Rugby positions

Rugby positions in Union and how you play them. Know them all from wing to prop. How you choose so you enjoy yourself, feel good and play well.

Layout of positions

This is what it's all about, where you fit in.

This diagram shows all of the 15 player positions in a rugby team based on the situation where a rugby union scrum has been formed.

The 8 forwards are bound together in the scrum. The 7 backs are spread across the field.

Diagram shows layout of all players based on the scrum Rugby positions based on the scrum

Select a topic or scroll down the page

[Choosing a position]

[Forwards] [Front row] [Second row] [Back row]

[Backs] [Half-backs] [Three-quarters, full]



About choosing a position

In life people come in all shapes and sizes. Rugby, more than most other sports, reflects that fact.

People from across a huge range of body shapes and sizes will find a suitable position in a rugby team. Skills, qualities and temperaments also vary with position.

A team has 15 players on the field at any one time. Each player has an allocated place on the field.

Knowing the position you have been allocated helps you understand and remember what you need to do during the game and where you need to be on the pitch.

Age, physical characteristics and grade may affect your choice of position.

Age affects choice

The younger you are ,the easier it is.

When you are starting off you may be given little choice about where you play.

You may already admire a player and want to be like that player and want to play that position.

If that`s so, it`s maybe a good starting point. Tell the person in charge about it...but it might not happen

Make sure you are flexible,

you may be better in another position.

Wherever you play you will gather skills and experience.

With years ahead, you have time to play every position if you want to!

Early in a rugby career many of the positions have very similar requirements.

Physically, who knows - you change, so look after yourself!

  • eat good quality food
  • exercise regularly
  • in years to come you may be anything

Older players starting off may have more choice.

Find out what`s needed for each position. Compare what a position requires with your own physique, skills and temperament

My guess is that vacant positions in the team may affect the view of the coach about which is the best position for you!

With some research and a bit of thinking you will be able to voice your preferences. Make sure you too, are flexible.

Concentrate on the game, get into it, help the team. You can always change positions when you know more and you`ll really enjoy yourself.

Physical characteristics affect choice

Bear in mind these basics

  • Bigger, heavier, stronger players go somewhere in the forwards
  • Smaller, faster, elusive players go in the backs

You want to enjoy yourself - true?

  • If you are comparatively small and in the forwards you may be very uncomfortable! You will always be facing bigger players.
  • In the backs and slower and less agile - not much fun trying to keep up!

Sometimes, depending on age and grade of the game these overall physical requirements can be rendered unimportant by a player with heaps of enthusiasm and attitude.

Grade affects choice

This is more for older players rather than children considering playing rugby

Many people learn to play rugby at school. Others are not so fortunate!

If you are new to rugby and interested in playing I`m guessing it`s for the social side, where performance is not hugely important.

Or maybe you`re college age and want to get serious about it!

Either way, look closely at what is required to play each position.

For social players it`s important. Look for a position where you will enjoy yourself and minimise the risk of injury.

For competitive environments look for a position where you maximise the advantages of your physical and mental attributes.

You will acquire skills quickly because you have the right attitude. This site will help you.

With physical and mental attributes suitable for rugby search for good ways to acquire the skills. Hint - stay on this site!

Try the page about being the best player you can be for tips on how to get the most out of this site,

Look for the good skills to learn and good ways to do it. You can pack a lot into a short time.

Improve your play - know all positions

It's useful when you know about all player positions.

You will know what to expect from players in other positions and get insight into what they may expect from you.

When you get a feel for the other positions you know more about rugby play in general and get an idea of what others are going through.

It's also inevitable that during the chaos of a game you will find yourself 'out of position'.

This often happens when you are tackled and remain at the bottom of a pile of players while the game moves on.

When you do eventually get to your feet you may find that the ball and many players are at the far side of the field.

You may be the hooker but find yourself in the position on the field normally occupied by the winger.

The game ebbs and flows and you have to do your best in that position until the opportunity comes to get back to your normal position.

It's a good idea to know the role of all player positions so you cope well during the chaos of play.

This page contains links to detailed pages for all positions. It would be well worth having a look at them. You'll get a real feel for how to play any position.

This also helps if you are having a problem choosing a position. Make sure you know what is required for all of them!

Remember nothing is set in stone. You can always move to a different position if you find another one is more suitable.

Most players play in a number of positions over the course of their time playing rugby.

The individual positions in a team are in two major groups the "forwards" and the "backs".

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There are 8 forwards in a team.

They tend to be the bigger, stronger, heavier players in the team.

These are the players who use size and strength to get the ball and move it towards the opposition goal-line.

They`re also the positions known collectively as "the pack".

In the forwards be prepared to make short bruising runs with the ball against their biggest, strongest players. In many cases making a gain of a few metres is what you are striving for.

You will also be defending against their biggest players, trying to avoid giving up any ground to wave after wave of attackers.

Forwards also take part in "set piece" contests for the ball.

One is known as a "scrum", where forwards from both teams bind together using their bulk, strength and ability to work together to get the ball.

Each set of forwards aims to bind tightly together to form one solid mass.

You do this to prevent the other pack from 'splintering' or breaking up and weakening the efforts of your pack.

When you are in the scrum you also aim to keep low and have a straight back, parallel to the ground.

Doing this helps you push more efficiently and resist the push of the opposition pack more effectively.

