Rugby union positions guide.
From Internet sporting sites and various other sources.
15 players (8 forwards 7 backs) including reserves 23 players (13 forwards 10 backs)
There is an old saying, “the forwards determine who wins the game and the backs determine by how much”, which often causes friction between the two with the forwards describing the backs as glory boys who do none of the dirty work yet attract all the praise. Really it’s like a cheese and tomato sandwich. If you want a decent meal you need both.
All three front row are broad physique and take great enjoyment in charging into the opposition front row. They are the concrete base to the structure of the team and modern front row have to be able to catch, time a pass to put teammates into space and run and even sidestep. With each front row it is the only true position on the field where you actually have a one-on-one with your opposite number. Front row have to relish that confrontational challenge to get the most out of it.
01 Loose head.
Supports the hooker in the scrum and observes the behaviour of the pack. Scrum technician using tricks to create the advantage in the scrum by getting the ball away from the opposition or disrupting the opposition scrum platform.
The primary role of the loose-head is to look after the hooker so he can get a clean strike at the ball. Loose-head's left side dominates.
Scrum, line-out, tackle, hit the rucks and mauls. Must relish prospect of one-to-one with opposite number. Left side of body dominates. Protects the hooker.
Most outgoing member of the front row with responsibilities all around the field including line-out throw. Main skill is striking the ball back to the second row in the scrum. Must also be on his game at each line-out making certain he is on target to one of the line-out jumpers. Leader of the forward pack and a difficult position to play involving a combination of power and stamina as well as blistering pace as they are often relied upon to make quick charges at the opposition tryline. Often sighted at the end of a backline attack waiting for a pass from one of the centres or wingers where brute strength and a quick step can get them over the tryline.
Modern hookers have to be like a loose forward in open play, likely to be the last up at every second breakdown, so need to be around for support and ball carrying. Needs good controlled charge from a short range. A good hooker will try to get a lot of pressure through the right shoulder, standing on the left leg and striking the ball.
Scrum, line-out throws. Good technique. Like a loose forward in open play. Breakdown specialist. Needs to be available for support and ball carrying.
03 Tight head.
Supports the hooker in the scrum and is the keystone of the scrum requiring enormous strength to keep the scrum straight and intact.
The tight-head prop is very much the fulcrum. He anchors the whole scrum and is destructive in a negative sense. He will be trying to put the opposition loose-head under pressure. The tight-head mainly uses the right-hand side of his body.
Scrum, line-out, tackle, hit the rucks and mauls. Must relish prospect of one-to-one with opposite number. Right side of body dominates. Anchors the scrum. Destructive.
Second row locks.
Giants of the scrum circus lost on their way to a basketball game and usually the players that the rest of the team try to lift through the clouds in the line-out to catch the hookers throw. Locks are the workhorses of the forward pack or the engine room because they provide the required push to ensure that the scrum stays stable, doesn’t collapse, and is not pushed back by the opposition. General requirement is that you are tall and won’t snap when pressure is applied in the scrum, outstanding ball players with tremendous ability so passengers need not apply. A hard position but also highly visible where nothing goes unnoticed - mistakes as well as glittering moments are equally highlighted.
The basic role of the second is to lock and push in the scrum, win line-out ball and secure possession from restarts. The role has developed now with second rows as ball carriers, getting their hands on the ball to take into contact. Also good at movement and deception.
04 Left lock.
The second row that wears the number four shirt often jumps second in the line-out and is usually slightly shorter and is probably the bulkier of the pair. Because the ball thrown to the two-jumper gets to him quicker, they are usually more dynamic and a powerful jumper, shooting forward. They must be very quick off the mark and powerful. In the scrum, the taller second row may be the loose head lock, which is on the left side of the scrum. The loose-head tends to move more - only bound in on one side, with the left hand loose, while the tight-head is tightly bound in and pretty stationary.
Push scrum, win line-out and secure possession from restarts. Take ball into contact. Strong and athletic. Slightly shorter and bulkier of the pair. Good movement and deception.
05 Right lock.
Both second row players need to be strong, athletic and dynamic with height being slightly more useful for the number five shirt. Basic roles is the same as the number four - to secure possession and, as with all the forwards, to tackle tight in to the set-piece and the breakdowns. At the line-out, the taller five shirt tends to be the number four-jumper. A ball thrown to the number five shirt has got further to travel and is in the air longer. This means the four-jumper has to deal with more variations in the air - going forward, straight up or backwards.
Push scrum, win line-out and secure possession from restarts. Take ball into contact. Strong and athletic. Good movement and deception.
The Three Musketeers because they are ferocious competitors and usually up to a lot of mischief. When the back row are on form and get away with a few cheeky manoeuvres during the game victory is usually inevitable.
