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Glossary of Rugby Terms
7's - See "Sevens."
8 man - See "Eightman" and diagram of positions.
Advantage - The Law of advantage (Law 8) takes precedence over most other Laws and its purpose is to make play more continuous with fewer stoppages for infringements. Players are encoraged to play to the whistle despite infringements by their opponents. Essentially, referee can allow play to continue after a penalty because the non-offending team has possession of the ball and a clear "advantage" has been gained. See referee signals.
Backs - Players wearing jersey numbers 9 through 15, with skills similar to the running backs, receivers, and quarterbacks of American football. These players are typically smaller than forwards, but with more speed and agility. See diagram of positions.
Back Row - Players of the scrum set piece, consisting of two flankers and the eight man. Also known as Loose Forwards. See diagram of positions.
"Ball's Out!" - Call heard when the ball exits the scrum, ruck, or maul.
Binding - Use of arms, hands, and remainder of upper body to hold another player in the scrum, ruck, or maul.
Blind Side - The space between the ball and the nearest touchline (short side of the pitch); compare with open side.
Centers - Centers need to have a strong all-around game: they need to be able to break through opposition lines and pass the ball accurately. When attack turns into defense, they need to be strong in the tackle. Usually the two centers are divided into outside center and inside center, though sometimes teams play with left and right centers.
The inside center has recently seen a development in its role. Now, they share many qualities of the fly-half, for example, kicking and distribution. They must also be a very good tackler, and usually lead a rush defense if it is called. For example, the current Australian team often interchanges fly-half and inside centre regularly during the course of the match. In New Zealand inside centre is referred to as "Second five-eighth".
A good center will be one of the most versatile players in the game: it is easy to switch from there to the wing, fullback, or fly-half. They vary in physique, which usually affects their game plan. A big centre will be used for crash balls or switches, whereas a smaller centre may change his game to become a more fly-half related center. The outside center also sees two roles. They are the "rapiers" that are given the ball, normally via the fly-half or inside center, to make breaks through the opposition backs before offloading to the wingers after drawing the last line of defense. The first type of outside center is the attacking one. This type makes them faster and very agile, almost like a winger. The second is the defensive, who draw attention away from the wingers to try and give them space. A good mix of the two is what most teams look for. See diagram of positions.
Centering (the ball) - Since the conversion kick is taken from a position in the field of play in line with the point where the try was scored, you will see a player "center" the ball under the goal post when scoring a try.
Conversion Kick - Kick at goal, following a try, that is taken from a position in the field of play in line with the point where the try was scored.
Dead Ball Line - Line at the end of the field of play.
Drop Goal - A drop kick made through the goal posts during the course of normal play; three points are awarded.
Drop Kick - Ball is released from the player's hands, then kicked just as it strikes the ground. A drop kick is worth three points if it is made through the goal posts. A drop kick is also used to restart play after a score.
Dummy Kick/Pass - A faked kick/pass.
Eightman (8-man) - Number eight is the only position that does not have a specific name in English and is simply referred to as "number eight" or "eighthman". The modern number eight has the physical strength of a tight forward along with the mobility and pace of other loose forwards (he is often the fastest loose forward in the pack). The number eight packs down at the rear of the scrum, controlling the movement of the ball to the scrum-half with his feet. The number eight is the position where the ball enters the backline from the scrum and, hence, both fly-half and inside centre take their lead from the number eight who, as the hindmost player in the scrum, can elect to pick and run with the ball like a back. As a result, the number eight has similar opportunities to a back to run from set plays.
They are normally tall and athletic and used as an option to win the ball from the back of the lineout. Like flankers they do less of the pushing than locks or props, but need to be quick to cover opposition half-backs. A number eight should be a key ball-winner in broken play, and occasionally a 'battering ram' at the front of rucks; he should also be able to break the opposition's line like his blindside flanker counterpart and the centres. See diagram of positions.
Flanker - Also referred to as "Wing Forward." Flanker is a fairly dynamic position with the fewest set responsibilities during the game. It is their responsibility to clear up messy balls to start a new phase of play, meaning they play a major role in maintaining/gaining possession after handling errors.
In the scrum, flankers do less pushing than the tight five, but they have to break away quickly and attempt to tackle the opposing backs if the opposition wins the scrum; and to cover their own half backs if they win the scrum. Due to their role in the scrum, flankers should be fairly heavy whilst still having speed and power. The blindside should be the bigger, more destructive defensive player whilst the openside should be the quicker of the two, who along with the scrum half and the number eight, offers a good quick link to the backs.
