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Rag Rugby Rules
By John Mulligan
Jul 5, 2006, 10:48

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Rules and Regulations of Castlebar RFC Rag Rugby



TIPP OFF TIMES: Tipp off times for each team will vary from week to week. All captains will be notified of their time slots on the Monday prior to the game. The Tipp-off schedules for all matches will also be available on the website

WARM UP: Each team is responsible for their warm-up and stretches before matches. It is advised that all teams do so to avoid injuries. We recommend that teams arrive 30 minutes before their game in order to have sufficient time to change, stretch, warm up and sign on.

TOSS: Will take place prior to the game. At this stage, the captains decide which team kicks off and which direction each team are playing.

TEAMS: Consist of 7 players and 5 subs. Each team is allowed a maximum of 3 males and a minimum of 4 females on the field at any time. If there are any less than 3 female players at a game the team must play the same amount of players short for that match.  A team must have 5 players to take the field for a match to begin (one player must be a female). 

THE PITCHES: All pitches will be properly lined with paint and not cones to ensure accurate refereeing and making it easier for players to keep within the playing field.

SIGN-ON: All players must sign-on prior to their game each week.

Castlebar RFC Rag Rugby Matches

DURATION: Games are 15 minutes each way. At half time there will be a 2 minute break where teams will change sides. A hooter will sound to commence each game. The hooter will sound again when it is half time and full time. The game at the next stoppage of play, and not when the hooter blows!

Once the hooter has sounded for a match to begin, and the referee and opposition are ready for kick off, a team will be penalised by 1 point for every minute that they are late. A team must have 5 players to take the field for a match to begin. If after 7 minutes a team can still not take the field they will forfeit the game and the opposition will win with a score of 13-0.

MAIN OBJECTIVE: The aim of the attacking team is to score a try by pressing the ball down over the opposition’s try line. Teams have 5 opportunities (rags) to score before the ball is turned over to the opposition (see RAGS for more info). The aim of the defending team is to grab a ribbon from the shorts of the player with the ball to stop them advancing.

NON-CONTACT: The game is non-contact. An attacker cannot deliberately bump into a defender, nor can a defender deliberately bump or move into an attacker’s path to block. (The onus is on the attacking player to avoid the defender).

KICK OFFS: There are none, the game begins with a tip-off to a team mate.

PASSING THE BALL: The ball must be passed backwards or parallel to the defending team’s try line - NOT FORWARD. If a player passes the ball forward or drops the ball forward (a knock-on), a turnover will be awarded to the opposing team. All turnovers begin with a tip-off.

RAGS: The only way to stop the ball carriers progress is by removing one (or both) Velcro attached ribbon (rag) on the shorts. It is an infringement to remove a player’s ribbons/rags prior to them receiving the ball or after they have passed the ball. It is also an infringement to rag the ball carrier across their body (i.e. the defender must remove the rag that is closest to them, this way avoiding contact. If the defender is chasing the ball carrier from behind, they may grab either rag, as they will not infringe on the contact rule.)

Ø      When a defender rags the ball carrier they must hold up the ribbon and shout, "RAG". The referee will then blow his whistle and the defender then drops the ribbon to the ground where the rag was made. This marks the spot where the attacker plays the ball. (The attacker must return to the marked spot).

Ø      The defending team must retreat 5 metres from the marked spot and be in line with the referee.

Ø      The defender who made the rag can either retreat 6 metres to join his/her team’s defensive line or stand directly in front of the ragged player (this is to stop the dummy half from running around the edges of the roll-the ball area). This defender must stand directly in-line with the ball player and cannot interfere with the roll-the-ball in any way and cannot advance until the dummy half has touched the ball. If this defender infringes on any of these rules it will result in a penalty to the attacking team.

Ø      The attacker then rolls the ball between his/her legs so that the dummy half can play the ball (the dummy half is the first player to pass the ball once a Rag has been made). The ball must be rolled straight behind the ragged player and the dummy half has 4 seconds to get to the ball and play it. The dummy half can run or pass.

Ø      Only after the player has rolled the ball between their legs can they replace their ribbon and take part in the game again.

