Rugby Fives



Rugby Fives is a
handball Handball (also known as team handball, European handball or Olympic handball) is a team sport in which two teams of seven players each (six outcourt players and a Handball goalkeeper, goalkeeper) pass a ball using their hands with the aim of t ...
game A game is a structured form of play (activity), play, usually undertaken for enjoyment, entertainment or fun, and sometimes used as an educational tool. Many games are also considered to be work (such as professional players of spectator s ...
, similar to
squash Squash may refer to: Sports * Squash (sport), the high-speed racquet sport also known as squash racquets * Squash (professional wrestling), an extremely one-sided match in professional wrestling * Squash tennis, a game similar to squash but pla ...
, played in an enclosed court. It has similarities with Winchester Fives (a form of Wessex Fives) and Eton Fives. It is played mainly in the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the European mainland, continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotlan ...
. It is most commonly believed to be derived from Wessex Fives, a game played by
Thomas Arnold Thomas Arnold (13 June 1795 – 12 June 1842) was an English educator and historian. He was an early supporter of the Broad Church Anglican movement. As headmaster of Rugby School from 1828 to 1841, he introduced several reforms that were widel ...
, famous Headmaster of
Rugby School Rugby School is a Public school (United Kingdom), public school (English Independent school (United Kingdom), independent boarding school for pupils aged 13–18) in Rugby, Warwickshire, Rugby, Warwickshire, England. Founded in 1567 as a free ...
, who had played Wessex Fives when a boy at Lord Weymouth's Grammar, now Warminster School. The open court of Wessex Fives, built in 1787, is still in existence and use at Warminster School. An early mention of the game can be found in the novel ''
Tom Brown's School Days ''Tom Brown's School Days'' (sometimes written ''Tom Brown's Schooldays'', also published under the titles ''Tom Brown at Rugby'', ''School Days at Rugby'', and ''Tom Brown's School Days at Rugby'') is an 1857 novel by Thomas Hughes Tho ...
'' (1857) by
Thomas Hughes Thomas Hughes (20 October 182222 March 1896) was an English lawyer, judge, politician and author. He is most famous for his novel ''Tom Brown's School Days'' (1857), a semi-autobiographical work set at Rugby School, which Hughes had attended. ...
. The author attended Rugby School during the period when Dr Arnold was Headmaster. The game is played between two players (singles) or between two teams of two players each (doubles), the aim being to hit the ball above a 'bar' across the front wall in such a way that the opposition cannot return it before a second bounce. The ball is slightly larger than a
golf ball A golf ball is a special ball designed to be used in the game of golf. Under the rules of golf, a golf ball has a mass no more than , has a diameter not less than , and performs within specified velocity, distance, and symmetry limits. Like Go ...
, leather-coated and hard. Players wear leather padded gloves on both hands, with which they hit the ball.

How to play

Either singles or doubles can be played.


A standard rugby fives court is four-walled, with the floor being rectangular in shape. It is 28 feet long by 18 feet wide and the upper limit of the in-court area is 15 feet for the front wall, sloping down the side walls to 4 feet 10 inches at the back wall. Previously, the height of the back wall was higher at 6 feet but was reduced for architectural reasons as it removes the need for a balcony in new facilities thus reducing building costs and improving communication between coaches and players. In addition, a wooden board running across the front wall with an upper height of 2 feet 6 inches marks the lower limit of the in-court area. The ball is designed to bounce well on the
concrete Concrete is a composite material composed of fine and coarse construction aggregate, aggregate bonded together with a fluid cement (cement paste) that hardens (cures) over time. Concrete is the second-most-used substance in the world after wa ...
floor. The walls may be stone or brick but covered in a smooth layer of hard-wearing plaster or alternatively they may be of the same construction as modern squash courts being hollow engineered wood filled with sand. Rugby fives courts tend to be somewhat idiosyncratic and the dimensions stated above are not always adhered to exactly, particularly those built before 1934 when standard dimensions were established. A ball is available to allow Rugby Fives to be played on a squash court. It is a little bouncier and zippier than the usual ball to account for the larger dimensions (4 feet longer and 3 feet wider), the cushioned wooden floor and lower board height, or rather 'tin' as it is termed.


