How to Play Touch Rugby

How to Play Touch Rugby

What is Touch Rugby? Why has it become so popular and how can you bring it into your sessions?


Derived from Rugby League, Touch Rugby was created to help make Rugby even more inclusive to all genders, ages, and abilities. The main characteristic of Touch Rugby compared to Rugby League and Union is that instead of tackling players, you touch them using your hands on any part of the body, clothing or the ball. This opens the sport of Rugby to more players who may not like the physicality of the Union and League variations. Touch Rugby is also mixed-gender, making it one of those few sports that is open to all.


The game of Touch Rugby is fast paced, adaptive and allows players of mixed abilities to learn together. With having no contact, this reduces the risk of injuries and thus safety is improved. When working in classes or clubs, this will help alleviate any pressure on the players across their other training. One of the other key benefits of Touch Rugby is that there is a reduced need for kit, which makes it affordable and accessible to so many more players.


Touch Rugby Rules

There are several variations of Touch Rugby rules across the world, but for the purpose of this Blog we are using the rules as defined by England Touch. Here is how to Play Touch Rugby with the key rules of the game:

  •  Number of Players Per Team – Each team consists of 6 players on the field at one time. You can have up to 8 substitutes off the field, and substitutions can occur throughout the game
  • Size of the Pitch – Touch Rugby pitches are 70m x 50m rectangular in dimensions.
  • Size of Rugby Ball – Rugby balls for Touch Rugby are smaller than Union and League with a Size 4 ball used
  • How to start a game – A match starts and restarts in the centre of the pitch with the attacking team performing a “tap”. This is when a player moves the ball with their foot, free from their hands, and then picks the ball up. The defending team must be 10 metres away when this happens
  • What is a ‘Touch’ – To stop the attacking team from advancing, the defending team must touch the attacking player who holds the ball. A legitimate touch includes contact on the ball, the hair or clothing of the player. The player making the touch must call this, but the referee will determine if the touch has been made. The attacking player may also instigate the touch if they would like by touching the defending player.
  • What does the player do when they are ‘Touched’? – When touched, the player in possession of the ball must place it on the ground at the exact point of the touch. The player then steps over the ball, which is called a ‘rollball’. This can be done with the hands or feet, but not the ball may not roll by more than a metre. A teammate then will come and pick up the ball and become the Half.
  • What does the defending team do after making the ‘Touch’? – Once one of the defending team has made a touch, the full team must retreat 7 m to get back onside. However, if the touch is made within 7 metres of the Try Line, then the defending team only go back to this line.
  • What does the ‘Half’ do next? – The player who has picked up the ball may take the ball forward but must pass to a teammate before they are touched by the defending team. If the Half if touched by a defending player then the possession is handed over to the other team, and all players must retreat 10m for the other team to restart the game.
  • How many times can a team be touched? – The attacking team have six touches to get the ball as far down the pitch as possible. If the team do not score a try after 6 touches, then the procession is handed over to the opposition and the match is restarted with a rollball.
  • How is a try scored? – A try is scored when any player other than the Half crosses the Try Line into the Score Zone and places the ball on the ground before they are touched. If this happens then the attacking team score a point, and the ball is taken back to the centre where the attacking team are now defending.
  • What happens if a player drops the ball? – If this occurs, or if a player runs out of play, the procession is handed over to the defending team, who then become the attacking team.
  • What penalties occur in Touch Rugby? – There are several infringements in Touch Rugby that would construct as a penalty. If a penalty is awarded then the referee will provide the mark to restart, the defending team retreats 10m and the attacking team restart with a tap. These are examples of a penalty:
    • A forward pass as all passes must be like in Rugby Union or Rugby League
    • If a defending player is not back the 7m from a touch, thus making them offside
    • If a rollball from the player who is touched does so too far away from where they were touched
    • Claiming you were touched when you were not
    • Using too much force with a touch
    • Passing the ball to a teammate after you have been touched
  • Who has the final say? – The referee is the sole judge on the Touch Rugby pitch! A penalty can be awarded for verbal abuse or foul play, and the referee’s decision is final!

The Positions of Touch Rugby

In a Touch Rugby team there will always be six players on the pitch at one time. These will consist of:

  • Two Winger – Players that either side of the team’s line up. They will generally call the touches, and help keep the pitch width
  • Two Links – These are next set of players in from the wingers. They will work with the players in the middle, work on driving the team forward, be the Half and help connect the play.
  • Two Mids – the two players in the middle of the team. These will do the most running in the teams, help dictate play and communicate the most across the team.
Touch Rugby Pitch

How to Coach Touch Rugby

Coaching a new sport can be complicated, but there are a series of brilliant videos available on the web and useful coaching sites. However, here are some basic principles of play for teachers/coaches to remember when bringing in Touch Rugby:

  • In Attack – The aim of the game is to score more tries than the opposition. This is done by driving the team and the ball as much to the opposition Score Zone. There are many attacking moves that a Coach can bring in, but for beginners the first skill to learn is the planting of the ball once touched, the Half collecting the ball and passing off to a teammate to help continue the drive up the pitch.
  • In Defence – When defending, you are trying to deny the opponents the time and space to move forward to the Score Zone. The defending team does this by moving forward to touch the attacking team, and then retreating backwards 7m quickly to get back onside. The best coaching tip for beginners is to work on instigating the touch and then retreating back, and bouncing off that 7m retreat line to stop the attacking team as quickly as possible.
  • Passing – With the element of tackling removed from the game, this allows greater emphasis on the passing of the ball between teammates. The ball must not go forward so player’s movement and passing skills will help the team advance further up the pitch quicker. For beginners this can be done by lining up in the team and passing the ball whilst moving forward.
  • Running into Spaces – With only six players on each team, this allows for more space for players to run in to. Targeting the space to get away from the oppositions touch, focusing on speed and balance will help score the tries. For beginners this can be done by getting players to run onto a pass and target the spaces between the opposing players.
  • Interchanging Players – With only six players on each team, and the fast paced nature, energy levels will tire quickly. Getting fresh legs on the field could be the difference between winning and losing. This means in classes/sessions players are not waiting to get on the pitch too long.


England Touch do run a number of coaching qualifications from their entry level Community Coaching Award and up to the Federation of International Touch Level 2. For more information, visit their website -