Rugby number-eight

Rugby number-eight is one of a small specialist group of marauding forwards - taking the ball through the opposition or defending in the thick of things.

Number 8s

As number 8 you are a forward and pack into the back of each scrum like the two opposing players at the back of the scrum below.

Rugby number eight prepares at the back of a scrum Rugby number eight prepares at the back of a scrum

Rugby number eight prepares at the back of a scrum Rugby number eight prepares at the back of a scrum

There are another seven forwards of various shapes and sizes with you. The backs are spread out behind, waiting for you to win the ball

Scrums occur frequently and the number eight is in every one, in the middle of the 'back row'.

The number-eight comes in one size - BIG

Some useful attributes

you must be able to tackle well

You will do a lot of it and you will be expected to provide defence against the opposition's big players.

You will have to tackle in all sorts of situations from one on one in open play to shoulder to shoulder defending the try line from relentless attack.

You must be strong

Pushing in scrums, lifting or defending in lineouts, mauling and rucking all require bulk, strength and height.

You must be tough

Tackling opposition forwards is not for the fain hearted. When you are in a ruck you may sometimes take a battering - be prepared!

You need to be fit and mobile

It's not much use having all the other qualities if you can only get involved in play now and again! Get fit.

At scrum time

You provide weight for pushing and stability. Your head goes between the two locks and your arms grip them, binding them together and binding you to them.

When the opposition win the scrum (the ball goes out their side), they have the opportunity to attack - so you must be prepared to defend.

You break from the scrum as soon as the ball is out and combine with the two flankers to stop any players with the ball from running past in the area around the scrum.

The attacking players are likely to be either their scrum half or number-eight who have decided to run the ball rather than pass it to their backs.

When the ball goes to the opposition backs the number-eight follows at speed to help the flankers, stop the attack and get the ball back!

When the ball comes to our side of the scrum you, the number-eight play a part.

The ball comes either past you on one side or the other or out between your feet. Your job is to make sure the ball is available for the scrum half to pick it up cleanly.

Remember the opposition forwards are pushing as hard as they can to make it as difficult as possible for your team.

They will be really pleased if they can push you off the ball or cause your half back to fumble. It would mean another scrum. They would put the ball in.

You are allowed to keep the ball in front of your feet if you want to. Remember their forwards can't break from the scrum until the ball is 'out'.

If you have a powerful pack and you have a scrum near their try line, you can make use of your ability to control the ball.

You keep the ball in front of your feet, push hard to drive them and the ball back over the try line. When the ball is over the line, you ground the ball - TRY

You are also allowed to pick up the ball from in front of your feet and attack by running with the ball or passing it to your scrum-half (or any other player near enough and in position to receive a pass).

In line-outs

The line-out restarts play after the ball "goes into touch".

Number-eights towards the back of the line-out sometimes get the ball because of their size, you may also have to lift another player to receive the ball.

If your side get the ball it may be given straight to the backs. If not you will combine withe other forwards to make sure you keep possession and move the ball forwards.

This would certainly happen if you are near their try line. Just a small break through and gain in ground and you may well score!

If they get the ball you must defend.

You must stop the ball carrier breaking through the lineout where you are positioned and break away fast to harass the opposition backs so they can't make ground.

In general play

The number-eight and the two flankers defend in a co-ordinated way, getting to every break down in play as fast as possible to get the ball.

In attack you'll often be doing 'the hard yards'. You pick the ball off the ground and drive forward with it, making as much ground as possible.

This is known as 'pick and drive'.

Sometimes you may make as little as a couple of metres - or may even be forced backwards if you are up against powerful opponents.

At any break-down you assist the flankers in getting the ball, provide part of the defensive wall and stop any counter-attacks.

When the team is attacking you support ball carriers in trouble. Time for your rucking and mauling skills!

At times when backs are caught in break-downs the back-row may find they have to cover for the backs to maintain a strong defensive line where the backs would normally be.

If this happens and your team then get the ball, you have to behave like a back - so make sure you polish your running, passing and evasion skills!

Now for the sidestep.

The biggest player I have ever seen do a sidestep is Andy Powell. From memory he was playing number 8 for Wales against Australia.

At 6'4" and around 114kg he is a great example of just how elusive big players can be.

Wondering about the size and build of a number 8? Look at details of elite players to get an idea.

It`s probably worth looking at flankers as well because n8s are often lumped in as flankers or "back row" players we report as number 6s.

You`ll know more when you visit our page on player sizes.