Ø      The attacking team has 5 attempts to score a try. If they do not score before the 6th Rag, the ball is turned over and the defending team now become the attackers. The referee will count aloud the number of Rags a team has made.

OFFSIDE RULE: When players are caught offside the referee will either stop play to award a penalty or play advantage to the non-offending team.

A player is deemed offside if:

Ø      They are not back the required distance at the roll-the-ball or penalty (5 metres)

Tip-off: A free pass restarts most stoppages of play (turnovers, knock-on, ball into touch, penalty etc.). On a free pass, the defending team are given time to retreat 5 metres before play starts, and it is always the referee who restarts the game by calling out 'play'. A tip-off is taken by tapping the ball off the foot and passing to a team mate. Players cannot take quick free passes nor can they run themselves. The player making a free pass must pass the ball first. A free pass cannot be taken closer than 5 metres to the try line. The team that is awarded the free pass has 5 chances (Rags) to score and if they do not score by their 6th Rag, then the ball is turned over.

TURNOVERS: A turnover is when the attacking team hand over possession of the ball to the defending team, making them the new attacking team.

Turnovers occur when:

Ø      The attacking team do not score within the required 5 rags. On the 6th Rag, the ball is turned over and the defenders are the new attackers.

Ø      The attacking team passes a ball that makes contact with the referee. The turnover is awarded at the point of contact.

Ø      The ball carrier drops the ball forward (a knock-on).

Ø      No one plays the ball within 4 seconds of the ball being rolled between the ragged player’s legs.

Ø      An attacking player is stripped of their ribbon(s) (ragged) over the opposition’s try line prior grounding the ball for a try and it is the last (6th) rag. The turnover is awarded 5 metres out from the try line.

Ø      The ball carrier steps on or passes the ball over the touchline prior to their ribbon being removed. The turnover is awarded 5 metres out from the touchline.

Ø      The ball carrier steps on or over, or grounds the ball on or over the dead ball line or the in-goal-touch line, or if they drop the ball over the opposition’s try line.

Ø      If the ball carrier makes contact with / runs into one of their team mates that is in an offside position (called crossing/accidental offside).

KICKING: Not allowed, it’s a passing game!

SCORING: One point is awarded for a male try and three points are awarded for a female try (the ball must be passed to the female before the try line for 3 points, the ball carrier must not cross over the try line then pass to a female team mate, as this will only result in a 1 point try). At the end of the game, the team with the most points will win. Teams will receive 5 points for a win, 3 for a draw, 1 for a loss, and none for a forfeit. The referee will write down all scores throughout the game and both captains must sign the scorecard after each game. These points along with the match score will be updated on the league tables creating a hierarchy of league rankings.

Important: all referees must report scores to the Organising Committee after their games each night.

Ø      To score a try a player must carry the ball over the opponents' goal line and press the ball down on the ground.

Ø      The player must remain on his/her feet when grounding the ball.

Ø      After a try is scored the game restarts from the centre of the field with a tip-off by the non-scoring team.

FOOTWEAR: Appropriate footwear must be worn. No sandals or open-toe footwear. The best footwear in good weather is moulded studded boots or comfortable runners (in wet conditions runners are not the best option because the surface becomes slippery and makes it easy for players to injure ankles or fall and break bones etc).

PLAYERS: must wear pocketless shorts or leg wear. It is up to teams to provide their own team T-shirts/jerseys. It should be noted that players are not permitted to wear prescription glasses or sunglasses on the field. Contact lenses or special sports goggles may be worn.  Players must also remove all jewellery, watches etc before the game commences. Wedding rings or jewellery that cannot be removed must be completely covered by tape. Should jerseys/tee shirts clash, then bibs will be provided.


Ø      Play does not stop while substitutions are being made. A substitute may only enter the playing field when the substituted player has left the field of play and has given the new player his/her 2 Rags (ribbons).

Ø      The ball carrier is not allowed to protect their Rags (ribbons) or fend off defenders (whoever initiates contact will be penalised).

Ø      A knock back is play on, and the knock on advantage rule applies.

