The 15 Positions In Rugby Union Explained: (Simple Illustrated Guide)

As one of the most diverse sports in the UK, Rugby Union brings players of all shapes and sizes together in massive, titanic clashes. This has become a hallmark of the sport and has played a key role in making it become extremely popular (see the rise in viewer figures here).

If you are new to the sport, though, the sheer number of positions in Rugby Union can become quite confusing. Here is the breakdown:

The 15 positions in a Rugby Union team consist of two sections, a Forward-Line and a Back-Line. The Forward-Line is made up of a Hooker, a Tighthead Prop and Loosehead Prop, two Locks/Second Rows, a Number Eight and two Flankers (Blindside and Openside). The Back-Line is made up of a Scrum-Half, a Fly-Half, an Outside Centre and Inside Centre, two Wingers and a Full-Back.

positions in rugby union
Positions in a Rugby Union team illustration by Sportrankers

The Positions in Rugby Union Explained

If you want to better understand the positions in Rugby Union, then, you might wish to look at our simple illustrated guide to Rugby Union positions below. The line-ups you see on a rugby team will include the following positions:

Full-Back

Full-backs are usually a key part of the team in that they tend to play as a kind of sweeper in defence. They take in deep kicks from the opponent’s team and are useful for catching high balls before springing a rapid counter-attack from a possession.

They are very important in teams that look to try and play with a high energy style, as they tend to be among the most important players in the team for both attacking and defending.

They need to have quality kicking, catching, running, and a good head on their shoulders for picking the right moment to act.

Fullback is one of the most important positions in Rugby Union

Winger

One of the most attacking positions in Rugby Union, the wing plays out wide, as the name suggests, and they tend to be among the best finishers on the pitch.

During a Rugby Union match, each team fields two wingers, one on either side.

They play a major role in being the out-ball and being the fastest players who can skirt by a tackler and get a try.

They are often also relied upon to be the last line of defence, making use of their pace to defeat counter attacks and stop the opposition from getting a try.

Winger is one of the most attacking positions in Rugby Union

Centre (Inside and Outside)

One of the most all-round positions in Rugby Union, Centres make a lot of impact on a team because they tend to be powerful runners with an eye for a pass and the right movement.

Each team fields two Centre’s, Inside Centre and Outside Centre.

They tend to stick to quite horizontal running, going on long bursts and taking the game to the opposition.

They usually take on the other teams Centre in a bid to open up the pitch and break the oppositions defensive lines.

They can also create space for others to help make space for quicker players to nip in and get a chance at a try. Very creative players who tend to be quite important for either getting the ball to attackers or tackling opposition breakaways successfully.

Centre is one of the most well-rounded positions in Rugby Union

Fly-Half

The Fly-Half is a crucial part of the team as they are often the creative engine room.

A Fly-Half is arguably one of the most glamorous positions in Rugby Union.

The playmaker and the main attacking outlet, just about any kind of attack will be managed by a Fly-Half at one stage in the attack itself. They have key responsibility for ball handling, passing, and control of the game.

They also orchestrate the team defence, deciding what play will be taken on next and spotting gaps in the opposition defence. Essential for marshalling the team in defence and orchestrating them in attack.

The majority of the time, they take responsibility for kicking, whether for penalties or conversion. This is not always the case, but throughout Rugby Union history, we have seen this pattern.

Fly-half is arguably of the most creative positions in Rugby Union

Scrum-Half

The scrum-half is a crucial part of any modern rugby team, acting as the link between the defence and the forward line.

They are a key player for developing attacks, often playing just off the forwards and playing a key role in working out where the ball is, where it is fed to teammates, and how an attack might build up.

They put the ball into the scrum and also take the ball back out to initiate a post-scrum attack.

They require great vision, awareness of the pitch, and speed on the turn overall.

Scrum-half is arguably one of the most crucial positions in Rugby Union

Number Eight

The Number Eight plays a big role in the team as a ball carrier, a tackler, and a support unit.

They are very similar to the flanking position, with the two flankers and the 8 being known as the ‘back row’ of the team.

They are the only player from the forwards who can pick the ball up in a scrummage, too. They are useful for getting the team up the pitch via intense running.

Number Eight is one of the most intense positions in Rugby Union

Flanker (Blindside and Openside)

Flankers play a smaller role than other positions, but tend to be energetic, high-stamina players who can do a little bit of everything.

Each team contains two flankers. During the scrum, they position themselves to the left and the right respectively.

They need to be extremely fit and will be expected to be involved in most of the action via wining balls, collecting passes, and making key tackles.

Flanker is one of the utility positions in Rugby Union

Hooker

The hooker is another key position, vital to the forward line, and tends to be among the most important decision makers in a rugby team.

They co-ordinate the scrum in terms of timing, and are crucial to winning possession of the ball back in the scrum via hooking the ball through the props legs.

They need great ball handling accuracy and need to be able to accurate find teammates in position. Similar, in some ways, to a prop.

Hooker is one of the most vital positions in Rugby Union

Prop (Tighthead and Loosehead)

The prop is one of the major positions on a rugby team, making up the front row in a scrum.

Props need to have extremely powerful physical attributes in their neck, shoulders, and both upper and lower bodies.

They usually are among the most competitive, aggressive players in a rugby team.

They also play a key role in making sure that other positions, like the Hooker, can easily see the ball when it is placed into the scrum. The role they play is aggression and support, mostly.

Prop is one of the most competitive and aggressive positions in Rugby Union

Second Row/Locks

The Locks, or Second Rows, provide the power needed in the forward line. They are particularly vital in the scrum as they act as the engine when driving the other members of the scrum forward.

As the name suggests, they are the second line in the scrum and position themselves behind the Hooker and the two Probs and bind together by locking their heads in between the bodies of the Prop and Hooker, hence the name ‘Lock’.

Second Row’s are the engine positions in Rugby Union

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