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Mini rugby, also known as New Image Rugby, is a form 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.
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.
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:
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.
[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
Scrums and lineouts gain 2 or 3 extra players and some kicking of the ball is allowed for the first time.
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".
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.