Ø      The defensive line can move forward only when the dummy half touches the ball.

Ø      If there is no dummy half the defending team has 4 seconds before they can advance to the ball at the referee’s discretion.

Ø      The dummy half can run, pass or kick and can be caught with the ball.

Ø      An attacker must stop and play the ball if he/she is in possession with only one rag on.

Ø      The ball must be carried across the try line and grounded in all situations to score a try.

Ø      Players must stay on their feet at all times, even when securing a loose ball or scoring a try.

Ø      If an attacking player falls to the ground or loses their footing anywhere on the pitch and there is a defender within touching distance, then a rag will be counted for safety reasons. It is at the discretion of the referee whether the defender is within touching distance.


REFEREES: All of our referees are volunteers and will undergo rigorous training and coaching in the laws of rag rugby. Only those of top standard will be used to referee in the competition. All of our rules and regulations are guidelines for both referees and players to ensure a smooth and enjoyable game but it must be made completely clear that in all of our Leagues the referee’s word is final! Bad sportsmanship is unwelcome and will not be tolerated either on or off the field. If any player or players physically assault or undeservedly harass a referee they will most definitely take no further part within the tournament and will not be permitted Castlebar RFC for the remainder of the tournament. If this takes place during a match, that match may be suspended or even abandoned depending on the severity of the incident. If a game is to be abandoned in this fashion, the non-offending team will be awarded the match with a score of 13-0 (unless the team is winning by a greater margin at the time) and the offending team will receive zero points in that match for the league table (such as a forfeit).

However, if there is derogatory behaviour or a fowl attitude from players towards the referee or other competitors on the field, this may result in penalty, sin bin or dismissal. 

PENALTIES: The referee can award a penalty against a player/players/team for infringements of the rules of Castlebar Rag Rugby. When an infringement occurs the referee may allow play to continue to see if the non-offending team gets any advantage, if not, then he will stop play and award the penalty where the infringement occurred. If an infringement prevents what would be a definite try, the referee may award a penalty try to the non-offending team. The referee can issue a caution to a team or a player instructing that if there is further unsporting behaviour, a sin-binning or dismissal will be the result. For more serious infringements the referee may issue a player(s) with a yellow or red card in conjunction with the penalty.

Penalty offences include:

Ø      An attacking player diving or kicking ball.

Ø      The ball carrier blocking or preventing defenders from making a rag.

Ø      The ball carrier using his/her team mates to obstruct defenders by running behind them.

Ø      The ball carrier bumping into, handing off, or making avoidable contact with a defender.

Ø      Any player who initiates contact with another player.

Ø      Any player caught offside trying to play the ball or making a rag.

Ø      The defender who rags the ball carrier throwing the ribbon away (the ribbon must be thrown directly on the ground where the rag was made).

Ø      A player holding onto a member of the opposition and thus preventing them from attacking/defending.

Ø      Pre-Rags (removing a ribbon prior to the attacker receiving the ball) and Late-Rags (after the attacker has passed the ball).

Ø      A defender shouting "Rag" without removing the ribbon.

Ø      Knocking the ball from the ball carrier’s hands.

Ø      Two defenders blocking the path completely for an attacker, making contact necessary. Here, a penalty will be awarded to the attacker.

SIN BIN (yellow card): Players who are continuously in breach of the rules or commit deliberate fouls can be (at the discretion of the referee) sin-binned for a period of 5 minutes. During this time the player must leave the playing field and remain behind the opposition’s dead ball line until the referee allows them to take further part. The sin-binned player must give the referee his/her ribbons for the duration of the binning and cannot be replaced during this period.

Sin-binning offences include:

Ø      Repeated offside,

Ø      Repeated late/early ripping of the ribbons off opponents,

Ø      Avoidable contact infringements,

Ø      Back-chatting the referee or slagging opponents.

SENDING OFF (red card): At the discretion of the referee, any serious offence or breach of the rules may result in the dismissal of a player or players. Any player sent off (red card) will earn an automatic 1-match suspension, and depending on the nature of the fowl behaviour may be excluded from taking any further part in the tournament. The disciplinary committee will decide if further action is to be taken. Each player to be sent off will have 6 points deducted from their final score of that particular game.

Sending of offences include:

Ø      Punching, kicking (including tripping), head butting, deliberately making contact with or striking an opponent any where on the body or attempting to do any of these actions.

Ø      Strong verbal abuse directed at the referee or another player.

Ø      If the referee issues a 2nd yellow card to a player in the same match.

Ø      If a player physically intimidates the referee in any way.

ADVANTAGE: If an infringement has occurred resulting in a penalty or turnover, the referee can play advantage to the non-offending team by allowing play to continue. The referee will shout "Advantage" and should the non-offending team make ground and the referee is satisfied that the continuous play was beneficial to the team, then the referee will shout "Advantage over" and next subsequent Rag will be counted as the 1st Rag. On the other hand, if the non-offending team fail to either make ground or happen to make a mistake themselves, the referee can bring play back to where the original infringement occurred and award the non-offending team a free pass. Once play has stopped the referee can then talk to the offending player(s) and penalise them accordingly (even if the referee plays advantage he can still sin bin or send off an offending player once play has stopped).

For example, if an attacking player drops a ball forward but a defender retrieves it, the referee can allow play to continue to see if the new attacking team get any advantage. However, if that team subsequently knock the ball on, the referee will bring play back to where the original knock on occurred and award a free pass.

Drugs/Alcohol: No player will be allowed to take part in a game if they are deemed to be under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. Castlebar RFC Rag Rugby and Castlebar RFC will take no responsibility for injuries caused by individuals who are under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs and every player has a responsibility to report those they believe to be a danger to themselves or others.


POINTS: Teams will receive 5 points for a win, 3 for a draw, 1 for a loss, and none for a forfeit.

PLAY OFFS: At the completion of the round robin, the Final Series commences. Prizes will be awarded to the Winners and Runners-up on Finals Day. Players must have played & signed-on for three or more games to be eligible for the play-offs.

DRAWN GAMES: Should two teams end up with equal points after the round-robin stage, points "For and against" will apply. Should a team be on equal points and the "For and against" difference is equal the team with the highest "For" score will secure the higher place.  For drawn games in the quarterfinals, semi-finals and finals the "Golden Try" rule will apply.  The first team to score a try wins. However, if the receiving team scores in the first set of 6 rags, the opposition then have 1 set of 6 to score a try of equal or more points (i.e. a female try if the other team score a male try), otherwise first try wins.

LATE ARRIVAL: To ensure that the competition runs on schedule all teams should be ready for their game 5 minutes prior to kick-off. Teams arriving more than 7 minutes late will automatically forfeit the match.

FORFEITS:  If you have to forfeit a game, please contact the Castlebar RFC Rag Rugby committee by 1pm on the day of play. If you forfeit twice without notifying the committee your team will be withdrawn from the competition with no refund and your place will be made a bye for the remaining rounds of the competition. There will be no exception to this rule and we encourage all teams to make every effort to play at your scheduled time slot every week.

INSURANCE: Castlebar RFC is properly insured for social occasions and the playing of sports, as any club should be. Details of our Insurance policy are available on request. Even though Castlebar Rag Rugby is a non contact sport, as with any sport, there is a risk of injury. All Players play entirely at their own risk and it is entirely at the discretion of each team and player whether or not to take part in the Castlebar RFC Rag Rugby Tournament. Participants can avail of personal insurance in the case of personal injury.

The Castlebar Rag Rugby Tournament and Castlebar RFC take no responsibility for and excludes liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any personal injury or loss or damage to any personal property sustained while playing Castlebar Rag Rugby or while present at Castlebar RFC, other than to the extent such injury is covered by the club’s Public Liability insurance policy.

The emphasis on this tournament is about having FUN! If you have any suggestions please do not hesitate in contacting a member of the tournament committee.

If you would like more information please contact any of the following:

Shane McElwee: 087 – 2895909


Alan Gavin: 087 – 1252324


Ray Blake: 086 – 8190775

© Copyright 2006 by the author(s)/photographer(s) and

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