RUCK’s guide to Rugby Union positions.
A good full-back is somewhat the playmaker but will also act as the last line of defence. They must be confident under the high ball as they receive a lot of opposition kicks but also be comfortable kicking the ball from deep so as to clear their lines when they may not have support. To be defined as a world-class full-back, they must have trustworthy handling skills. They also need to have the running power to be able to join the line at pace to create an overlap or act a decoy to create try-scoring opportunities for the winger.
Legend: Jason Robinson (England)
World’s current best: Israel Folau (Australia)
14&11: Right and left wing
Pace paired with power is a necessity out wide as they look to exploit space to be able to do a vast amount of the team’s try-scoring. The days of the 11 stone wingers have disappeared and 16 stone wingers are quite common at the top level. Strength and good handling are also key skills that are important to mastering the win.
Legend: Jonah Lomu (New Zealand)
World’s current best: Bryan Habana (South Africa)
12&13: Outside and inside centres
The centres are key both in attack and defence as they take on their opposite number. They attempt to either break the defensive line or draw in enough opposition defenders to create space and try-scoring opportunities for their team-mates. Modern day players are now leaner and stronger because the modern game is more physically demanding. The position burdens great attacking prowess, fixed with intensity in contact to either retain or steal possession.
Legend: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
World’s current best: Tevita Kuridrani (Australia)
The fly-half is the heartbeat of any team and perhaps the most influential player on the pitch as they coordinate the team’s performance. The no10 will receive the ball from the no9 and choose to kick, pass or make a break based upon split-second interpretation of the phase of play. Think of them as the General; running the game, bossing the forwards while keeping the depth of the backs. They are also commonly the teams goal kickers.
Legend: Jonny Wilkinson (England)
World’s current best: Beaduden Barrett (New Zeland)
The scrum-half is the player who ties together the forwards and backs into one solitary unit. They remove for the ball from the back of the scrum and lineout before usually distributing the ball to the fly-half. They need to be top-class communicators as they like the fly-halves need to make a lot of vital strategic assessments during a game.
Legend: Gareth Edwards (Wales)
World’s current best: Conor Murray (Ireland)
1&3: Loosehead and tight-head prop
Their principal role is to anchor the scrummage and provide lifting strength and support for the lineout jumpers. They are also fundamental in rucks and mauls providing a great deal of the main push. For props to be successful, they must be extremely strong in the neck, shoulders, upper body and legs. However, many modern day top props are now also very powerful runners and you may even see the odd sidestep and try from them.
Legend: Jason Leonard (England)
World’s current best: Cian Healy (Ireland)
The hooker has two exclusive jobs on the pitch as the player who wins possession in the scrum and usually throws the ball into the lineout. They require great strength to withstand the physicality of the front row combined with great speed to get around the pitch as well as a good throwing technique are they key skills required to be a world-class hooker.
Legend: Sean Fitzpatrick (New Zealand)
World’s current best: Dane Coles (New Zealand)
4&5: Lock/ Back-row
The Locks handle winning the ball from lineouts and restarts. They drive forward momentum in the scrum, rucks and mauls providing a platform for attack. The locks are usually the tallest players on the team and combine their physicality with great catching skills and mobility.
Legend: John Eales (Australia)
World’s current best: Brodie Retallick (New Zealand)
6&7: Blind-side and open-side flanker
Open-side and blind-side flankers regularly are thought of as the players with the least set responsibilities, but as such must be excellent all-rounders with boundless energy. Their major objective is to win possession through turnovers, using physicality in the tackle and speed at the breakdown.
Legend: Francois Pienaar (South Africa)
World’s current best: Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
8: Number 8
The Number 8 can secure possession at the base of the scrum as they are the only player who can pick the ball up from the base of the scrum. They are duty-bound to carry the ball often as an explosive, dynamic runner in open play as well as providing the link between the forwards and backs in attacking phases. They are also expected to defend aggressively.
Legend: Lawrence Dallaglio (England)
World’s current best: Kieran Read (New Zealand)