06 Blindside flanker.
Along with the number eight assists with the openside flanker at the breakdown. An outstanding defender with a devastating tackle and ready to cut off the opposition trying to attack the blindside from the scrum.
The number six cleans out the rucks and is primarily a defensive player on the blindside, shutting down the opposition number eight or number nine. Needs to be someone who likes confrontation and a physically robust approach. Of the three back-row positions needs to be the absolute bedrock. Has to make sure that the opposition doesn't get over the advantage line by smashing them back. Ball-carrying does not necessarily use the off-load, but instead carries the ball through defensive lines punching holes to allow short interplay to get in behind the opposition. Big and able to draw two defensive players to create holes somewhere else.
Bind to the scrum on the side closest to the sideline. Clean out the rucks. Defensive player on the blind-side, shut down the opposition number eight or number nine.
07 Openside flanker.
Has to patrol a greater amount of the field so usually the smaller and speedier of the two with prime aim to be the first at the ball wherever it is on the pitch. A feverish scavenger both getting the ball off the opposition and also making sure the ball stays with the team in the breakdown area so the attack can continue. Perpetual motion players and key support runners who keep the attacks going. Fight and tussle for the ball wrestling it out from a tangle of arms and legs without upsetting the referee. Rarely win awards for fair play but often win matches.
Turns rucks and mauls into continuity play again. The position that forges the gap between the forwards and backs often on the shoulder of the inside / outside centre or on the inside of the wingers to score tries. Not always looking to just smash the opponent back instead getting the ball carrier into a body wrap, pulling them to the ground ripping the ball up in one movement. Alternatively deliberately wrapping up the opponent, knowing that eight times out of 10 the ball carrier will be penalised for holding onto the ball.
Bind to the scrum on the openside. Turn rucks and mauls into play. Support the backs on runs. Rip the ball. Wrap the ball-carrier.
Holds the scrum together and usually the most skillful forward because so much of the match happens around them, often being the first to receive the ball from the scrum, line-outs and open play. Needs to know whether to run with the ball to expose a defensive weakness, pass it to the scrum half or leave it for the scrum half to pick up. Working with the scrum half and fly half the number 8 decides how the team defends or attacks. Knows what the opposition are upto, always thinking and always near the ball when there is a breakdown in the play.
Duties similar to the loose forward teammates - to tackle, carry and provide the backs support in breaks but with the added responsibility of securing possession at the base of the scrum. A number 8 has an important role to release wingers, the fly-half and full-back with a good awareness of creating space. While looking at the ball at the base of the scrum the number 8 must sense the position of where teammates are.
Tackle, carry, backs support in breaks. Secures possession at the base of the scrum. Needs to intimidate opposing scrum-half. Releases wingers, the fly-half and full-back. Not necessarily good skills, but good awareness of creating space and where teammates are.
09 Scrum half.
The shepherd of the team yapping away at everyone's feet driving them mad. The real link between the forwards and the backs. One step away from everything means that he is the team's distributor, moving the ball from scrums, line-outs, rucks, mauls and any form of breakdown play. Courageous, agile and the best passer in the team. Pestering everyone and doesn’t mind upsetting his own teammates. Communicator between the forwards and the backs and doesn’t shut up, constantly urging more from the scrum or making sure the referee queries decisions. The eyes of the pack working in tandem with the fly-half to decide the best attacking or defending option. When the two make hand signals or cup their mouths to stop the opposition hearing then it is getting serious and something interesting is about to occur. One of the smallest on the field but ready to bounce back when the opposition forwards take a dislike to the pesky behaviour and decide to run them over.
A broad range of passing and kicking skills are required for example kicking is not just all about the traditional box kick - it is little grubbers along the floor, long punts or quick tap penalties. Needs to understand when to make breaks and when to pass, when defending who to organise the forwards links with the backs. Scrum halves need man-management, decision-making, staying on the feet and to minimise the time at the bottom of rucks. A good scrum-half has a natural instinct and confidence understanding of how the team are trying to play and being able to implement ideas for the team. When not marked see the gap and have the pace to finish.
Deliver the ball from the base of the scrum, ruck or maul to spark the backline. Deliver the ball not just from the base but however it comes. Needs broad range of traditional skills. Understands attack / defend. Organises the team. Natural instinct and confidence. Experience to spot the gap.
10 Fly half.
The chief play-maker of the team who makes all the big decisions usually taken by the artist and self-proclaimed intellect of the team. The fly-half is also known as the pivot because the game pivots on their ability to dictate the tempo and momentum of the game. Slow the game down from a running game by midfield kicking? Change the momentum by focusing play to the forwards by running the ball back to the pack to grind out a win? The most central position on the pitch so must by cool and think clearly under pressure.
Controls the game exceptionally well and bosses everyone around while able to run different angles and distribute better passes than their opposite number. Needs a bit of spark and ingenuity which usually comes from the way a fly-half reads a game.
