Mini rugby also known as New Image Rugby are forms of rugby union designed to introduce the sport to children. It uses a smaller ball and pitch than standard rugby, and has eight to ten players a side.
The original game had four backs, and five forwards. There was no pushing in the scrum, which was made up of - two props, a hooker and a second row of two locks.
The International Rugby Board does not directly govern very junior levels of rugby but rather leaves local bodies to do things as they see fit. Consequently different countries have different junior versions of rugby designed to appeal to, and be safe for, younger children.
Mini Rugby in England
Technically, the RFU's regulations for age-grade rugby under the age of 13 are collectively known as "the rugby continuum", and "mini rugby" is just one of the stages of that continuum. However, "mini rugby" is much less of a mouthful and often used to refer to all age groups under the age of 13.
The age grade of a player is determined by his or her age at the start of the junior season, which is midnight on 31 August. An "under-8", for example, must start the season aged 7, but may turn 8 during the season and will carry on playing as an under-8 until the start of the next season. This ties in with the school year and as a result, if you add 5 to their school year you will get their rugby age group. For example, school year 2s are rugby Under-7s. School year 7s (first secondary year) are rugby Under-12s.
There are 3 stages to the rugby continuum
- Continuum Stage 1: under-7 and under-8 (school years 2&3) - Mini Tag Rugby
- Continuum Stage 2: under-9 and under-10 (school years 4&5) - Mini Rugby
- Continuum Stage 3: under-11 and under-12 (school years 6&7) - Midi Rugby
Ages under-13 to under-19 are then sometimes referred to as "youth rugby", and the game is only modified from the senior game in relatively minor ways.
The rule changes are designed to make the game both safe and enjoyable for the level of physical and intellectual development expected in any given age group.
Here is a summary of the modifications to the International Rugby Board (IRB)'s Laws of the game:
Continuum Stage 1: U7 & U8 (Mini Tag Rugby)
The game is played on a relatively small pitch with cloth strips (tags) that are attached to a belt with velcro. Tackling is replaced by tagging. Tagging is the removal of one of a players tags. The game is simplified to consist only of running and passing.
- Pitch maximum size 60x30m.
- Ball: Size 3.
- 10 min each way.
- 5 to 7 a side.
- 5 points for a try. No conversions
- Not allowed: tackling (just tagging), rucks, mauls, handing the ball to a team-mate, ripping, going to ground, lineouts, scrums, kicking, hand-offs.
- An under-8 team can only be tagged a maximum number of times before they lose the ball
Continuum Stage 2: U9 & U10 (Mini Rugby)
[This needs review as is no longer accurate - No scrums, lineouts or ripping for U9s. Confusion over contested scrums for U10s]
At this level tackling replaces tagging and the game becomes more physical. Scrums are NOT allowed
- Pitch maximum size 60x35m.
- Ball: Size 3 for U9s, Size 4 for U10s.
- 15 min each way.
- Up to 9 a side.
- 5 points for a try. No conversions.
- Allowed: tackling, handing the ball to a team-mate, ripping, going to ground,
- Not allowed: kicking or hand-offs.
Continuum Stage 3: U11 & U12 (Midi Rugby)
Scrums and lineouts gain 2 or 3 extra players and some kicking of the ball is allowed for the first time.
- Pitch maximum size 60x43m.
- Ball: Size 4.
- 20 mins each way.
- Up to 12 a side(U11). Up to 13 a side(U12).
- 5 points for a try. 2 points for a conversion.
- Allowed: 5 player scrums and lineouts for U11s. 6 for U12s. Some limited kicking
- Not allowed: fly-hacking, drop goals, penalty goals, hand-offs.
Mini rugby is known in Wales as "dragon rugby", and Australia as "walla rugby". In Ireland the under-7s version of mini rugby is a touch or tag game with no set pieces known as "leprechaun rugby".
Famous mini rugby players
Midi rugby is the "bridge" between mini rugby and the full game. It is played twelve a-side. For the under 12s this is altered to 13 a-side.
- mini rugby on the IRFU site
- mini rugby on minirugby.it
- The RFU's Regulations Site, including those for the Rugby Continuum