Kids First Rugby (New Rules of Play)

Introducing Children To Rugby Union & Retaining Their Interest into Adulthood

The trial rules from Shaping the Game for U7, U8 and U9 have proved to be successful and will now be called the New Rules of Play.

The New Rules of Play for Under 7, 8 and 9 have been trialled in three participating Counties – Durham, Hampshire and Warwickshire – for the past two years.

The long term objective of the trial:

  • Provide a progressive player pathway that will enhance the way in which our players are developed in a more incremental manner
  • Provide a game which is in line with the principles of Child Development based on extensive research and expertise
  • Increase involvement of all players
  • Emphasis on competitive performance not competitive outcome
  • Encourage less structure (encourage skills and discourage fear of failure)
  • Make the game easier to understand and referee
  • Less emphasis on contact and more on continuity in early years
  • Rewarding intention to tackle in early years as much as ability to tackle

The trial is based on the recommendations from research, commissioned by the RFU in 2007, by Exeter University. The research had a brief to examine the Age Grade Regulations and make recommendations on changes that should be made to the mini and youth game, with the express aim being to develop an improvement in young players’ skills and higher levels of retention into the adult game.

A synopsis of the research findings is as follows:

  • For children under the age of 12, there should be limited focus on structure and drills
  • Children learn best by doing and acquire most of their skills by playing small sided games with limited rules and regulations
  • Important building blocks (learning) of decision-making and skills can be optimally developed from the age of 7 onwards, and have a lasting effect throughout a player’s future
  • Reducing numbers is a way to increase involvement and provide more opportunities for each individual to be involved in decision-making scenarios
  • Children do not need the sort of structures, rules and rituals associated with adult games. Younger children should have limited structure imposed upon them and learn skills within these constraints
  • Profound inequalities in body size during 7-18 years of age mean that a game heavily focused on contact and set-pieces encourages a “bigger is better” mentality from a very young age, rather than skilled play and decision-making
  • More structure needs to be added as children develop into adult forms of the game
  • Contact skills are a vital and characteristic feature of Rugby Union and the acquisition and practice of these skills is essential
  • In order to provide emphasis on ball handling, evasion & support at younger ages, contact will need to be de-emphasised. It is not suggested that contact should be eliminated, but that children should be looking for spaces and not contact

The trial will continue with a focus on the Under 11 rules.

The following downloads provide the new Under 7 rules (PDF 560kB), the new Under 8 rules (PDF 560kB), the new Under 9 rules (PDF 560kB) the new Under 10 rules (PDF 560kB), the new Under 11 rules (PDF 560kB) and the new Under 12 rules (PDF 560kB). The new rules from Under 10 include the new scrum engagement sequence.

A full time PhD student from Exeter University has been assigned to gather evidence and report back and a Working Group established with representatives from the pilot areas to observe, monitor and review and make recommendations for future developments. As a consequence of their work the Under 7, Under 8 and Under 9 rules have been adopted nationally from September 2013.

You can see examples of the game by clicking on the videos below:

Under 7

Under 7: This shows one of the first festivals in which the new rules were played. In the early passages of play the children are seen hugging the ball and only passing when they have been tagged. In later stages, as the children become more used to the rules, the children become more effective at tagging and more passes are made. That six- and seven-year-old children are ego-centric is a natural and acceptable stage of development. They enjoy scoring tries, running with the ball and tagging. This game provides them with the opportunity to do this and will ignite their passion for the game. Note that the children are able to play and make decisions (score tries) without the necessity or intervention of coaches on the pitch.

Under 9

Under 9: A festival from the first year of the pilot shows the U9 game. It is easy to see why there is an increase of 128% in passing. The referee is managing the game well and giving the children a little longer to pass the ball from the ground. Note evasion, tackling and off-loading. The ball is in play for 22% longer.

Under 10

Under 10: The first part of the clip shows the current U10 rules and the New Rules as a comparison. Research has shown that 53% of the time in the current rules is either setting up or competing in the scrum, lineout, ruck and maul – with the ball 20% more in play in the New Rules. You will notice some good play in both versions, good players and good coaching will facilitate good play. The New Rules provide more opportunity for it.

Further downloads are available for participating CBs and clubs: