The Rules of Rugby sevens are much the same of those used in the fifteen man rugby union version of the game. The game is regulated by the same authority, the International Rugby Board (IRB), therefore the rules of rugby sevens are very similar and most teams use players that also play the full fifteen aside game.
There are some major differences in the rugby sevens rule book though, which have a dramatic effect upon the game.
- The game is played by 7 players on each side. Hence the name sevens. The team consists of three forwards and four backs
- Games take place between two teams for a total of 7 minutes each way, with a 1minute half time break. In the final of a competition, this is increased to 10 minutes each way with a 2 minute half time break
- In the case of there being a draw at the end of a game sudden death extra time is played, whereby 5 minute 'halves' are played until one of the teams scores a try, the scorer of that try is then considered the winner of the game
- The scoring system is the same as the 15 a side game, 5 points for a try, 2 for a conversion and 3 for both penalties and drop goals
- The difference is that all conversions must be taken within 40 seconds of the try being scored and must be taken as a drop goal rather than a place kick
- Unlike 15 a side rugby the scoring team kicks off to the opposition, rather than the team that was scored against, allowing teams to get hold of the ball after they have conceded
- A player receiving a yellow card is sent to the sin bin for a 2 minute interval (counted as time in play, not real time) rather than 10 minutes
- Scrummaging takes place between 3 forwards. These forward bind together and interlock their heads in the same way a front row in the full version of rugby would. The scrum half feeds the ball into the channel between them whilst the hooker (central forward) tries to strike the ball backwards and the two 'props' (outer forwards) push
- Lineouts also take place between two (sometimes 3) players, with a player from the team who didn't knock or carry the ball over the touchline (unless kicked from a penalty where it is the team that kicked it out) responsible for throwing the ball back in (usually the hooker)
- Each team is only allowed 5 reserves per game, and can only make 3 changes during the course of the game
These rule changes are brought in to keep the game fast moving and free flowing, which is considered the aim of sevens rugby.