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Basic Touch Rugby Rules: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

touch rugby singapore try

From the parks of Australia as a warm-up game for Rugby League players, the game of Touch has spread across the world, gathered players and fans, and become a sport in its own right. The basic rules of touch rugby are simple to pick up but hard to master – so, let’s explore: how does touch rugby work?

What is Touch Rugby?

Touch Rugby, formally known as Touch Football and almost universally referred to as “Touch” is a thrilling and fast-paced sport that has gained widespread popularity in schools and universities around the world. 

The game is derived from Rugby League – which in itself is derived from Rugby Union – but has its own rules and even World Cup. Touch was invented in Sydney, Australia in 1968; the first international match (Australia vs New Zealand) was held in 1985. Today, over 40 nations play Touch officially, including Singapore! 

Touch gained popularity with retired rugby players, who loved the objectives of rugby games but wanted to play low-contact (no tackle) – but today, Touch rugby rules appeal to young and old, rugby-exposed or not. Touch is played in men’s, women’s, and Mixed formats.

How to Play Touch Rugby

Touch rugby shares the same fundamental objective as traditional rugby – to score points by grounding an oval ball across the opponent’s try line. A touch ball is slightly different to a rugby ball (and is smaller than the size 5 regulation rugby ball); the pitch is shorter and narrower than a traditional rugby pitch. 

Touch rugby eliminates physical tackles and does not require scrums, lineouts or mauls. Focusing instead on tagging, skillful passing, evasive manoeuvers, a deep knowledge of the rules (which can be quite technical), and strategic gameplay. There’s also the element of pressure, as there is a finite number of phases for the team to score, otherwise the ball is turned over to the other team.  

The Essentials

To play touch rugby you will need: 

  • A field
  • An oval ball
  • 5 teammates + yourself (a team of six)
  • 6 opposing players (a team of six)

There is no special uniform (apart from a team shirt) or equipment needed, nor is there a need for any protective equipment (like mouthguards or american football armour). Team shirts for games must have a number on them, but unlike rugby, this number does not signify your role or position on the team. 

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The Basic Rules of Touch Rugby

Basic rules of touch are:

  • the ball must be passed backwards
  • a team has only six phases (touches) to score
  • the acting dummy-half cannot score
  • points are scored when the ball is grounded over the opposition’s tryline. It is called a “try” and worth one point

The basic gameplay requires passing the ball among teammates to advance toward the opponent’s try line and score points. When a defender touches the ball carrier, a “touch” is called, and the tagged ball carrier must place the ball on the ground (a “roll ball”), initiating a new phase of play.

The tagged (“touched”) player is out of play until another person (the “dummy-half”) has picked up the ball; the dummy-half cannot score and must offload the ball – a tagged dummy-half initiates a turnover of the ball to the opposing team. 

All defenders must retreat seven metres after a touch to get back onside, before then advancing to defend again. After a penalty and at the start of the game, defenders must give 10 metres to be onside. 

Mids, Links and Wings: Playing Positions

There are six people on a team for touch – the two in the middle are called “middle” players (aka mids); the furthest from the middle are called wingers. Between the middle and wing players, you have “links”. Players will organise into different formations and conduct attacking plays to drive down the field towards the try line and create space to score. 

Defensive patterns will require players to work together to shut down opportunities for scoring and reduce the distance made by the opposition. 

In both defense and offense, Touch demands strong communication, decision-making and teamwork from players. 

Touch Rugby Rules: Common Fouls

The referee is the rule-enforced on the touch pitch! Common fouls that can result in penalties include: forward passes, touch-pass, offside violations, the dummy-half being caught, the ball being placed off the mark and making touches that are too hard. Turnovers and penalties are awarded and impact the flow of the game.

How to Get Better at Touch Rugby

Now you know the basic rules of touch, you can find a Touch Club (like Centaurs) and join as a beginner. To get better at touch, you can focusing on: fitness (especially running backwards!); flexibility (including placing the ball on the ground in a single movement from running or scooping up the ball off the floor); try scoring and diving; accurate passing backwards (which is a weird movement if you’re not familiar with it from rugby; communication with teammates; and learning the rules by asking questions and reading articles. 

Honestly, our advice is just to give touch football a go! Most players start off on the wing, and learn through playing the game with understanding teammates and patient referees and coaches who can articulate infringements clearly.

touch huddle

Now You Know How Touch Rugby Works!

Touch is a fast-paced, minimal-contact sport derived from and complementary to rugby but with its individual flavour and unique appeals. It’s growing in popularity as a social and competitive sport, and is accessible for players of all ages and skill levels. 

We’ve covered the basic rules of the game and how to play in this article, and how to inspire readers to start their touch rugby journey with confidence and enthusiasm – embrace the thrill of the game and unlock your potential on the field through Touch!

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