World Rugby Officiating : The home of Rugby officiating on the web : Match Observation Programme
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The principles of Rugby

The principles of the Game are the principles on which the Game is based. They enable participants to identify clearly what makes Rugby distinctive as a sport.


The team is in attack when it has possession of the ball.


The team is in defence when it doesn’t have the ball.

Contest possession in order to attack

The contest for possession is a key principle in Rugby. Various forms of this contest take place throughout all stages of the Game. This may be in dynamic play when a player from one team is in contact with the opposition,
or at static restarts - scrums, line-outs or kick restarts.
All of these contests must have a degree of fairness for both teams, so that each team has the chance to gain and/or retain possession.
At restarts, the initiative to commence the restart is given to the team that has not made an error. For example:
  1. When a player who is running with the ball is tackled and places the ball on the ground in a position from which team-mates can easily pick it up, then the team is rewarded by being able to continue play.
  2. When a player from one team knocks the ball forward, and a scrum is ordered by the referee, the offending team is denied the right to throw the ball into the scrum. This role is given to the opposing team. This gives the team an advantage in gaining possession when play is re-commenced.