THE RULES OF THE GAME
HOW TO PLAY UNDERWATER RUGBY
Underwater rugby players will need the following equipment:
Diving mask, preferably with a low profile and wide peripheral vision
Pair of fins with no protruding clasps to prevent injuries
Water polo cap to denote your team and player number
A pair of swim trunks for men and a one-piece swimsuit for women, ideally high-cut and close-fitting. Players typically have two sets of swim gear in light and dark colours to help with team identification
Optionally, players also use the following equipment to help with their game:
Fin keepers can be very useful to keep your fins on
Neoprene socks, or even normal cotton socks, can help avoid blisters from wearing fins and can also improve their fit
Rash guards can help prevent accidental scratches
THE Play Area
Underwater rugby is played in a deep pool of depth 3.5 - 5 metres, with measurements between 12 - 18 metres in length and 8 - 12 metres in width.
In Singapore, we train at the diving pool at Queenstown Swimming complex, which has a depth of 4.5 metres. Our usual court dimensions are 12.4m by 7.5m.
Two baskets sunk at each end of the playing area serve as goals
Underwater rugby is typically played with 12 players per team. Six are in the game at any one time, with up to six substitutes who may swap with another player at any time during the game.
Players attempt to place a saltwater-filled, negatively buoyant rubber ball in the opposing team's basket, while defending their own goal basket from enemy attack. A goal is said to be scored once the ball passes beyond the rim of the basket.
There are three main positions in a UWR team: a Forward, a Back (or Defender), and a Goalkeeper (or Goalie). Each position is typically assigned two players who must work together to balance intensity of play and the need to breathe.
Each position comes with a unique set of challenges and responsibilities.
When attacking, the Forward’s main job is to help transport the ball and lead the attack on the opponent’s basket. In defence, the Forward harries opponents and exploits opportunities to steal the ball while covering any unprotected route to the goal.
The Back / Defender
Defenders protect the Goalkeeper from attacks below the rim of the goal basket, typically using their body length and fins to keeping opponents from coming close. In offensive play, Defenders typically cycle midway between the Forwards and the Goalkeepers, with one Defender aiding in the attack at all times.
Lastly, the Goalkeeper protects the goal in defensive play, keeping their upper back on top of the rim of the basket at all times, like an upside-down turtle! In offensive play, one Goalkeeper aids in the attack, while the other covers the position furthest back to protect from any fast breakaways.
One of the most interesting aspects of Underwater Rugby is also due to its relative youth. Teams are constantly rotating how they play the game and the strategies they employ to best fit their players. This means there is no one correct way to play, and player responsibilities and roles can change constantly depending on which team you are watching or playing against!
Gameplay and rules
Each game is usually split into two 10-15minute halves, depending on the tournament and time constraints, during which teams can also request for one 60-second timeout as well.
Underwater rugby is a contact sport. Simply put a player may only be contacted when he/she is in possession of the ball. For safety, the rules also forbid contact around the neck and the head, twisting limbs, violent kicking and hitting and Infringements and are punishable with a foul or penalty. On serious infractions, players may even be told to sit out of a game for 2 minutes in the “sin bin”, leaving their team to play with a man down.
In tournament, 3 referees help to keep play, ensuring that no one is breaking any rules:
A deck referee officiating time and surface play
Two SCUBA underwater referees observing bottom of pool play
These referees will have some sort of noise making device to produce signals audible to players underwater and on the surface to inform them of referee decisions or infractions.
With the youth of the Underwater Rugby scene, rule changes are frequent and occur every few years to ensure safe and appropriate play. Further reading and the official rules can be found on the CMAS website: https://www.cmas.org/document?sessionId=&fileId=5336&language=1
You can also check out some of our sister sports!