Welcome to Rugby 101. Here you’ll find a guide to rugby terminology, basic rules of the game, and helpful diagrams to answer your rugby questions.
Each team is made up of two types of players: forwards and backs. Forwards tend to be the bigger, more aggressive players, while backs are usually quick, agile players. The number on a player’s jersey corresponds to the position she’s playing. 1-8 are forwards; 9-15 are backs. The positions are:
Props (1 and 3): These players are in the front row of the scrum, and it is their job to support the hooker.
Hooker (2): In a scrum, the hooker is in the front row between the two props. Her job is to “hook” the ball back so the scrumhalf can take it. She is also normally responsible for throwing the ball back in during line-outs.
Locks (4 and 5): In a scrum, they bind on behind the two props to form the second row. They provide much of the drive that moves the scrum forward.
Flankers (6 and 7): Along with the eightman, flankers are known as “loose forwards.” They bind on to the sides of the scrum and generally have the most mobility.
Eightman (8): The final position in a scrum. She binds on behind the two locks and holds up the scrum.
Scrumhalf (9): The scrumhalf serves as the link between the forwards and the backs. She retrieves the ball from line-outs, scrums, and rucks and is usually responsible for dictating plays.
Fly half (10): Usually the first one to receive the ball from the scrumhalf, the fly half is responsible for leading the back line in plays.
Wings (11 and 14): Wings are positioned on either side of the back line. They are often the fastest players on the pitch.
Centers (12 and 13): The inside center (12) and outside center (13) do most of the ball handling in the back line. They are usually the ones who crash into the opposing team’s defensive line.
Fullback (15): The fullback is the last line of defense against the opposition. Her main responsibilities are catching kicks and tackling any players who break through the defensive line.
On a field, they are usually set up like this:
Rules of the Game
A rugby game is 80 minutes long and is divided into two 40-minute halves.
The game begins with a drop kick from one team into the other team’s territory, and the players trying to retrieve and advance it.
No forward passes are allowed. The ball may only be passed backward or laterally. There are three main ways for a ball to move forward: by a running ball carrier, by a kick, or by a maul.
When an offensive ball carrier is stopped by a defensive player, this is known as a breakdown. Usually, the ball carrier is brought to ground in a tackle, in which case players from both teams form a ruck to compete for possession of the ball. If the ball carrier stays on her feet, it is called a maul.
Points are scored when a player touches the ball down in the goal area, known as the try zone. Each try is worth 5 points, and is followed by a conversion kick, worth 2 points.
Glossary of Rugby Terms
Knock-on– A knock-on occurs when the ball is knocked forward off of a player’s body in any way other than a kick. If a knock-on is committed, play is stopped and the game is restarted with a scrum.
Line-out– A line-out occurs when the ball goes out-of-bounds. The forwards on each team line up to catch the ball as it is thrown back in, usually by the hooker. Two lifters on each team will lift a jumper into the air to catch the ball, which is then passed to the scrumhalf.
Maul– A maul occurs when a ball carrier is stopped by a defensive player, but instead of being brought to ground, she remains on her feet. Players from both teams form a maul around the ball carrier and compete for possession as they would in a ruck.
Offsides– At a breakdown, a player is offsides if she is in front of the back foot of the last player in the breakdown.
Quick Tap– A quick tap is one way to resume play after a penalty. The ball is kicked a very short distance, allowing the kicker to regain the ball and begin an offensive play.
Ruck– After a tackle, players on both sides form a ruck. They bind onto each other and try to drive the opposing team back to win possession of the ball.
Scrum– A scrum is one way to restart play after a minor infringement. Both teams’ forwards bind up in three rows, and then bind on to each other so that the front rows are interlocked. The scrumhalf throws the ball into the gap between the two front rows, and the hookers on both teams try to hook the ball back with their feet while the other forwards try to drive the opposing team away from the ball.