Rugby Union

Rugby Union in New Zealand is administered by the New Zealand Rugby Union. There are provincial union who support Rugby Clubs and Schools with rugby teams.

Age to start:

The New Zealand Rugby Union offers a program called ‘Rippa Rugby’ for children starting in the Under 6 year age group. The Small Blacks Development Model has three modified versions of the game aimed at introducing children aged 5 to 12 years to rugby union in a modified and safe environment.

There are under 19 age group rules for players aged 13 to 19 years that incorporate specific safety laws tailored for the developing rugby player.

Rules of the game:

The basic rules of rugby union are:

  1. There are 15 players on each team with 7 players that can be used for injury replacement or substitutions.
  2. The aim of the game is to score points by scoring a try, a conversion goal, a penalty goal or a dropped goal.
  3. A try is worth 5 points, a conversion goal 2 points, a penalty goal 3 points and a dropped goal 3 points.
  4. A player may receive the ball from a teammate via a pass only if they are behind them and then advance the ball by running with it. The aim is to score a try at the other end of the field.
  5. The field is a rectangle 70 metres wide and 100 metres long.

Find the full list of rugby union rules


Rippa Rugby is suitable for primary aged children. They are able to participate in rugby union at an introductory level in a safe environment. The program introduces children to the basic skills and principles of rugby union whilst developing important basic motor skills.

The Small Blacks program is suitable for children between 5 to 12 years to participate in rugby union in a modified and safe environment.

Both Rippa Rugby and the Small Blacks program both recognize the physical nature of rugby union and are therefore specifically designed for children to begin their participation in the sport without the risk of serious injury.

Rugby Union is a contact sport so that risk of injury needs to be taken into account when considering whether to participate.

Sign up dates:

Sign up dates may vary depending on the particular club. As rugby union is a sport that is played during the winter months, many clubs have their registration days in February. It is suggested you contact your local club for specific details regarding sign-up dates and times. It may be that your child plays in a school team for interschool games but plays for a local club on Saturdays.

Sporting tips:

To successfully participate in rugby union you should;

  • Be physically fit
  • Possess good ball skills, in particular catching and passing
  • Possess good vision
  • Be able to operate within a team environment
  • Be able to play outdoors in sometimes inclement weather conditions

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