Rookie Rugby Cleveland Flag Rules


Playing Area

Home coaches are to be on the sidelines on the far sides of the fields.  Visiting coaches are to be in the middle of the field.  Coaches must remain on-their-own sideline for the duration of the match.

The width of the field (for grades 5 – 8) will be from the line in the middle of the football end zone to the 45-yard line (approximately 50 yards in width).  The width of the field for grades K-4 is approximately 35 yards.  The length of the field is from the football out-of-bounds line to the other out of bounds line (approximately 54 yards in length).  The back of the try-zone is marked by a gold-line before the track.

All conversions and kickoffs are taken from the top of the numbers for grades 5 – 8.  For the K-4 division, kickoffs are taken from the hash closer to mid-field.  During conversions, players must stand in the “conversion box” located between the 20 and 25-yard lines.

The try-zone is the area extending from the line on the football out-of-bounds line up until the gold-line in the back of the try-zone. 

Ball Size

We will use size 4 for all players in 5th and 6th grade, size 3 for K-4 and size 5 for the 7th and 8th grade.


Flag rugby is played for all players in the 6th grade and younger.

Starting the Match

The match begins with a kick-off from the “22-Meter Line.”  This is represented by the top of the numbers on the football field.  It is the gold line in our diagram.  Players can punt the ball.  If the ball goes into touch on the fly or out of the side or back of the try zone, the receiving team starts with a free pass at midfield and starts with a tackle count of “ZERO.”  If the ball bounces inbounds and then goes out, the receiving team gets a free pass at the point the ball went out.  The kicking team CANNOT recover the ball on a kick-off EXCEPT IN THE CASE OF A KNOCK-ON where the advantage is being played.


General Game Play


The goal of the offense is to score.  This is done by touching the ball to the ground in the opponents try-zone.  Players can run forward with the ball.  Players can also throw the ball laterally or backward to their teammates.  There is no kicking in general gameplay except at the tackle divisions.  The offense has seven possessions to score.  The following infringements result in a turnover and a free pass for the other team:

  • Failure to score after seven possessions (the referee will call-out the tackle count)
  • Pass/Drop the ball forward
  • ACTIVELY block another player from making a tackle
  • Guard their flag against being ripped
  • Tied flags: turnover with play beginning at midfield
  • Shirts not tucked-in in such a way as to prevent flags from being pulled by defense


The goal of the defense is to prevent the offense from scoring.  The defense attempts to rip the flag of the offensive player off of his/her waist.  Each time this happens, it is considered one possession.  Defenders must do this seven times in order to create a turnover.  The defense can also commit infringements that will result in a new set of seven possessions for the offense.  These infringements include: 

  • Pushing a player out of bounds
  • Making a tackle without your flag
  • Impeding the ball carrier with no intent to rip the flag
  • Throwing the ball carrier’s flag with more than one motion (winding up and throwing the flag after it’s been ripped)
  • Player dangerously leaving his feet
  • Offsides (set by official at 5 yards from tackle)


A tackle is made when the ball carrier’s flag is ripped-off.  The defense must rip the flag and release in one fluid motion.  The tackle exists wherever the flag lands.  A tackle only happens when the referee verbally signals “Tackle.”  Sometimes the referee will deem that the flag was pulled after/during the ball had been released.  Play until the referee announces “TACKLE.”  The referee will count out the tackles each time this occurs “Tackle 1,” “Tackle 2,” etc.  If the referee does not signal a tackle, then play continues.  

After each ‘tackle’ play restarts with a free pass.  The previous ball carrier cannot restart play.  It must be one of his teammates.  The teammate will pass the ball with at least ONE FOOT ON THE FLAG OF HIS/HER TEAMMATE.  If this does not happen, the referee will bring the ball back to the spot of the tackle and penalize the offense 1 ‘tackle.’ (Exception: If the flag is within 5 yards of the opponents goal-line, players may restart anywhere behind the flag without a foot on the previous tackle). 

The defense must be 5 meters back from the tackle.  The referee will mark the 5 meters for each tackle.  The defense does not need to retreat farther than their own try-line.  The defense may advance after the free pass has been made.  Players who are not back 5 meters are offsides.

