What is a Underwater Rugby & The Rules to Play it

What is a Underwater Rugby & The Rules to Play it

Underwater rugby is a sport played in the water in which two teams aim to score goals by placing the ball in the opponent’s basket, at each end of the playing area, at the bottom of the pool. Underwater rugby was invented in Cologne, Germany in 1961 and became popular in the Nordic countries as UW-Polo. Today, let’s find out an overview of the history and gameplay of this unique sport with Rugby QA.

The history of Underwater ugby

Underwater rugby was invented in Cologne (Cologne), Germany in 1961 by Ludwig von Bersuda, a member of the German Underwater Club. The water club in Cologne created this game as a warm-up prior to their normal diving training using a saltwater ball and a netball located in the center of the pool. Balloons filled with air are not suitable for water games, as they float and always return to the surface. The first underwater ball was invented when Bersuda filled the ball with salt water. Since the density of the ball is now greater than that of the water, it no longer floats to the surface, but slowly sinks to the bottom.

Ludwig von Bersuda used a net stretched in the middle of the pool to stop 1m from the bottom of the pool, quite similar to a volleyball game. The two teams will then play against each other: the attacking team must bring the ball to the opponent’s court and put it in the bucket. This was probably the first official game to feature underwater balls and at the time, it didn’t get much attention. The sport, known as “Cologne Discipline”, was adopted by the Duisburg diving club into its current form of underwater rugby.

The history of Underwater rugby

An underwater rugby match was held in 1964 between Duisburg and the diving club Mülheim. The first tournament, called the “Battle for the Golden Ball”, was held in Mülheim the following year, with six teams participating. In the 1970s, Scandinavian countries soon adopted the sport after protests in Finland and Denmark and it quickly spread to Sweden and Norway as well as Eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic and Brazil. CMAS, the governing body for water sports, officially recognized underwater rugby in 1978, and the first European Championship took place that year in Malmö, Sweden.

The first World Championship was held in Mülheim, Germany in 1980 and the first German champion was TSC Mülheim. The next world championships have been held every four years since then. Another version of the current water polo became popular in the United States, similar to underwater rugby until US teams followed international Waterpolo rules around 2014. It should be noted that This sport has very little in common with rugby except for its name.

Physical requirements

Underwater rugby requires good physical fitness as well as strong swimming and endurance, spatial awareness, and, importantly, teamwork. However, health alone is not enough, players must combine physical strength with tactical play. In terms of injuries, this ball game does not usually occur as common injuries and only minor injuries such as nosebleeds or bruises in places. The water will absorb and reduce the impact of the wound. Drowning is also almost impossible, and there are always at least 11 other lifeguards in the pool ready to help should a player get stuck.

How to play Underwater Rugby?


Underwater rugby players need the following equipment:

  • Low profile diving mask with wide peripheral vision.
  • Snorkel
  • Fins (can be made of plastic, fiberglass, or rubber)
  • Water balloon cap
  • Neoprene socks


Playing area

Underwater rugby is played in a deep pool with a depth of 3.5-5m in a rectangular field with a length of 12-18m and a width of 8-12m. In Europe, the deep end of a tracked pool is usually suitable for underwater rugby, however in Australia, it is common to play in diving pools and special walls are built to reduce the walls. Sloping walls are common in many swimming pools in Australia. There are also stainless steel baskets mounted on the bottom of the pool.

Playing area


Each team has 6 players along with 6 substitutes, trying to score by sending a ball filled with salt water into the opponent’s goal and at the same time trying to defend their own goal against the opponent’s attack. direction. There are 3 player positions in water rugby, which are striker, defender, and goalkeeper. Each position requires specific skills. The goal of the striker is to exploit the opportunity to win the ball and attack to bring the ball to the opponent’s basket. While the defender will stay in front of the basket and prevent the opponent from approaching his goal. The goalkeeper stands in front of his team’s basket to catch the ball and prevent open attacks on goal.


A match usually lasts from 10 to 15 minutes per half, depending on the rules of each tournament. The players will put on fins, masks, and snorkels before entering the water. In total, there will be three referees – one at the edge of the pool to administer the time as well as the game on the water, one who dives in the water to observe the players in action and the other who is a free observer. the game as a whole and liaise with the referee.

The referees all have a whistle and use it to create a signal that can be heard by players even in the water. The rules of underwater rugby are quite simple. The player in possession of the ball is allowed to attack any other player, but the other players can only attack the player in possession of the ball. Not allowed to attack the neck and head, if kicking and hitting each other will be warned.



Underwater Rugby competitions for titles ranging from Club to National to Regional and World. There is also a Championship for national teams under the age of 21. Underwater rugby is played by all ages, shapes, and sizes. This is a sport that does not cause many injuries but requires good swimming skills and teamwork. It is also the only 3D team sport where both the ball and the player can use all three dimensions.


To sum up, in today’s article, we have introduced to you a sport called Underwater rugby. The article also provides enough information about the history, and how to play this sport. Hope you have a better understanding of this unique sport after reading the article. If you still have any questions about underwater rugby, leave a comment below this article and we will answer as soon as possible. See you in the next posts.

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