Rugby centre

A rugby centre needs good handling and running skills to carry out the team plans. Ready for anything. What to expect if you make this your position.


There are two 'centre' positions in the group of 7 'backs'

Centres are positioned 'outside' the flyhalf, providing a link to the wings.

Assuming the scrum is towards the left touchline, the centres and wings fit into the player positioning on the field like this...

Diagram shows the three-quarters in relation to a scrum The three-quarters in relation to a scrum

If the scrum was towards the right side of the field the backs would line out the opposite way to this image.

If the scrum was near the centre of the field the team may choose to have one centre either side of the scrum.

The way the backs line up tends to be dictated by the side putting the ball into the scrum (or the lineout).

It is usually the 'putting-in' side which will get the ball so the other side attempts to be prepared to defend by matching their line-up.

Centre physiques vary. Of the backs they tend to be the bigger, stockier players - but they really can be anything.

The two centres in a team tend to specialise

  • one as the inside centre closer to the fly-half..

  • one as the outside centre, further from the fly-half - 'outside' the inside centre

The inside centre (called 2nd five-eighth in New Zealand) sometimes plays a similar role to that of the fly-half (sharing the load).

You run at the opposition, making breaks if possible or pass the ball quickly to faster outside players if warranted.

The stronger you are in these areas the better

  • Speed and good acceleration

  • Vision for seeing all the options and a good rugby brain for knowing what those options are

  • Agility and elusiveness, those flankers are coming for you as hard and as fast as they can, not forgetting your opposition centre!


  • Ability to handle the ball well under pressure

  • Kicking ability, grubber kicks and chip kicks

  • Strength and bulk for barging through the opposition and playing a strong part when you are defending

At scrum time

As a centre you are well away from scrums, simply occupying territory and waiting to see what happens.

If your team gets the ball you attack. If their team gets it you defend.

The decisions the scrum half and flyhalf make greatly affect how the centres are involved in the game.

When they kick

  • you chase try and regain possession

  • or contain the opposition player who gathers the ball

When they pass, you are involved

  • you catch and take the ball through a gap

  • or attempt to run over or through the opposition

  • or pass cleverly (quickly or delayed) to create space for the players outside you

Sometimes the half-backs run gain ground

so you position yourself in support in such a way as to give them options about how to continue.

If you are a rugby centre and defending

  • you must tackle your opposite number

  • believe in the abilty of the players on either side of you and stay in position to tackle your own player

  • only when absolutely essential tackle someone else.

At line-out time

Like the scrum, you are waiting to see what happens, then attack or defend as appropriate.

What thehalf-backs do determines how you are involved in play.

Assuming you practice sufficiently and well you will be able to succeed with any planned moves or deal well with anything else that happens.

In general play

Centres tend to be elusive, skillful, hard tackling, tactically aware players.

When you are at centre what you do depends on actions taken by the half-backs.

Depending on circumstance you must be ready for any of the following

  • getting over the advantage line as quickly as possible
  • being elusive while running
  • chasing all types of kicks

  • chip kicks which you chase and regather
  • 'up-and-unders' you charge on to
  • grubber kicks to dive onto behind the goal-line

  • to recieve the ball and pass to faster moving players in better positions
  • to deal with cut out passes which create overlaps
  • for moves called to confuse the opposition

  • for dummies from the ball carrier
  • for passes back inside - either ones you make or ones sent in your direction

As a rugby centre you have plenty of opportunity to vary the options you take for passing, kicking and running.

By mixing up the options you take you create uncertainty in the opposition defence which makes it easier to succeed with planned moves.

And remember, do enough good practice so you`ll be the best sidestepper you can be!

Player sizes contains information about centres.

Jamie Roberts is a big centre but size didn`t matter here.
This Lions try came from a well planned move.

Famous centres include...

Brian O'Driscoll
Jason Little
Tim Horan
Jeremy Guscott
Ray Gravell
Tana Umaga
Frank Bunce