The object of the game is to outscore your opponents over the course of the 80-minute match. There are four ways to score points. The most valuable, a try, is scored when a ball-carrier grounds the ball over the try line (the line the H-shaped posts stand on).
The team picks up five points for this and gets the opportunity to kick a conversion, which is a free kick at goal from a point directly in line with where the try was scored. If the ball goes over the bar and between the posts, it is a conversion and the team is awarded two points.
At any time during open play a player can attempt to kick the ball between the posts and over the bar using a drop kick. If they are successful it earns three points. Look out for drop-goal attempts when a game is tight and the clock is running down. It's how Jonny Wilkinson famously won England the IRB Rugby World Cup in 2003.
The final method of scoring points is with a penalty kick. Penalties can be awarded by the referee for a number of infringements. Once awarded a penalty, the team captain can choose either to kick for goal, kick for the touchline, or run with the ball in hand.
A successful penalty kick at goal is worth three points. The precise left boot of Jonny Wilkinson has earned big returns for England: he has scored more than 220 penalties, a success rate of nearly 75%.
A tackle is one of the most physically confrontational parts of the game. It is completed when a player in possession is held and brought to the ground by a defender. If they can, a player who has been knocked to the ground may get up and continue playing. Because tackling is such a combative part of rugby, there are a number of rules governing what counts as a legal tackle, all of which have been introduced in the interests of safety.
Just barging someone over is not considered a tackle. If a tackle is made above the shoulder, or the tackler makes no attempt to wrap his arms around the ball-carrier, it is deemed dangerous play and can be penalised. Similarly, if a tackler picks up the ball-carrier and turns his or her body past the horizontal, he or she will be penalised for 'spear' tackling. In spite of these restrictions an aggressive tackler can be as much of an asset as a pacy winger or creative fly half.
Once a legal tackle has been completed and the ball-carrier is on the ground, they must release the ball immediately or risk being penalised by the referee. “Holding on” will result in a penalty to the opposition.
Ideally, the player will try to present the ball behind them for a team-mate to collect. The tackler, or any other players entering the tackle area, must be on their feet before attempting to play the ball and must approach the ball from their own side. Failure to do so will result in a penalty.
The situation often resulting after a tackle is known as a ruck. Details of this can be found on the teams & playing page.