Like most sports that didn’t originate in North America, the game of rugby can be difficult to comprehend at first glance because of the large number of players involved, the seemingly random calls of the referee, and the wide variety of strategies employed by different teams to score points and get wins.

The following section outlines who all the players are on the pitch.


A rugby team has 15 positions. Each one wears a specific number and has individual responsibilities:

The first group is collectively referred to as the pack or the forwards. This group’s main goal is to win possession of the ball. These players are usually the heavyweights of the team, using their bulk and strength to try to overpower their opponents.


There are two props in the front row of every team. By being on both sides of the hooker, these two players prop up the hooker in the scrum. The one on the hooker’s left is called the loose head prop (no. 1), while the other is called the tight head prop (no. 3). Besides giving the hooker extra stability during a scrum, they are responsible for lifting the locks during a line-out and carrying the ball in open play. 


The hooker (no. 2) is usually the player that throws the ball in during a line-out. As the name indicates, this player is the one responsible for hooking the ball and getting possession for his team during a scrum. The hooker also faces a lot of tackling from opponents as he is expected to carry the ball forwards. 


Forming the second row in a scrum, the two locks are usually the tallest players and as a result, are the main jumpers during a line-out. As such, the locks – numbers four and five – are also the ones competing for kick-offs, and as their name suggests, lock the scrum securely. These players are significantly larger in physique, and the strongest in the team because of the physical demands on them as the ‘engine room’ of the forward pack. 


There are two flankers in each team – the open-side flanker (no.7) and the blind-side flanker(no.6). The flankers are tasked with the huge responsibility of winning possession at every breakdown in open play. As such, they are usually the fastest forwards in the pack and need to possess huge amounts of stamina to be able to be within striking distance of the ball at all times. In attack, their roles is to support the backs in open play and are often involved in rucks and mauls to gain possession. Open-side flankers are usually smaller in physical size and faster than the blind-side flankers. Both are located at the sides of a scrum. 

Number Eight/Eight Man

One of the players who sees the most tackling, the number eight is also the only player without a position name. They usually work together with the two flankers as a unit and are called the ‘loose trio’. The no.8 is also a devastating runner with the ball and whenever opportunities present itself, picks up the ball from the back of the scrum to attack by running at defenses.

A rugby team has another group as well — the backs or back line. The backs provide more of the speed, agility, and evasiveness required in many cases to score tries.


 The link between the forwards and the backs, the scrum-half (no. 9), is an important player when it comes to defending and attacking. Though typically much smaller in physique compared to the forwards, the scrumhalf is in charge of conducting the forward operations, giving instructions to the forward pack on where and what to do. In set plays such as the scrum and lineouts, the scrum-half has the important task of making sure that the fly-half receives clean, quick ball from which to launch attacks. 


Often the best kicker in the team, the fly-half (no. 10) commands the direction of the game. Since the fly-half is in the middle of all the action, he/she is able to get an overall view of how the match is proceeding, and hence, apart from the team captain, is the most influential on the pitch, making the majority of the tactical decisions. 


The inside center (no.12) and outside center (no.13) make up the midfield pairing in the three-quarters and are traditionally the teams strongest tacklers and runners of the ball. They are the engine of the backline and are tasked with organizing the defense in back play while helping to create space and scoring opportunities in attack. An all-rounded skill set is required, as both centers are also required to be good at passing and kicking as well.


The left wing (no. 11) and right wing (no.14) are positioned in front of the full back on both sides of the scrum. Wingers are traditionally the fastest players on each team, and as such play a big role in attacking where they are usually the ones to finish off the moves by scoring the tries. Swerving, side-stepping and silky running with the ball in order to elude opponents are important skills for wingers along with the ability to field kicks. Together with the fullback the trio are commonly known as the ‘back three’ of each side. 


The fullback (no.15), especially at set-pieces, is positioned all the way at the back of the team. As he’s able to see the play unfolding, a good fullback needs to have good communication skills to inform teammates of both potential dangers and opportunities. The fullback, being the last line of defense, has to be defensively strong to make last ditch tackles and field testing high-kicks by opponents. His reading of the game has to be good on offense as well as the fullback is expected to join in the attack by acting as a decoy runner, breaking into the opponent’s defensive line and creating space for the wingers.