Considering how dynamic this position is, flankers can adapt slightly to their own style of play; for example, they can become big figures in tackling and mauls, or use their pace to run with the backs for tactical manoeuvres and get through the opposition's defence. Opensides such as Richie McCaw, Serge Betsen and Neil Back were adept at the breakdown either slowing the ball down or stealing ball at the ruck. On the opposite side of the argument are players like Martyn Williams and David Wallace who provide continuity between the pack and the backs. See diagram of positions.
Fly-half - A fly-half is crucial to a team's game plan. They are usually the one who calls set moves, or makes tactical decisions. They need to be quick-thinking in a game; such as the speed at which a situation is deteriorated, they need to be able to communicate with all their backs and adapt them to the attacking or defending situation. Usually, the fly-half is the kicker of the team, a role often shared with the centres or fullback. A lot of fly-halves are goal kickers, and make most kicks for the team, whether it's tactical, or for touch. See diagram of positions.
Flyer - The single wing in Sevens rugby is often referred to as the flyer because they are the finisher, the fullback, and because there is only wing, often have to play both sides of the pitch. See diagram of positions.
Forward Pass - Pass thrown ahead of himself/herself, which is illegal in rugby. It is a minor violation that results in a scrum to the non-offending team. Click for image depicting referee signal.
Forwards - Players wearing jerseys 1 through 8, with skills similar to the lineman and linebackers of American football. See diagram of positions.
Front (First) Row - The first row of the scrum, consisting of two props and a hooker. See diagram of positions.
Free Kick - Restart of play by the non-offending team (following a lesser grade penalty). Any form of kick may be taken, but points may not be scored directly from a free kick (i.e., no direct kick at goal). Do not maintain same privelege as penalty kicks when non-offending team can kick for touch to gain better field position. The type of kick taken (a punt, place kick, drop kick, kick for goal, or just tapped on the foot) is usually determined by a team's field position, match score, and time remaining. The kick only requires a foot tapping the ball free through a mark. As a result, teams will often develop running plays for the forwards. The referee signals a free kick by holding his upper arm out with his elbow bent, hand in the air, and foot marking the location of the free-kick. Click for image depicting referee signal or images explaining kicking in rugby.
Fullback - The full back stands back to cover defensive options as a 'sweeper' behind the main line of defence removed from the other backs principally to field any opposition kicks. As the last line of defence, good tackling skills are desirable.
They have to catch the high kicks referred to as "up and unders", "Garryowens" or "bombs". Having taken a catch, the full back may choose to return the kick, and so good tactical awareness and kicking skills are required. Increasingly often, full backs are used to start counter-attacking moves from depth. Thus, they need to have excellent attacking skills, pace and open field running prowess. In attack, the full back generally joins the three-quarter line between the outside centre and the openside wing, providing the attacking team with an extra outside back. See diagram of positions.
Then the team starts the Haka as a group. Here are the words to the most popular version, the Te Rauparaha Haka, based on a Maori legend of a warrior who celebrated with this war cry after eluding the enemy:
The first haka in an overseas rugby match was performed by the New Zealand rugby team in Britain around 1888. In recent times, a new version of the haka has been performed by the All Blacks, with a war cry written by Ngati Porou's Derek Lardelli. The new version will be used alongside the popular 'Ka mate' version. Click link for video and description of the haka before a rugby match.
Hooker - Hookers are a key position in attacking and defensive play. The name is derived from the fact that hookers use their feet to 'hook' the ball in the scrum; because of the pressure put on the body by the scrum it is considered to be one of the most dangerous positions to play. They also normally throw the ball in at line-outs. Hookers have more in common with back row forwards, with many being used as ball carriers, despite the fact that they are often the smallest of the forwards. The hooker is typically a key player in the scrum generally being regarded as its leader. A hooker will not allow his forwards to engage until he feels that the binds are right and all players are ready. In addition, hookers may act as an extra prop in the scrum and, instead of contesting the feed, they aim to wreak havoc on opposition feeds. Often the hooker and the loose head prop will combine to attack the opposition tight head, as disrupting the no. 3 is often the key to gaining the upper hand at scrum time. Hookers tend to control the forwards and are often the players who direct the forwards in mauls. See diagram of positions.
Infringement - Breaking one of the rules, for which the referee will award a penalty to the non-offending team. Click for image depicting referee signal.
In-Goal Area - Area of the field between the goal line and dead ball line.
Knock-On - When the ball has bounced forward after striking a player's hands, arms, or upper body. It is a minor violation that results in a scrum to the non-offending team. Click for image depicting referee signal.
Laws - Rules are called "Laws" in the game of Rugby and determine how the game will be played. The International Rugby Board publishes Laws of the Game, as well as Regulations, Equipment Approval, and Laws Rulings. Click link for more information.
Lineout - Offense and defense line up perpendicular to the touchline to receive a ball thrown back onto the field.
