Rugby 101: The Positions

Jeremy KaufmanSenior Analyst IFebruary 29, 2008

Despite being one of the most fast paced, exciting, and undoubtedly violent team sports in the world, rugby isn’t a very popular within the United States.

Therefore, as a college rugby player myself, I felt the obligation to spread some knowledge about the sport, and hopefully attract a few new fans to the game.

While there is tons of information to write about the game, this article will concentrate on the game’s various positions. More “Rugby 101” articles will follow soon.

Props: The prop positions are typically the 2 biggest, strongest players on a team.

In scrums, which are pretty much huge pile-ups in a fight for the ball, it is the props that lead the way in the battle.

While their roles on a team resemble that of offensive linemen in football, they are also sometimes used to carry the ball, bashing through the other team’s defense.

Hooker: The hooker is located at the front of a scrum, directly between the 2 props. The hooker’s primary job is to hook, or kick back, the ball and draw it towards his own team.

Locks: In a scrum, the locks are the 2 players that line up behind the props.

The locks supply the majority of the pushing power in a scrum, and as a result they are often the tallest players on the team, given their long legs and strength.

On throw-ins, they are usually lifted in the air in an attempt to grab the ball while airborne.

Flankers: The final row in a scrum, the flankers supply the last bit of push, while also commonly used to pound the ball at the opposing defense.

The flankers tend to be a bit smaller than the players up front, although they are also commonly more athletic.

Number 8: The one final player who can be found at the back of a scrum is known as the number 8. This individual may help in pushing a scrum or ruck, as well as handle the ball on his own.

Scrum Half: In some ways, the scrum half is the quarterback or point guard of the team.

The scrum half is the first person to get his hands on the ball out of a scrum or ruck, and he has the responsibility of calling out the plays and making the key passes.

Fly Half: Another position that holds quarterback-like responsibilities, the fly half is typically the first “back” position to receive the ball from the scrum half.

Once he has the ball, he has to make the judgment as to whether he should pass the ball, he runs with it or kicks it in hopes of getting better field position.

For this reason, fly halves are typically the best kickers on a team.

Centers: When the fly half makes his first pass, it will usually be to the centers. The centers are primary offensive threats, possessing both speed and power in running the ball.

Wing: My own position in rugby, the wing has one major responsibility: to run, very, very fast.

Located on the two sides of the field, teams will often try to get the ball into the hands of the wingers, and then hope they burn their way into the end zone.

On the defensive end, wingers have to be capable and agile tacklers, as they are often matched up with the opposing team’s wing one on one.

Fullback: The fullback is almost like the kick returner of the team, except that any given play in rugby could be a return.

Waiting towards the far end of the field, fullbacks wait for the other team to attempt a kick for field position. Upon catching it, a fullback can either run the ball back or try to kick it for field position.

The positions “prop” through “number 8” are all known as forwards, while the “scrum half” and everyone else are known as backs.

In rugby, the ball can only be passed backwards, almost like a lateral in football. The diagonal positioning of the backs makes the passing game much more efficient.

So, these are the basics on rugby positions. I hope some of you who aren’t that familiar with the game found it interesting, although I know it can be a bit confusing at first.

Don’t worry though; much more in depth details about the game itself will be coming soon.