Orchestrates the attack and defence of a team bossing the forwards while keeping the depth of the backs. Tough tackler to block attacks in the channel between 10 and 12. Control the tempo of a game. Running different angles and distributing passes. Fantastic basic skills and awareness. Ingenuity from reading a game.
11 Left wing.
Primary function is to finish off attacking moves. Must respect their role as a prolific try scorer when their team mates put so much effort in getting them over the opposition tryline. Determining left or right wing depends on which foot the player sidesteps with and kicks with. Being so close to the sideline a left wing player needs to be a strong right footed clearance kicker and same for the other side. Wingers need to be fast in attack, possessing exceptional acceleration and work well in a limited amount of space. Wingers also need to be fearless in defence if the opposition are attacking through the outer reaches of the field.
To be a good winger, you need pace and ability to exploit space. Wingers must have a big work ethic - you cannot just stand out there on the wing and wait for the ball to come. Defensively the winger has to be solid as it is one of the only positions where there are real one-on-ones where you can be exposed or you can be a hero. Wingers need to be team players and avoid “white line fever” - if a winger blows a scoring opportunity because they are selfish, the team and the crowd will not forgive easily.
Pace. Exploiting space. Getting the extra yard. Big work ethic. Lonely position waiting for the ball so must also be able to go looking for the ball in all positions. Defensively solid. Being in the right place at the right time. Unselfish and willing pass if someone is in a better position.
12 Inside centre.
The inside centre is the player who keeps the attack in some sort of formation by providing the link between the fly-half and the outside backs. Decides whether to straighten the attack by running straight with the ball or push the attack wider by passing to the outside centre or full back. The inside centre often plays a battering ram role taking the ball up to the opposition line and be tackled. Dependability when straightening the attack is required and judgement in knowing exactly when to pass, when to run and when to chip kick. As the inside centre is generally always in a confined area exceptional ball handling skills are required - the ball cannot be dropped with opposition players hanging around.
The inside centre body composition tend to be bigger and a bit quicker than the fly-half able to take the ball into contact more than a number 10 normally would. Able to put wide passes in, short passes in or take the ball into contact depending on the tactics for that game.
Bigger and a bit quicker than fly-half. Wide passes. Short passes. Take the ball into contact more than a number 10. Pass the ball out of the tackle. Distribute the ball. Can play the ball with hands. Good tackling skills.
13 Outside centre.
The faster of the two centres. Primary aim is to set up the full back and the winger usually be luring the opposition defence into pursuit creating enough space for a perfectly timed pass to put a team mate through the opposition's defensive line. Combined with the faith in their ability to attack the outside centre produces an unpredictable attacking spark. The outside centre usually has more space to work with than the inside centre and can release the winger or fullback with a precise kick to the corner. The outside centre needs to be one of the better defenders as the position often faces a fast-running fullback charging at full speed. To be fully effective both centres need to work in pairs.
A hard, straight-running player who tackles well, who takes the ball into contact well and has an understanding with the other centre. The centres run through repetitive exercises, drills and play alongside one another to build a rapport and get enough opportunities to work out what each other are going to do.
Similar to inside centre but tends to be quicker and not as big. Hard, straight-running centre who tackles well, who takes the ball into contact well, understanding with the number 12 and the whole backline.
14 Right wing.
Good left kick and right footed side step push off. Everything else as with the left wing.
15 Full back.
The full back has relative freedom of movement and so needs to be the surprise weapon appearing anywhere on the field. Dramatically improving the attack of the backline by reading the play and timing exactly when to hit the line to create the extra man. The aim of most rugby attacks is to create the overlap where the attacking team has more players than the defensive line and the full back is the player who can do this the best. The full back needs to have the strength and courage of a bomb disposal expert as the opposition may try sending attacking high balls which pass high over the heads of the other players swirl in the air and are tricky for the full back to deal with. The full back is often the first player the opposition will test and if they are not up to the task of fielding bombs it is a disaster for the team and the bombs keep dropping.
Traditionally the full-back has always been the last line of defence however the position has changed dramatically and now involves collaboration and interchange with the two wingers. Looks to run the ball out of defence as a first option but also an important point of attack either as a decoy runner or taking the ball in hand. Kicks to the corners from stand offs for wingers to chase like the full-back.
Collaborates and capable of interchanging with wingers. Tremendous pace and involved in a lot in play. Important point of attack either as a decoy runner or taking the ball in hand. Always looks to run the ball out of defence as a first option. Kicking out of defence as a last line of action.
The rest of the squad;
16 Reserve Hooker.
17 Reserve loose head.
18 Reserve tight head.
19 Reserve second row.
20 Reserve back row.
21 Reserve scrum half.
22 Reserve back line 1.
23 Reserve back line 2.