What are the rules for kicking in rugby?

Kicking is a huge part of rugby and some of the best teams in the world take advantage of the specific and somewhat complicated rules around kicking in rugby. 

What are the rules for kicking in rugby? Kicking is legal in open play, but you cannot touch the ball if you are in front of the kicker. Points can be scored through kicking through either a drop goal, conversion or penalty. 

There are many different rules surrounding kicking in rugby as it can be pretty complicated whether the kicking is in open play or at a set piece. The lawbook states that a kick “is made by hitting the ball with any part of the leg or foot, except the heel, from the toe to the knee but not including the knee; a kick must move the ball a visible distance out of the hand or along the ground”. 

This is the World Rugby Rule Book which rules on the game from the amateur level, all the way up to international rugby. Within kicking in open play, there are a few different rules. 

What are the rules for kicking in open play in rugby? 

1. Offside 

The principal rule on kicking in open play is the offside rule. If someone on your team kicks the ball forwards and you are in front of them when they kick the ball, you are offside. If the player is offside, they cannot advance forward towards the ball. The player must stand still or retreat until someone brings them Onside. 

Usually, in a kick chase, you will see some supporting runners. As long as these runners are behind the kicker when they kick, they can bring everyone onside as they run past their teammates. If an offside player gets involved in play, it will result in a penalty against them. 

2. When you can kick directly out of bounds 

If you kick the ball out of bounds without the ball bouncing when you are outside your 22, the lineout will be given to the other team, but it is taken from where you kicked in instead of from where the ball went out. This is also the case if you carry the ball back into your own 22 and then kick it straight out. 

This rule does not apply if the ball bounces before it goes out, in this case the lineout will be taken from where the ball went out of play. 

3.50-22 rules 

This is one of the newest rules in rugby as it was only introduced in the last couple of years. It is similar to the kicking it straight out of bounds rule. The rule is that if you are inside your own half and you kick the ball out of bounds inside the opposition’s 22, you get the ball at the lineout. 

Before this rule was introduced, if you kicked the ball out of play like this, it would be the opposition’s ball. 

How can you score points with kicking in rugby? 

Kicking is one of the most common ways points are scored in rugby and there are three ways in which points can be scored using the boot. 

1. Conversion 

After a try is scored, the team that scored it gets the chance to try a conversion. This is a stationary kick using a tee. The kick must be taken in line with where the try was scored, which is why try scorers will always aim to score under the posts so that the kick is easier for whoever is kicking it. 

A conversion is worth two points and can only be attempted after a try is scored. Sometimes, kickers will drop kick the ball if it is an easy kick. The opposition is allowed to try to charge down the conversion, but they can only start moving off the try line when the kicker begins their runup. 

2. Penalty 

When an opposition commits an infringement, the other team gets a penalty. The penalty comes with four options which are; Penalty Kick, Tap and go, Scrum and Kick to touch. The Penalty kick is an attempt to score points. 

A penalty kick is a free attempt to score three points. The penalty must be taken from where the penalty is conceded. The opposition is not allowed to try to charge down the penalty. If the kick goes through the posts, the kicking team is awarded three points and the play restarts. 

3. Drop Goal 

The final way you can score points through the boot is with a drop goal. This is the only way that you can score points with the boot in open play. A drop goal is scored when the kicker drops the ball and kicks it just after it has hit the ground. If this ball goes in between the posts and above the bar, the kicking team is awarded three points. 

In any kick to score points, the ball must not hit the ground after it has been kicked. 

Why do rugby players bounce the ball before kick-off? 

You will usually see a player bounce the ball before the kick-off in rugby. This is usually done because the kicker wants to understand the bounce that the pitch is giving. Understanding the bounce of the ball helps the judgement of players and gives them an idea of what to expect in the match. A pitch can be softer when it has rained, or firm when it is particularly sunny. 

You will also see kickers bounce the ball just before kicking it at the kick-off. That is because the ball has to bounce before you kick it at the kick-off. This is one of the rules of the game. It makes the kick slightly more difficult for the kicker as they would prefer to kick out of hand. 

At the kickoff, players will use the bounce to try to get underneath the ball. Giving the ball as much hang time as possible gives the chasing players more time to put pressure on the ball and try to steal it. 

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