain their touch, may continue in the maul. The ball shall be touched down where the maul is concluded, and shall belong to the players of the side who first had possession of it before the maul began, unless the opposite side have gained entire possession of it, or unless it has escaped from the hold of all parties engaged, in which latter event it shall belong to the defending side.

20. — Touch in Goal (See Plan). — Immediately the ball, whether in the hands of a player or not, goes into touch in goal it is at once dead and out of the game, and must be brought out as provided by Rules 38 and 39.

21. — Every player is on-side, but is put off-side if he enters a scrummage from his opponents' side, or being in a scrummage gets in front of the ball, or when the ball has been kicked, touched, or is being run with by any of his own side behind him (i.e., between himself and his own goal line). No player can be off-side in his own goal.

Plan of the Field.
Rugby Union Field of Play (1887).png
AA. AA. Goal Lines. PP. PP. Goal Posts.
TT. TT. Touch Lines. QQ.QQ. Touch In Goal.
The Touch Lines and Goal Lines should be cut out of the turf.
The field of play must not exceed 110 yards in length, nor 75 yards in breadth, and should be as near those dimensions as practicable.

22. — Every player when off-side is out of the game and shall not touch the ball in any case whatever, either in or out of touch or goal, or in any way interrupt or obstruct any player until he is again on-side. In case any player plays the ball when he is off-side, the Captain of the opposite side may claim that the ball be taken back and put down at the place where it was last played before the off-side play occurred.

23. — A player being off-side is put on-side when the ball has been run five yards with, or kicked by, or has touched the dress or person of, any player of the opposite side, or when one of his own side has run in front of him either with the ball or having kicked it when behind him.

24. — When a player has the ball none of his opponents who at the time are off-side may commence or attempt to run, tackle, or otherwise interrupt such player until he has run five yards or taken his kick. But if any player when off-side tackles, or in any way interferes with an opponent who has the ball before such opponent has run five yards or taken his kick the captain of the opposite side may claim a free kick for the player so interfered with: such free kick shall be either a punt or a drop kick from the spot where the interference took place, and shall be taken in accordance with the conditions of Law 41; such free kick shall not count a goal.

25. — Throwing Back. It is lawful for any player who has the ball to throw it back towards his own goal, or to pass it back to any player of his own side, who is at the time behind him, in accordance with the Rules of on-side.

26. — Knocking on, i.e., hitting the ball with the hand and Throwing forward, i. e., throwing the ball in the direction of the opponents' goal-line, are not lawful. If the ball be either knocked on or thrown forward, the opposite side may (unless a fair catch has been made, as provided by the next Rule) require to have it brought back to the spot where it was so knocked or thrown on, and there put down.

27. — A Fair Catch is a catch made direct from a kick or a throw forward or a knock on by one of the opposite side, provided the catcher makes a mark with his heel at the spot where he has made the catch, and no other of his own side touch the ball. (See Rules 40 and 41).

28. — Touch (See Plan). If the ball goes into touch a player on the side other than that whose player last touched it in the field of play must bring it to the spot where it crossed the touch-line; or if a player when running with the ball cross or put any part of either foot across the touch-line, he must return with the ball to the spot where the line was so crossed, and thence return it into the field of play in one of the modes provided by the following Rule.

29. — He must then himself, or by one of his own side, either (i.) bound the ball in the field of play, and then run with it, kick it, or throw it back to his own side; or (ii.) throw it out at right angles to the touch line; or (iii.) walk out with it at right angles to the touch-line any distance not less than five, nor more than fifteen yards, and there put it down, first declaring how far he intends to walk out.

30. — If two or more players holding the ball are pushed into touch the ball shall belong in touch to the player who first had hold of it in the field of play and has not released his hold of it.

31. — If the ball be not thrown out straight the opposite side may at once claim to bring it out themselves as in Law 29, sec. 3.

32. — A catch made when the ball is thrown out of touch is not a fair catch.

33. — Kick off is a place kick from the centre of the field of play, and cannot count as a goal. The opposite side must stand at least ten yards in front of the ball until it has been kicked. If the ball pitch in touch, the opposite side may claim to have it kicked off again. The kicker's side must be behind the ball when kicked off, and in case of infringement, the referee shall, on a claim by the opposite side, order a scrummage to be formed in the centre of the ground.

34. — The ball shall be kicked off (i.) at the commencement of the game, (ii.) after a goal has been obtained. (iii.) after change of goals at half-time.

35. — Each side shall play from either goal for an equal time.

36. — The captains of the respective sides shall toss up before the commencement of the match; the winner of the toss shall have the option of choice of goals, or the kick off.

