Rugby full-back

A rugby full-back must enjoy defending and be speedy when attacking. The team depends on you to cover loads of ground by reading the game. Maybe this is your position


You are a member of the group of 7 players called 'backs', rather than the group of 8 players known as 'forwards'.

More often than not you will see all the other players in your team spread out in front of you.

In scrums and line-outs the forwards struggle to get the ball. The backs wait to be given the ball to attack in the wide open spaces.

Sometimes the full-back joins in but often stays well back, positioned like this...

Rugby full-back position in relation to the scrum Rugby full-back position in relation to the scrum

Full-back physiques are usually large-ish but still agile and speedy. It's more important to have a full set of skills.

Aim to have the following

  • Great kicking ability - essential
  • Great handling ability, especially catching high balls
  • Speed and accelleration are very useful


  • good vision and ability to read the game
  • know when to hang back and when to join the attack
  • great tackling ability and the attitude that NOBOBY is going to get past you

At scrum time

There are many scrums, restarting play after minor offences.

When your forwards win the ball it goes to the scrumhalf and then the flyhalf. They influence the game to a huge degree, deciding how play continues.

The scrumhalf or fly-half may decide to kick for any number of reasons.

You hang back covering the open spaces, ready to gather the ball if it's kicked back again by the opposition.

Sometimes the half-backs pass.

They advance, moving the ball as quickly as possible to fast backs. Fullbacks are often involved in this type of play.

If called upon you might join the back-line formation running at high speed

  • you may be a decoy runner
  • you might catch the ball and sidestep through the defence
  • you may carry the ball and be tackled by the oppostion


  • chip kick over the defence and chase to regather
  • or maybe make a pop pass to a support player running a clever angle

The half-back may run if there is an opportunity. They will be looking for support but in situations like this you would often hang back.

You position yourself to cover the ground behind the attack, prepared to defuse any counter-attack.

If you are a rugby full-back and defending, you defend a huge amount of territory.

Rarely in the defensive line unless you are on your own-goal-line

  • usually you will be just the right distance back reading the game
  • working out where the real threats will come from.

Will it be a kick through which you take because you have judged well where it`s going.

If the ball spins along the opposition back-line you sweep behind the backs in your back-line and stop breaks or prevent overlaps forming.

Be prepared for "Bombs" - high kicks (up and unders) put up especially to test your nerve.

Make sure you practice until you catch them perfectly every time. Then practice more, so you can deal with pressure situations.

At lineouts

When the ball is no longer playable because it has 'gone into touch', play is restarted by having a lineout,

Your work as a fullback is similar to what you do when there is a scrum.

You cooperate with the other players in the backline so you know when and how to inject yourself into the attack if your side gets the ball.

At other times you will patrol the wide open spaces, dealing with any kicks and providing the last line of defence after other players have missed tackles or been bamboozled by evasion techniques.

If you are a good kicker and a lineout is near your own line, you may well be the player who receives the ball and is expected to make a clearing kick.

Use the kicking section to learn. Fullbacks need them all!

Always be aware that even if you plan well, you may not cover everything and you must be prepared.

When you practice enough, your skills will be so good you will naturally deal with any situation that unfolds.

In general play

Full-backs must to be good tacklers, good at catching, strong kickers, able to read the game well, skillful, speedy and tactically aware.

Full-backs are not closely involved in scrum and line-out play.

Their duties outlined for set pieces, which always involves defending and often involves attacking, are the essential general play of the full-back.

It amounts to being the last line of defence and a surprise additional attacker when needed.

Full-backs must communicate well and work hard to co-operate with wingers who hang back at times to help defend large areas of territory.

Sometimes they combine to turn defence into attack.

You often find yourself covering large areas of the field and deciding where you should be.

It`s a matter of general experience and knowledge of the players you are playing against. You must

  • defend against chip and chase or grubbers - they will happen more in your half of the field. Be close enough behind the three-quarters to get to the ball before the chasers.

  • defend against high and long opposition clearing kicks. Be sure you are positioned so they can`t kick over or past you because it`s always more difficult to turn, chase the ball and deal with attackers you can`t see.

  • defend against attackers breaking through the defensive line. You need to be close enough to deal with a break if you are the only player available, yet stay out of it if you can, so you can still perform as the last line of defence.

You constantly reassess your position.

You make sure you are near enough in case one thing happens and far enough away in case another thing happens! Also adjusting your position across the field for the same reasons.

Players like Christian Cullen grew into their positionsm they weren't born there!

Like you and any other player, once you find out what to do you just can`t practice enough because you enjoy it so much and become a good player.

Visit player sizes. to see height, weight and build of elite fullbacks and compare with other positions.

Some famous full-backs, no particular order!

JPR Williams
Don Clarke
Christian Cullen
Mathew Burke
Andy Irvine
Serge Blanco
Chris Latham

If you find yourself performing the function of the full back on the field you can benefit hugely like other sidesteppers.

You can often beat the first one or two chasers and start a counterattack when the players of both teams are scattered and disorganised - the best time to do it!.

Maybe you will be one.

Here`s a great example of the damage you can do from full back...

...especially with terrific evasion skills!