Lock - Locks are almost always the tallest players on the team and so are the primary targets at line-outs. At line-outs, locks must jump aggressively, usually being lifted by team-mates, to catch the ball and get it to the scrum half or at least get the first touch so that the ball comes down on their own side. The two locks stick their heads between the two props and the hooker in the scrums. They are also responsible for keeping the scrum square and the front row together and providing power to shift it forward. (This position is referred to as the "engine room".). Locks are very tall, athletic and have an excellent standing jump along with good strength. They also make good ball carriers, bashing holes in the defence around the ruck and maul. They also have to push the rucks and mauls and are the main figures of rucks and mauls. See diagram of positions.
Loop - Running around (behind) a teammate that the player just passed to in order to receive the ball back from him again.
Loose Forwards - Players of the scrum set piece, consisting of two flankers and the eight man. Also known as Back Row. See diagram of positions.
Loosehead Prop - The prop on the left side of his own scrum, compare to tighthead prop. See general description of "Prop" for more information. The team putting the ball into the scrum always does so on the side of the loosehead prop. See diagram of positions.
Match - A rugby game.
Maul - Similar to a ruck, but the ball carrier is not tackled. Both teams converge on the ball carrier and try to push the opposing side backward.
Non-Offending Team - The team that has not broken a rugby law, compare to offending team. Click for image depicting referee signal.
Obstruction - Illegally getting in the way of an opposition (defensive) player. Unlike football, it is illegal to block (obstruct) your opponent. Also called "Shepherd." Click for image depicting referee signal.
Offending Team - The team that has broken a rugby law. Click for image depicting referee signal.
Offside - Similar to soccer, there is an offside line (equal with the ball) continually moving up and down the pitch. It is not illegal to be offside, but it is illegal to participate in play from an offside position. Click for image depicting referee signal.
Onside - Being in a "fair" position, usually behind the ball.
Open Side - The space between the ball and the farthest touchline, compare with blind side.
Penalty Kick - A kick awarded to the non-offending team after a serious infringement of the law. The offending team is required to retreat 10 meters while the non-offending team restarts play. There are three options; 1) kick the ball into touch, play is restarted as a lineout where the ball when out of bounds, 2) if in range, kick the ball at the goal posts, which is worth 3 points, or 3) simply tap the ball with their foot and run with it. A significant advantage of the penalty kick is the line-out gained. If the ball goes out of play (rugby term is in to touch) from a penalty kick, the kicking team may take a line-out at the spot where the ball went in to touch. The referee signals by holding his arm at a 45 degree angle with his foot marking the location of the penalty. The kicking team may attempt to kick through the uprights for 3 points. Any other type of kick may also be taken. The opposition may not advance forward until the ball has been kicked. Click for image depicting referee signal or images explaining kicking in rugby.
Penalty Try - A try awarded by the referee when the attacking team would have scored but for foul play by the opposition. Click for image depicting referee signal.
Pitch - Rugby field of play. Click link for more information.
Place Kick - Kicking the ball after it is placed on the ground.
Pop Pass - A short, soft pass.
Positions of Rugby - See diagram of positions.
Prop - The role of both the loose- and tighthead props is to support the hooker in the scrum and to provide effective, dynamic support for the jumpers in the line-out. Along with the second row, the props provide the main power in the push forward in the scrum. For this reason they are usually the strongest and heaviest players in the team. Under modern rules non-specialists are not allowed to play as props (or hooker) as specialist skills are required to ensure the scrum does not collapse, a situation which can be very dangerous sometimes resulting in crushing or breaking of the neck and spine. If there are not enough props or hookers on either team (and no replacements are available), uncontested scrums will be set, where no pushing is permitted, and the team putting the ball into the scrum has to win it.
A tighthead prop is so called because they pack down on the right-hand side of the scrum and so (because the players engage to the left of their opponents) their head fits between the opposing loosehead prop and hooker. In contrast, the loosehead prop packs down on the left-hand side where their head is outside that of the opposing tighthead prop. Although it may look to the neutral observer that the two positions are quite similar (and some players have the ability to play on both sides of the scrum), the technical challenges of each are quite different. Jason Leonard (England and Lions) and Gethin Jenkins (Wales and Lions) are rare in being able to prop on either side at the top level.
The laws of the game require the tighthead prop to bind with his/her right arm outside the left upper arm of his/her opposing loosehead prop and similarly they restrict what the loosehead prop can do with his/her left arm. Hence, the laws implicitly require the loosehead prop to be on the left side of the scrum. Although the scrum half may put the ball in on either side of the scrum, they are unlikely to choose the tighthead side because otherwise the opposing hooker would be between him and his hooker.
