Rugby is a unique sport and some portions of the game can seem confusing when first presented. A prime example is that when players move the ball forward they must pass the ball backwards. This is certainly a different concept than many popular American sports. In order to provide coaches and players with a basic framework to explain the game, the principles of play were established. These principles are split in to two specific categories of attack (team with the possession of the ball) and defense (team without the ball). Note that position on the field does not dictate whether a team is attacking or defending, instead it is determined by who has possession of the ball. The basic principles of rugby rely on this contest for possession, continuity of play, efforts to regain possession, and the fact that it is a multi-faceted game. To preserve the unique nature of the sport of rugby, the International Rugby Board has established the following principles of attack and defense:


      Principles of Attack

    1. Gain Possession
    2. Go Forward
    3. Support
    4. Maintain Continuity
    5. Apply Pressure
    6. Score!

Principles of Defense

    1. Contest Possession
    2. Go Forward
    3. Apply Pressure
    4. Prevent Territorial Gains
    5. Support
    6. Regain Possession
    7. Counter Attack


These principles form the backbone of the sport of rugby. They are an essential tool in developing athletes and teams. Coaches can and should link all that they do back to these key components of the sport.