37. — Whenever a goal shall have been obtained, the side which has lost the goal shall then kick off. When goals have been changed at half-time, the side which did not kick off at the commencement of the game shall then kick off.

38. — Kick out is a drop kick by one of the players of the side which has had to touch the ball down in their own goal or into whose touch in goal the ball has gone (Rule 20), and is the mode of bringing the ball again into play, and cannot count as a goal. (See Rule 44.)

39. — Kick out must be a drop kick, and from not more than twenty-five yards outside the kicker's goal-line; if the ball when kicked out pitch in touch, the opposite side may claim to have it kicked off again. The kicker's side must be behind the ball when kicked out, and in case of infringement, the referee shall, on an appeal from the opposite side, order the ball to be scrummaged at a spot twenty-five yards from the kicker's goal-line, and equi-distant from both the touch-lines; and the opposite side may not obstruct such kicker within twenty-five yards of his own goal-line.

40. — A player who has made and claimed a fair catch, shall thereupon either take a drop kick or a punt, or place the ball for a place kick.

41. — After a fair catch has been made, the opposite side may come up to the catcher's mark, and the catcher's side retiring, the ball shall be kicked from such mark, or from a spot any distance behind it, in a straight line, parallel with the touch lines.

42. — A player may touch the ball down in his own goal at any time.

43. — A side having touched the ball down in their opponents' goal, shall try at goal by a place kick in the following manner:— One of the players shall bring it up to the goal-line in a straight line (parallel to the touch-lines) from the spot where it was touched down, and there make a mark on the goal-line (unless between the goal posts, in which case he shall bring it up to either post), and thence walk out with it in a line parallel to the touch-lines such distance as he thinks proper, and there place it for another of his side to kick.

44. — The defending side may charge as soon as the ball touches the ground, but if any of them do charge before the ball touches the ground, the referee may, provided the kicker has not taken his kick, and then only on a claim by the kicker's side, disallow the charge, and the kicker's side must remain behind the ball until the try has been decided. If a goal be kicked, the game shall proceed, as provided in Rule 37, but if a goal be not kicked, or if the bringer out fail to make a mark on the goal-line (except when the try was obtained between the posts) or allow any of his side to touch the ball before it has been kicked, the ball shall be dead forthwith, and the game shall proceed by a kick out, as provided in Rule 39.

45. — Charging, i.e., rushing forward to kick the ball or tackle a player, is lawful for the opposite side in all cases of a place kick after a fair catch or upon a try at goal, immediately the ball touches or is placed on the ground; and in case of a drop kick or punt after a fair catch, as soon as the player having the ball commences to run or offers to kick, or the ball has touched the ground; but he may always draw back, and unless he has dropped the ball or actually touched it with his foot, they must again retire to his mark. (see Rule 46). Except in a scrummage, it is not lawful for a player to charge against or obstruct any opponent, unless such opponent is holding the ball, or such player is himself running at the ball.

46. — In case of a fair catch, the opposite side may come up to and charge from anywhere on or behind a line drawn through the mark made and parallel to the goal-line. In all cases the kicker's side must be behind the ball when it is kicked, but may not charge until it has been kicked. In case of any infringement the referee shall, on an a claim by the opposite side, order a scrummage to be formed at the spot where the fair catch was made. If after a fair catch more than one player of the attacking side touch the ball before it is again kicked, the opposite side may charge forthwith.

47. — No hacking, or hacking over, or tripping up shall be allowed under any circumstances. No one wearing projecting nails, iron plates, or gutta-percha on any part of his boots or shoes shall be allowed to play in a match.

48. — In the case of any Law being broken, or any irregularity of play occurring on the part of either side not otherwise provided for, the opposite side may claim that the ball be taken back to the place where the breach of law or irregularity of play occurred, and a scrummage formed there.

49. — In all matches two umpires shall be appointed, and a referee, the latter official must be chosen with the consent of either the respective secretaries or captains of the contending clubs or bodies. If the captain of either side challenge the construction placed upon any Rule, he shall have the right of appeal to the Rugby Union Committee.

50. — Neither Half-Time nor No-Side shall be called until the ball is fairly held or goes out of play, and in the case of a try or fair catch, the kick at goal only shall be allowed.

Notes[edit]

  1. Changes from October 1885:
    • Law 46: after "In all cases the kicker's side must be behind the ball when it is kicked, but may not charge until it has been kicked" insert "In case of any infringement the referee shall, on an a claim by the opposite side, order a scrummage to be formed at the spot where the fair catch was made. (proposed by F. I. Currey, president of the RFU; seconded by G. Rowland Hill, past president of the RFU).
    For more information, see "Rugby Football Union: Annual March General Meeting". Sportsman: 4. 1886-04-01.  (Wikisource contributor note)


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.