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Rugby union positions explained

The pride of the northern hemisphere rugby playing nations is once again at stake. It's that time again the annual Six Nations competition is about to kick off. Six glorious weeks of blood sweat and tears. If you fancy giving it a go this year but aren't certain of the rules use our easy to follow guide below.

The Six Nations is played under rugby union laws where there are 15 players, 8 "forwards" and 7 "backs".

In our articles about the Six Nations, we make mention of various positions that players play, but what are these positions? Here’s a list.


Nos 1 & 3, "props", are usually the shortest, and definitely the widest of the forwards. Their main role is to win the set piece battle in scrums, and line-outs; securing the ball in rucks and mauls.

No 2, "hooker" are similar in size to the props, he/she sits between the props in a scrum and throws the ball in, at line-outs. When the scrum-half puts the ball into the scrum, it’s the hooker’s job to “hook” the ball to the back of the scrum in order for the team to retain possession and start an attack.

Nos 4 & 5, "Second row", (Locks). These players are usually the tallest players on the pitch. They sit just behind the props and hooker in a scrum and usually are tasked with catching the ball in a line-out.

Nos 6 & 7, "Flankers", are strong, agile players, who sit behind the props and hooker (front row) and either side of the “locks”. In the scrum, they can detach from the scrum quickly in order to tackle the opposition when defending the ball or support the ball carrier in an attacking situation. They are usually the first to a ruck or maul.

No 8, "Number 8". This player works with the scrum-half to control the ball as it comes out of the back of the scrum, providing the ball to the “backs” for an attack. As a strong player the No 8 will often run off the “backs” in an effort to create attacking options for his team.


No 9, "Scrum-half", is a key player in the team as he/she links the “forwards” and “backs” by receiving the ball in scrums, line-outs, racks, and mauls and passing the ball to the appropriate attacking unit. A good scrum-half will be a great passer of the ball, have excellent tactical decision-making abilities, have a good tactical kick and be an elusive runner.

No 10, "Fly-half". This player has to be an intelligent, clear-headed person by organising the backs for the best-attacking options. Often a really good kicker of the ball, he/she will decide whether to pass the ball out or kick into the opposition’s territory in order to gain a tactical advantage.

Nos 12 & 13, "Centres". These players have good running and passing skills. They will run attacking lines that draw defenders to them, creating space for “backs” outside of them to gain territory or score “trys”. Good centres also offer a first line of defence by tackling well.

Nos 11 & 14, "Wingers", are usually the fastest runners on the team, and principally finish off attacking moves by gaining extra territory or scoring “trys”. They are positioned on the edges of the any attacking formation. When I was a kid these players were usually the smallest, but during the professional era of rugby can be big, strong, elusive as well as fast.

No 15, "Full-back", is usually the last line of defence. This player, lines up several meters behind the “backs” in case the ball is kicked beyond his fellow team-mates. He/she will need to know when to join the attack or retreat in defence during the game, as well as being a good catcher, and an elusive/fast runner, he/she will also need to be an excellent kicker.

Enjoy the competition!!

Author Chris Ellis

Photos from:

Olga Gurganova - Unsplash

Alex Motoc - Unsplash

James Coleman - Unsplash

Quino Al - Unsplash

Max Leveridge - Unsplash

Craig Boudreaux - Unsplash

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