Rugby positions explained: names, numbers, what each role plays - from scrum half to loosehead prop

England are aiming to win the Six Nations title for the first time since 2020

The events are set to be televised worldwide drawing in excitement from people around the world.

Rugby is regarded to many fans as the ‘ultimate team sport’ and each team is made up of 15 players who all play an integral role in helping their team. These roles are usually displayed by the number that they wear.

Here we take a look at the roles each member of the team plays and their significance on the pitch.

Rugby positions explained

In rugby union there are 15 players on each team, comprising eight forwards who usually wear numbers 1-8 and seven backs who are numbered 9-15. In addition there are usually eight substitute players on the bench numbered from 16-23.

England’s Owen Farrell takes part in a team training session at Pennyhill Park. (Getty Images)England’s Owen Farrell takes part in a team training session at Pennyhill Park. (Getty Images)
England’s Owen Farrell takes part in a team training session at Pennyhill Park. (Getty Images)

Different positions on the field tend to suit different skill sets and body types meaning most players can only specialise in a limited number of positions.

1 and 3: loosehead and tighthead props

Along with the hooker, the loose-head and tight-head props make up what is known as the front row, which refers to their position in the scrum.

The two props play at either side of the hooker who goes in the centre of the front row. The loosehead prop plays on the left side and the tighthead plays on the right side.

The props main role is to provide stability in the scrum and support the hooker in quickly winning the ball.  They are often used to occupy the opposition’s defence and make space for the athletic players on the team.

2: hooker

The hooker plays in the central forward position and is one of the key decision makers within a team.

The role of the hooker coordinates the timing of the scrum and is responsible for winning possession in the scrummage by hooking the ball back through the props legs.

4 and 5: lock/ second row

The second row of forwards are known as the locks. These players are the engine room of the scrum and the target men in the lineout. These players are usually extremely tall and powerful.

6 and 7: flanker/ wing forward

Flankers and wing forwards are usually players with the fewest set responsibilities, however they play an important role in helping a team win as they are usually at the centre of the action.

Flankers are often excellent all-round players and are the heartbeat of the team; these players usually rely on speed, strength, fitness and good handling skills.

Their main purpose is to win the ball at the ruck and maul and collect short passes from tackled players.

8: number eight

A number is responsible for support play and ball carrying. The number eight is the only player from the forwards who are able to pick the ball up from the base of the scrum.

To be truly effective a number eight must have explosive pace and good agility to run with the ball.

9: scrum-half

A scrum-half acts as the link up player between the forwards and the back line and is therefore the most creative player on the field.

A scrum-half is played just behind the forwards and controls when the ball is fed out to be backs from the rear of a scrum, ruck or maul.

A successful scrum-half is usually blessed with good vision, speed, awareness and fast reactions. They help dictate the tempo of the game.

10: fly-half

A fly-half is viewed as one of the most important offensive players on the pitch and most attacks will go through the fly-half during the game.

This player is responsible for deciding when to pass the ball out to the centres and when to kick for position. A number 10 usually plays a vital role in organising the backline and decides what rehearsed moves to put into action.

A fly-half is usually the team’s designated placemaker for conversions, penalties and drop goal attempts. This player usually has strong leadership skills and is calm and composed under pressure.

11 and 14: wingers

Wingers operate on either side of the pitch and are the teams finisher in attack. Wingers can also act as the last line of defence when out of possession and facing an opposition attack.

These players are normally strong tacklers, agile and blessed with blistering speed.

12 and 13: Centre

The inside centre is played next to the fly-half when the backs line up. These players tend to be very strong, dynamic runners who have a good eye for exposing mistakes in the opposition defence.

15: Full Back

A full back lines up behind the entire back line and essentially acts as a sweeper in the defence. They also receive deep kicks from the opposition so they must be comfortable catching the ball and launching attacks once they gain possession.

This is one of the most high-pressure areas on the pitch and full backs require good tackling, kicking and catching to thrive at the top level.

Related topics: