A match begins with a kickoff from the center of the halfway line. The ball must be kicked beyond the opponent’s ten-yard line, after which any player who is “onside” (not ahead of the ball in the direction it is advancing) may kick or dribble the ball with his feet, pass the ball, run with it, or, except for certain conditions, tackle an opponent who is carrying the ball. The forward pass is illegal in Rugby at all times, a condition which follows from another law. No member of the ball carrier ‘s team may be ahead of the ball carrier. If he cannot elude a tackler, the ball carrier will usually try to pass the ball laterally (to the side) or backward. In Rugby a pass is usually made underhanded with both hands. After a man has been tackled, he immediately releases the ball, and it can then be picked up or kicked by a player of either team.
At no time during play may players charge each other except with their shoulders. Also, a player who is not running with the ball must not charge or obstruct an opponent who is not holding the ball. A penalty is incurred for willful tripping, striking, or holding (generally a penalty kick for the opposing team). The referee awards a penalty kick at the point where the infringement has occurred.
The action in Rugby is more continuous than in American football. Rugby has no scrimmage and no series of downs. Play is uninterrupted except when scores, penalties, or out-of-bounds (“in touch”) plays occur. After a score, play is restarted with a kickoff from the center of the halfway line. The method of starting play after it has been stopped for many minor penalties is a “scrummage.” In a “set” or “tight” scrummage, a player from the team awarded the scrummage rolls the ball into a tunnel formed by the opposing sets of eight forwards binding together with arms round each others’ waists in three rows each and bending forward so that the shoulders of the front row (three men each side) of each team meet. Each “pack” of forwards then pushes against their opponents and attempts to “heel” or kick the ball to their backs, all of whom remain behind the scrummage line until the ball emerges. (A “loose” scrummage is formed spontaneously when one or more players from each side close round the ball if it is held or trapped briefly after a tackle or “line-out.”) The method of starting play after the ball goes out-of-bounds is a “line-out.” In a line-out both packs of forwards line up next to each other at a 90° angle or straight out from the side (touch) line at the point where the ball went out-of-bounds and jump for the ball which is thrown down the middle over their heads