How to play Rookie Rugby, a rugby game modified for youth

Rugby, which was first played and named after Rugby School in England, is now played all over the world. In the US, rugby football has gained popularity in recent years. Played for years on college campuses, in 2011, a semi-professional league was established, called the USA Rugby League. It's unsurprising that youth leagues too are popping up. The Game of the Week is modified rugby football for youth–Rookie Rugby!

Group Size:

 Large group (10 or more)

Age Group: 

 Grades 1+

Length of Activity: 

 10 minutes or more

Developmental Goal: 

 To develop teamwork, problem solving, leadership, communication, goal setting and critical thinking skills.


 Rugby ball, Boundary Cones and Flag Belts

Skills PracticedGripping, Holding, Hand-Eye Coordination, Passing and Catching, Running, Pivoting and Agility.

Before You Start:

  • Explain the rules of the game. Check for understanding by having players to repeat back to you.
  • Split the players fairly into two even teams, using 1s and 2s or a similar grouping technique.
  • If using flag belts, ensure kids are wearing them properly and understand how to use them.

Set Up: 
In any open space (i.e. grass field, parking lot, gymnasium), put down boundary cones forming a large rectangle of about 75×45 yards. Size of open space can be adjusted for age and ability of participants.

How To Play: 

Rookie Rugby is similar to Flag Football except it is continuous and aerobic, keeping kids active and moving at all times. When a flag is pulled, players pass the ball and continue without stopping play. There are several lead up games that can be used to introduce basic skills and terms, including freeze tag, sharks and minnows, duck-duck-goose, etc.

  • The object of the game is to earn a ‘try’ by touching the ball to the ground on or behind the opponent’s goal line (i.e. ‘try zone’ or ‘end zone’), called ‘grounding’.
  • Players advance the ball by running forward and passing laterally or backwards.
  • When a defensive player pulls the a flag of the ball carrier, the ball must be passed to a teammate within the next three steps for play to continue.
  • A ‘Free Pass’ is given to the opposing team if…

    • Six flag pulls occur in a row results,
    • Offensive players without the ball do not move behind the offside line (even with the player with the ball) when asked,
    • The ball carrier goes to the ground or a player dives on the ball,
    • A player drops the ball forward, called a Knock-on,
    • A team passes the ball forward,
    • The ball goes out of bounds,
    • A player uses physical contact such as pushing the defense,
    • A player kicks the ball, or
    • The team scores.
  • A free pass may be awarded to the offensive team if the ball is pulled from the players’ grasp or if a defensive player intentionally makes contact.

A full Guidebook for Rookie Rugby can be found here.

  • If flags are not available, teach players to use soft two-hand touches.
  • As players skills are improve, rules can be added to transition into more traditional rules of rugby, such as allowing contact and kicking.

Find more new and exciting games in our games database!


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