Whether you’re new to rugby or a longtime fan of the game, this glossary of common—and not so common—rugby terms provides a quick reference or a tool to learn the basics.
22 – The 22 m line, marking 22 metres (72 ft) from the tryline.
89 – An “89” or eight-nine move is a phase following a scrum, in which the number 8 picks up the ball and transfers it to number 9 (scrum-half).
Advantage – unlike most other sports, referees can play advantage after a foul for what can seem an eternity, but once he calls “advantage over” then that’s that.
All Blacks – the national team of New Zealand.
Ankle Tap – a tackle, usually of the last-ditch variety, which involves a dive and a slap to the attacker’s ankle which, if properly executed, will result in his legs colliding with each other. Also known as a Tap Tackle.
Backs – the group of players normally numbered Nos. 9 to 15 who do not participate in scrums and line-outs, except for the scrum-half.
Barbarians – the name of invitational rugby teams, the most famous based in the UK, drawing the finest players from around the world together to play matches against international teams. Also called the Baa Baas.
Binding – the careful method players grip and grasp each other to form a secure scrum, ruck, or maul. This is a critical skill to ensure the safety of players.
Blindside – from a set piece, ruck or maul, the short side of the field. Also called the Weakside.
Box-kick – This is a kick taken from behind a scrum, normally by the scrum-half, in which he turns away from the scrum facing the touchline, and kicks the ball back over the scrum into the clear “box” of space behind the opposition to allow his own team to chase through and regain the ball in undefended territory.
Breakdown – The breakdown is a colloquial term for the period immediately after a tackle and the ensuing ruck. During this time teams compete for possession of the ball, initially with their hands and then using feet in the ruck. Most referees will call “ruck” or “hands away” as soon as a ruck is formed. Most infringements take place at the breakdown, owing to the greater variety of possible offences at a breakdown, for example handling in the ruck, killing the ball, offside at the ruck and so on.
Calcutta Cup – the annual match between England and Scotland each year during the Six Nations Championship. The trophy is made from the silver rupees remaining after the Calcutta Rugby Club disbanded in the 1920s.
Cap – anytime a player plays in a match he/she is technically awarded a cap but the term is mostly used to note the number of official games a player has appeared for his/her national team against another national team. A cap is an honour, there is typically no physical item awarded, although originally there was.
Centre – They are the players wearing shirts numbers 12 and 13. They are divided into inside and outside centre.
Charge Down – the blocking of a kick by an opposition player.
Chip Kick – a short shallow kick usually delivered over the head of an onrushing defender to be quickly retrieved or caught by the kicker or one of his/her supporting players.
Clearance Kick – a kick of the ball into touch which relieves pressure on a side under heavy attack.
Conversion – a kick at the posts after the awarding of a try, scoring two points if successful. The kick must be attempted directly from a spot perpendicular to the spot where the try was awarded. Usually taken with a place kick, it can be rushed when the kicker makes a move towards the ball. If taken as a drop kick it is uncontested.