Another set piece is the "line-out" where the forwards contest for possession of the ball after the ball has gone out of play over the side line.

The lineout needs tall players to leap for the ball and strong players to assist the leapers.

During the course of a game it is usually clear which team has possession of the ball. You can see it being passed from hand to hand as players run with it.

At other times it becomes unclear which team has possession. Informal struggles for the ball take place. It's usually and mainly the forwards who struggle to gain possession but any player can be involved in it.

Ball on ground, with feet it's rucking.

Ball off ground, with hands it's mauling.

Find out more about rucking and mauling in the section on how to play rugby.

The "forwards" also work together in defence, co-operating to stop the opposition from moving the ball towards your goal-line.

There are groups within the pack named in relation to the places they take up in a scrum.

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Front row

Diagram names the front row of the scrum Front row of the scrum

The front row forwards group consists of a chunky hooker (number 2) and two even chunkier props (numbers 1 and 3).

Always Loose head prop on the Left.
Always Tight head prop on the Right..

The hooker is bound to both props, with one arm around each of them.

Each prop binds to the hooker with one arm and to the opposition prop with the other arm.

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Second row

Diagram shows the second row of the scrum The second row of the scrum

The second row group contains lock and lock.

Yes there are two of them! The strong and tall numbers 4 and 5.

Players in the front row and the second row positions are collectively called the "tight five" because they are all bound tightly to each other in scrums.

The locks are side by side in the scrum, bound to each other with one arm and bound to the prop in front of them with the other arm.

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Back row

Diagram shows the back row of the scrum Back row of the scrum

Players in the back row have had a few names over the years.

The players on either side of the back row used to be called "wing forwards".

Because they are bound only loosely to the tight 5 they have been known as "loose forwards"

They break away quickly from scrums and lineouts so have been know as "break-aways".

They are now known as flankers.

Each flanker is bound to a lock by one arm. The other arm is free.

In the middle of the back row, at the very back of the scrum is the big number eight.

The number 8 binds to the two locks, with one arm around each.

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There are 7 backs in a team.

The backs provide more of the speed, agility and evasiveness required in many cases to score tries.

They tend to be smaller, faster, more elusive players.

This is only a guide! Many are large and fast!

Many are not elusive!

This is good, for you. Be elusive. It gets you in the team and it`s a great advantage for your side.

You`re a good back when you have good individual skills in running, passing, catching, kicking and tackling.

You'll take part in back-line movements where the ball is swept from one side of the field to the other by running at high speed, passing accurately and catching flawlessly.

Backs move the ball to search out or create weaknesses in defence.

When you find weakness, you still need to get the ball through the opposition, so use your speed and evasion skills.

There are groups within the backs named in relation to... I`m not sure what!!!

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There are two half-backs, both are key positions.

One is the nippy scrum-half (number 9) - the linking forwards and backs.

The other is team tactician, the fly-half (number 10) - calling the shots.

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Three-quarters, full

The only backs left to name are the "three-quarters" and fullback.

For these positions you need speed, agility and tactical sense.

You will also be expected to use your skills to take advantage of lapses in defence by catching the ball at speed and carrying it forward.

In defence you will be stopping your opposite number from gaining ground and attempting to regain possession of the ball.

You will be expected to run straight and be able to catch and pass well under pressure.

The three-quarters grouping contains
the two fast and nuggetty centre three-quarters (numbers 12 and 13)
and the two even faster wing three-quarters (numbers 11 and 14).

Which leaves only the last line of defence. The speedy, hard tackling full-back (number 15).

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This is a trick position - the op...position!

This is about the other lot. You beat them and win the game.

This section is to tell you the best way to defeat the opposition is to find out all about how you do it with EvtecHs Evasion TecHniques

This tends to be a neglected area of the roles of positions in rugby.

Many players attempt to run through or over the opposition but players in every position can benefit by learning to use clever footwork to avoid tacklers.

You will progress rapidly in any position if you treat evasion as a basic skill. Just knowing this is extremely valuable information.

It's a skill which most players never learn in their entire playing career.

All player positions involve both attack and defence. Treat evasion as a vital part of your role in any position.

You will be able to create chaos in attack and get out of tricky defensive situations.

You`ll be pleased you did, it`s all about how you avoid tackles when the opposition are trying to put you on the floor!.

So, that`s it for positions.
Work out where you would play well and
... learn to sidestep so you
...... play good rugby then find and
......... help others
............ be a team, above all remember,
............... have fun!!.

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Size is important. For some positions bulk and weight are an advantage. For others, height. You can be too tall for some.

Relative size can be important too.

Being a huge prop may be an advantage or not. Too big in relation to the hooker and the other prop may result in an unbalanced scrum.

If you have the right knowledge, skills, qualities and attitude you may still excel even if you are not the ideal size.

In the lower levels of rugby there is a huge variation in the sizes of players playing in any given position.

The higher you go, the more important size becomes, but even at the elite level variations still exist.

For example locks need height but not all locks are the same height. Somewhere, some player is the shortest lock!

Wings are getting bigger but somewhere there will be the smallest winger. They may be disadvantaged by size but beating opponents with superior evasion or blistering pace.

If you would like to know more about the range of sizes of players playing in rugby teams, go to the main menu and visit the player sizes page.

It`s about the size of elite players so you can learn a lot when you look at the the relative sizes of players in the different positions.

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Total Flanker has some light hearted descriptions of positions.