Props are also in the position of being able to direct the movement of the scrum in moving side to side to prevent the other team's scrum from "wheeling" the set scrum and forcing another "put in" from the opposing side. Outside of the scrum and line-outs, props use their great strength and weight to win rucks and mauls for their teams and to make large drives forwards with the ball. See diagram of positions.
Put In - Rolling the ball into the tunnel of the scrum.
Rolling Maul - A maul in which the attacking team constantly changes the point of attack to the left or the right while going forward.
Ruck - When the ball is on the ground, usually after a tackle, and both teams converge over the ball, bind with one another, and attempt to push the opposing team backward to gain control of the ball.
Rugby Ball - Similar in shape to a football, but rounder and less pointed. The balls come in three sizes (3, 4, and 5) for youth through adult players.
Rules - Rules are called "Laws" in the game of Rugby and determine how the game will be played. The International Rugby Board publishes Laws of the Game, as well as Regulations, Equipment Approval, and Laws Rulings. Click link for more information.
Scissors - Passing to a player who cuts back in the opposite direction.
Scrum - Rugby's unique formation. A scrum will restart play after the referee has called a minor law violation. A pack of players from each team face each other and bind in to form the "tunnel," into which the non-offending team will put the ball. The two teams will push against one another until the ball exits the rear of a pack; the scrum half or eight man will retrieve the ball and put it into play.
Scrum-half - Scrum halves form the all-important link between the forwards and the backs, and are invariably at the centre of the action. A scrum half is normally relatively small but with a high degree of vision, the ability to react to situations very quickly, and good handling skills, as well as the ability to spin the ball with great ease off both hands. They are often the first tackler in defence and are behind every scrum, maul or ruck to get the ball out and maintain movement. They put the ball into the scrum and collect it afterwards; they also are allowed to stand further forward than other backs at a line-out to try to catch knock downs from the jumper.It is also not unusual to have talkative scrum-halves in competitive situations. Though technically illegal, most scrum-halves will subtly alert the referee to fouls and infringements committed by the opposing team. See diagram of positions.
Second Row - The second row of the scrum, consisting of two locks. See diagram of positions.
Send-Offs - Players sent off the field for dangerous or reckless play; the player is banned from that game and may not be replaced.
Set Piece - A set way of restarting play such as a scrum or lineout.
Sevens (7's, VIIs) - A modified form of rugby played with 7 players and 7 minute halves. See diagram of positions.
Sin Bin - For serious or repeated infringements the referee may send a player behind the in-goal area, the "sin bin," for a specified amount of time. His/her team must play shorthanded until the referee permits the punishee to return.
Support - Back-up for the ball carrier, usually at a good distance and angle behind the ball carrier to receive a pass or help set the ruck or maul.
Switch - (see scissor)
Throw In - Ball tossed overhand down the middle of a lineout tunnel.
Tighthead Prop - The prop on the right side of his own scrum, compare to loosehead prop. See general description of "Prop" for more information. See diagram of positions.
Touchline - The side boundary of the pitch.
Try - Five points scored when the ball is grounded in the other team's in-goal area. Click for image depicting referee signal.
Up and Under -
Wings - The wings act as "finishers" on movements by scoring tries. The idea is that space should be created by the forwards and backs inside the wingers so that once they receive the ball, they have a clear run for the try-line. Wings are almost always the quickest members of the team, but also need to be able to side step and otherwise avoid opponents in order to score tries. In modern games, wingers often "come off the wing" to provide extra men in the midfield, in the same vein as a full back, particularly if play has moved away from their wing. Traditionally, wingers are small and fast but since the game became professional (and largely due to Jonah Lomu), wingers are often as big as forwards. Wingers of this variety are often used as extra flankers to gain the "hard yards" by carrying the ball directly into contact with opponents, gaining ground slowly through phased play.
Wingers often act as additional full backs on opposition kicks. In addition to this responsibility, they must get back from an opposition kick to give the full back options on either side. The modern game means that the back three tend to act as a unit in fielding kicks and counterattacking, rather than all responsibility lying with the full back. Wingers need to have all the skills of a full back, though the emphasis would be on attack rather than defence. As such, many players are as competent on the wing as at full back.
A common tactic is to have the winger receive the ball and then cut towards the centre of the pitch. This changes the direction of play, which may catch the opposition off guard, or may create space for the outside centre to receive a switch pass or "scissors pass".
A modern use of the wing is as a link player. They retain all the traditional skills of a wing, but are able to combine these with skills more traditionally associated with half backs. As the play goes through multiple phases, the scrum-half or fly-half may be taken out of the play. If this occurs the blind side wing can step in to perform a creative role. See diagram of positions.
Wing Forward - See "Flanker."
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