Any offensive player who receives/recovers the ball on the ground is automatically ‘tackled.’

If an offensive player’s flags accidentally fall-off either in the course of running or they did not realize it, it is necessary to ‘tackle’ that person simply with 1-hand ‘touch.’


The purpose of the game is to score more points than the other team.  You can score points in two ways.

A try is scored when a player touches the ball down in the try zone.  He/she must apply downward pressure to the ball.  A try is awarded 5 points.

A conversion is scored when a player kicks the ball to his/her awaiting teammates in the try zone in the conversion box.  If any of his/her teammates catch the ball with two feet in the try zone, the conversion is awarded.  A conversion is awarded 2 points.  A conversion kick is a punt taken from any spot perpendicular to the try line from the spot where the try was scored.  It must be taken from behind the 22.  This is represented as the top of the numbers on the football field.  The conversion is good if any of the kicker’s teammates catch the ball in the try zone with two feet in.  Kicks must be taken within 20 seconds of the scoring of the try.


Play consists of two 7-minute halves.  Halftime is 1 minute.  A play does not stop at the end of either half until there is a dead ball.  A tackle is not a dead ball.  Dead balls include turnovers and scores.  Passes that are intercepted would not end the game.  Knock-ons in which advantage is being played would not end the game.  Penalties do not end the game.  Time will stop during injury time.  There is no over-time unless during the City Championships.  Overtime in tournament play in sudden-death.


Substitutions may enter ONLY during injury time or after a try has been scored.  Players may exit or enter as many times as they wish during these appointed times.


Rookie Rugby Cleveland 5th/6th flag division is Flag and contact is discouraged.  Defensive players have a right to the ground that they are holding.  If an offensive player is running hard in their direction, they may choose to move and attack their flag from the side.  It is understood that incidental contact will occur from time-to-time.  However, if the referee deems that a player must leave the pitch for dangerous play, he/she may award a yellow-card (2 minutes off) or a red-card (remainder of the match off).  That team must play down a player during this period.  If a referee gives a yellow-card to a coach for behavior, the coach must pull 1 player off (of his her/choosing) for a 2 minute period.  If a coach receives a red-card, he/she must pull a player and play down for the remainder of the match.  Only certified coaches are permitted on the sidelines during matches.  Parents who are not coaches should be in the “FAN” area.

Rookie Rugby Cleveland Tackle Rules 

The 7th/8th Grade League will follow the IRB Laws for 7’s.  However, there are a few differences in gameplay.  Remember, we are playing these games sideways on a football field.  

  • The conversion is a punt taken from any spot perpendicular to the try line from the spot where the try was scored.  It must be taken from behind the 22.  The conversion is good if any of the kicker’s teammates catch the ball in the try zone with two feet within the conversion box.  Kicks must be taken within 20 seconds of the scoring of the try.
  • Dropkicks the beginning of each half and after any scores are taken from the 22 (the top of the football numbers).  Drop kicks must go from the 22 to the halfway line before they are playable.  If they do not reach the halfway line, then the receiving team will have the choice of a re-kick or a free-pass at the half-way line.

Referee Discretion 

The referee is the sole arbiter of the laws of the game.   

His judgment includes, but is not limited to:

  • Awarding 10 meters to the offense on significant penalties (unsportsmanlike conduct, habitual offsides, etc.)
  • Playing advantage when it is beneficial to the offense
  • Issuing a yellow card to a player or coach (Player is out for 2 minutes.  Player cannot be replaced during this period)
  • Issuing a red card to a player (Player is out for the rest of the game.  Player cannot be replaced during that game.)

The location manager and commissioners of Rookie Rugby Cleveland will decide if further disciplinary action must be taken against players, coaches, or spectators.  The commissioners of Rookie Rugby Cleveland have the power to remove players/coaches from the league if necessary.  

A-Side and B-Sides 

Teams who field both an A-side and a B-side may not mingle their players.  B-side players may “play-up” and sub for A-side matches.  However, the “top 7” players of an A-side program may not “play-down” in the B-side league.  This will result in the forfeiture of the match and a bonus point awarded to the opposition.

When a team is short on players, they have a choice to either play the match down players (for full credit) or to borrow players from another team, including a higher side of their own club (as a forfeit).