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Rugby 101: How Long is a Rugby Game?

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J P Myburgh

J P Myburgh

A rugby enthusiast, I bring you news and insights from the exciting world of rugby.

Rugby clock

Rugby 101: How Long is a Rugby Game?

So the short answer to this question is 80 minutes. But rugby is a dynamic and physically demanding sport known for its continuous action and strategic gameplay. One aspect that often intrigues newcomers is the length of a rugby match. Unlike many sports, the clock in rugby games is a crucial factor that can dramatically impact the game’s flow and outcome. In this blog post, we’ll explore the typical duration of a rugby game, including the factors that can influence this timing, the concept of ‘rugby time’, and the differences between various rugby forms and matches. So, if you’ve ever wondered, “Just how long is a rugby game?” read on to find out.

Rugby Union Game Duration

In a Rugby Union match, the standard duration comprises two halves of 40 minutes each, equating to a total playing time of 80 minutes. This rule applies across all game levels, from amateur club games to international fixtures.

A halftime break between these two halves typically lasts about 10 to 15 minutes. This interlude provides a crucial respite for players to recuperate from the demanding first half, and it’s an opportunity for coaches to re-strategize and make necessary adjustments for the second half.

Unlike some sports, such as soccer, Rugby Union doesn’t have ‘injury time’ or ‘extra time’ that is added to the end of each half. Instead, the game clock is managed by the referee, who can stop the clock during significant stoppages like serious injuries or time-consuming discussions with players or other match officials. Once the issue is resolved, the referee will restart the clock.

Despite this, the game doesn’t conclude immediately when the clock hits 80 minutes. The match ends when the ball next goes dead after the full 80 minutes have elapsed – this could be when the ball goes out of play, a try, penalty, or drop goal is scored. This means that while the total playing time in Rugby Union is primarily an 80-minute affair, the actual finish of the match can sometimes extend a little beyond this mark.

Rugby League Game Duration

While similar to Rugby Union, Rugby League consists of 40 minutes, resulting in a total playing time of 80 minutes.

A minor difference between Rugby Union and Rugby League is the halftime interval, which is generally 10 minutes in Rugby League, slightly shorter than the usual 10-15 minutes in Rugby Union. This swifter turnaround keeps the energy high, and the spectators engaged.

Rugby Sevens Game Duration

Rugby Sevens offers a whole new dimension to the sport with its markedly shorter game duration. Each Rugby Sevens match consists of two halves of just 7 minutes each, making for a total game time of 14 minutes – a fraction of the length of a Rugby Union or Rugby League match. This shortened timeframe results in a fast-paced, high-energy, thrilling, exciting game to play and watch. Sevens rugby is often likened to the T20 format in cricket.

In tournament finals, however, the duration of each half is extended to 10 minutes, resulting in a total match time of 20 minutes. This gives the teams more time to showcase their skills and strategic acumen in these high-stakes matches.

Halftime breaks in Rugby Sevens are remarkably brief, typically lasting just 2 minutes. This quick turnaround keeps the game’s intensity high and ensures that the momentum built up in the first half carries over into the second. Despite its condensed format, Rugby Sevens delivers a full dose of rugby excitement, proving that great things can come in small packages.

With only seven players on each side, as opposed to the 15 in Rugby Union or 13 in Rugby League, players find themselves in a full-size rugby field teeming with open space. This results in more opportunities for daring runs, strategic maneuvers, and spectacular tries. The combination of fewer players and a large playing field accelerates the tempo of the game, making Rugby Sevens a thrilling spectacle for fans and a challenging, high-stakes contest for players.

Factors affecting the length of a Rugby Game

While the structured duration of rugby matches across different formats provides a general idea of how long a game might last, some factors can influence the actual length of a rugby game.

Injuries, for instance, can significantly extend the game duration. If a player is injured, the referee will stop the clock until play can safely resume. This ensures that the total amount of playing time is maintained but can lead to games lasting considerably longer than the nominal 80 or 14 minutes in the case of sevens rugby.

Similarly, stoppages for penalties or tries also add to the total game time. When a penalty is awarded or a try is scored, the clock stops and doesn’t restart until play resumes. While brief individually, These breaks in play can accumulate over a match, notably extending its duration. 

(Referees are constantly pushing players to move along as quickly as possible. We can’t help but think back to French referee Mathieu Raynal’s extraordinary decision to penalise Bernard Foley in 2022 for taking too long to kick the ball, handing the ball back to New Zealand, who went on to win the match from this decision.)

Finally, video referee decisions, often called Television Match Official (TMO) interventions, can also lengthen a game. When a referee is uncertain about a decision, they can refer it to the TMO, who reviews video footage to make a correct ruling. While crucial for ensuring fair play, this process can add several minutes to a match.


To wrap up, understanding the length of a rugby match is a bit more complex than it seems. With different formats like Rugby Union, Rugby League, and Rugby Sevens, each having their unique durations, plus the additional time added for injuries, penalties, and video referee decisions, the actual length of a game can extend beyond the designated time.

So, the next time someone asks, “How long is a rugby game?” you’ll know there’s more to it than meets the eye.

How many minutes is full time rugby?

  1. Rugby Union and Rugby League matches typically last 80 minutes, divided into two 40-minute halves.
  2. Rugby Sevens matches are much shorter, with two halves of 7 minutes each (or 10 minutes each in finals).

How many quarters are there in rugby?

Rugby is divided into two halves of 4o minutes each, not quarters.

Is there a half time in rugby?

Yes, there is a halftime in rugby. In Rugby Union and Rugby League, it typically lasts 10-15 minutes; in Rugby Sevens, it lasts about 2 minutes.

J P Myburgh

J P Myburgh

A rugby enthusiast, I bring you news and insights from the exciting world of rugby.

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