How Long Does a Rugby Match Last?

Rugby Player Preparing to Kick Ball

Rugby is a full-contact sport that influenced the American style of football. The game is played in Europe, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the world. Play is divided into two halves, with a typical rugby match is longer in duration than an American football game but shorter than a soccer match. However, some variations of rugby involve shorter matches.

Two Action-Packed Halves

According to the International Rugby Board and its “Laws of the Game,” a rugby match lasts 80 minutes, divided into two 40-minute halves. A halftime period of no more than 10 minutes separates the halves. In noninternational rugby matches, a controlling body or union can decide the length of a match, according to IRB rules.

Add Additional Time

An 80-minute rugby match might have additional time in case of lost time or extra time needed to break a tie such as in the elimination round of a tournament. In rugby, lost time often results from injuries. IRB rules allow the referee to stop the clock for as long as one minute to allow treatment of an injured player. The referee can allow additional time if an injured player needs help leaving the field. The rules also allow lost time for player substitutions or when a judge reports foul play.

Keeping the Time

Rules from the IRB state that the referee keeps the time of a match but may assign the task to one of the touch judges or the official timekeeper. If the referee delegates the job of keeping match time to another official or the timekeeper, he must signal that person when any time is lost or for time stoppage.

Variations on the Theme

The 80-minute match applies to the traditional rugby match that pits two teams of 15 players each. But rugby has variations in which different match lengths apply. IRB rules state an Under-19 game has two 35-minute halves for a total of 70 minutes. In Rugby 7s, which pits teams of seven players, matches are even shorter, at only 14 minutes total, or seven minutes per half. A competition final match in rugby 7s can last no longer than 20 minutes total. Under 19 and rugby 7s allow for additional time lost due to injuries, as well as extra time in an elimination match in which the score is tied.

Compared to Other Sports

Rugby has a relatively long game time compared to other sports. In contrast to the 80 minutes for a rugby match, an American football game, lasts 60 minutes, divided into four 15-minute quarters. When including clock stopping, penalties and time outs, a football game can last 3 hours or more. Meanwhile, a soccer match lasts 90 minutes, split into two 45-minute halves. Like football, once penalties, time outs and other clock stoppages are added into the total game time, a match may last several hours.