Usually a 50-50 chance scenario is adopted at the start of a match in order to determine who should serve first (e.g. one player puts the ball behind their back and their opponent guesses which hand it's in). In order to initiate a point, the server must first throw the ball so that it hits the front wall above the bar, then clips the side wall. Once the ball has done this, the server can choose to retake his serve or continue by hitting it so that it hits the side wall followed by the front wall. If, on the hit part of the serve, the ball hits the front wall first then the serve is referred to as a 'blackguard' (pronounced 'blaggard'). The receiver has the option to take a blackguard, as long as they say 'yes' before striking the ball. If three consecutive blackguards are served without being taken then the server is deemed to have lost a rally. In doubles, only the receiver initially designated to return serve may do so, unless the serve is a blackguard. In this instance, either receiver may choose to say 'yes' and return the ball. As the ball may be hit with either hand, right-handed players will typically use their right hand and the front, right-hand corner of the court to serve. Left-handed players will serve with their left hand, using the front, left-hand corner of the court.


Following the serve, the receiver and server take alternate turns to strike the ball against the front wall. The ball must be struck prior to it bouncing twice and while it may hit any combination of back and side walls on its way to the front wall, it must not hit the floor or an out-of-court area. Failing to validly hit the ball against the front wall loses the rally, which results in the following: *In singles, the loser of a rally must serve the next point *In doubles, if the servers lose the rally then the designated server within that team changes. If the receivers lose the rally then **if they have lost a previous point since they last served then they must serve the next point **if they have not lost a previous point since they last served then the designated receiver within that team changes


Points are scored from receiving the serve in Rugby fives, as well as in Winchester fives. Thus, a point is only scored if the receiver wins the rally. Games are played either to 11 or 15, normally agreed before the game commences. If the score is tied at 1 less than the originally agreed winning total (i.e. 10-10 or 14-14) then the winning total is increased by 1 (12 and 16, respectively) but no further (unlike in tennis where you have to win by 2 points in a tie-break). The receiver's score is said first, so if the receiver has 10 points, and the server has 5, the score is 10-5. Zero is said as 'love'. At the start of a game of doubles, the servers only need to win one rally in order to switch so that they are receiving (for the rest of the game the usual two before switching applies).


Open Ladies Other The asterisk indicates that these tournaments have qualification rounds to play in the main knockout. The top 4 players in the singles rankings automatically qualify for singles tournaments, and the similarly the top 4 doubles pairs qualify automatically.

The Rugby Fives Association (RFA)

The RFA is the governing body for the sport of Rugby Fives. The association aims to promote the playing and coaching of Fives at schools, universities and senior level, and throughout the community in general. It does this by organising matches and tournaments throughout the season and advising on – and wherever possible supporting financially – the regeneration of facilities and provision of suitable coaching and equipment to further the game's development across the country. The RFA is the source for all of the information within this Wikipedia entry - verification and additional information can be found on the RFA Website: See

National singles and doubles champions

The current national singles champion is Dan Tristao (December 2021) and national doubles champions are Ed Kay and Dan Tristao (April 2019).


Rugby Fives Court, Retford

A Grade II listed Rugby Fives Court in
Retford Retford (), also known as East Retford, is a market town A market town is a Human settlement, settlement most common in Europe that obtained by custom or royal charter, in the Middle Ages, a market right, which allowed it to host a regular ...
Nottinghamshire Nottinghamshire (; abbreviated Notts.) is a landlocked county in the East Midlands region of England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its w ...
was built in memory of Captain William Eyre of the Lancashire Fusiliers who died at Gallipoli, and was a former pupil and teacher at the school. Only about 20 courts (including this one) are listed. The court was recently refurbished as part of the redevelopment of the site. It is classified as a War Memorial.

See also

Baseball5 Baseball5 (B5) is an internationally played safe haven game with many of the same rules as baseball Baseball is a bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball sport played between two team sport, teams of nine players each, taking turns batting ...
, another game involving hitting a ball with the hand


External links

Fives Association official website Rugby Fives 2018 National Doubles Final - Highlights
{{DEFAULTSORT:Rugby Fives Sports originating in England Rugby School Wall and ball games