Rugby Positions Explained


From number one to fifteen, every player has a distinctive role on the rugby field whether it be of attacking, defensive, or of tactical importance. Even substitute players are put on the field for a reason, whether it be to bring impact or cover injury, fatigue etc.

The following is a list of rugby positions on the field and the detailed characteristics and expectations that come with occupying that role.


Loosehead Prop: The loosehead prop is positioned on the left and outside of the scrum , with the aim of providing the hooker with a clear view of hooking the ball to the back row and halfback. As well as being a mobile forward with ball in hand, the loosehead plays a vital role in assisting jumpers at lineout time in taking clear ball.

Tighthead Prop: Positioned to the right of the hooker and opposite loosehead, the tighthead is generally the bigger and more physical of the scrummagers. The more technical of the two, the tighthead’s role is to keep the scrum stable at all times, while disrupting the opposing hooker from hooking the ball back in their own scrum. Similar to the loosehead, the tighthead also assists lineout jumpers in taking clean ball.


The hooker carries a specialist role on the field, and are known for their lineout throwing abilities and in modern day rugby, their mobile running skills. Positioned between the two props in the scrum, the hooker’s role is to hook the ball back to the second row forwards and halfback for distributing. Similar to the tighthead prop, the hooker is expected to contest the opposing hooker in winning the ball in the scrum. At lineout time, the position involves throwing the ball accurately to lineout jumpers.


Generally the tall timber in most teams, the lock plays a vital role in catching and securing the ball in lineouts. Locks must have good catching ability, as they also compete for ball at kickoffs. In the scrum, locks use their power to push forward the front row, assisting to form a strong and stable scrum. As well as at set piece time, locks are expected to be mobile ball runners around the field.


Openside Flanker: The openside flanker is positioned on the far side of the scrum and is expected to be quick off the mark, pouncing on opposing players when the ball exits. Openside flankers must show physicality at the contact area and play a vital role in turning over and securing possession at the breakdown. A position of flair and workmanship, flankers play a big role in how teams fear on game day.

Blindside Flanker: The blindside flanker sits on the closest side to the sideline in the scrum and are well recognized for their physical toughness and heavy work rate. Modernly the bigger of the two flankers, the blindside is expected to feature defensively and be mobile with ball in hand. Featuring little at scrum time, the flanker doesn’t push to the same extent as the front and back row forwards, instead eagerly waiting to breakout and play a defensive role in the field.


Relied on to show power and a physical presence, the number eight is generally the quicker of the loose forwards. Positioned at the back of the scrum, the number eight can either choose to run with the ball or hook it back to the halfback for distribution. They are positioned at the back of the lineout and become another option to throw to when looking to attack from the set piece. Number eight’s these days are versatile players and are expected to be key ball carriers as well as front line members at ruck and maul time.


Halfbacks play an important role in any game of rugby, acting as a vital link between forwards and backs. They feature prominently during set pieces, feeding the ball into the scrum and distributing the ball from lineouts/scrums and behind rucks and mauls. They must be effective communicators, and must work tactically with outside backs and running forwards.


The first five eighth plays a critical role in a team’s dominance of a game. Sitting outside the halfback, the first five’s main role is to make tactical decisions in either kicking the ball for territory or distributing the ball to outside backs for opportunities to attack. The first five eighth is usually the preferred kicker in the team and is expected to read the game in all types of situations. Some of the best first five eighths in the world are also known for their attacking brilliance, making them a handful for most opposition.


Inside Centre/ Second Five Eighth: The inside centre sits outside the first five eighth and are expected to play both a strong attacking and defensive game. They must possess good passing skills and have an ability to offload in the tackle, putting outside backs into space. Effective thinkers, the inside centre must run the ball in a way which can draw in defenders and offload the ball to support players. In the modern day game, centres must be able to kick well which adds another option of gaining added territory. Defensively, centres are expected to make first up tackles in the backline, limiting holes for opposition players to attack.

Outside Centre: Outside Centre’s are recognized for their pace and ability to break the opposing line in attack. The quicker of the midfield combination, the outside centre is expected to run good lines and support the ball carrier. Playing a similar defensive role to the inside centre, the outside is expected is front up physically when defending, forming a steady block to opposition players.


Left Wing: Occupying the number 11 jersey, the left wing is usually similar in stature to the right winger, showing good acceleration to beat defenders in attacking situations. With immense sidestepping ability and a willingness to kick off the left foot, the complete winger harnesses various skills to break the line and score tries.

Right Wing: With many of the same attributes as the left winger, the right wing can kick and step off the right foot to break defenders and gain territory. Wingers are expected to play supporting roles ton the fullback, backing up when needed to counter attack,. It’s important that the winger is defensively sound to stop players running around the outside in attack.


Generally the last line in defence when opposing teams are on attack, the fullback plays a vital role in counter attacking and directing the ball to gain territory or possession. A huge role in any backline, the fullback must show a good turn of pace and harness a well drilled passing game. They must also possess good catching skills under the high ball, being calm and collected and using the right techniques in securing possession. Precise thinkers when tracing opposition play, they must fall into position when needed at all times.


Substitute players play a massive role in covering injured players, players with fatigue or to bring impact on the field. Many cover various positions in a team and become extremely valuable in the closing stages of a game.

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