Understanding rugby positions and which one is best for you is no easy task. But that's ok because we can explain them all to you!


Why are the players in the No.2 jersey always short and stocky? And why does the No.15 resemble a wall in front of the try line? While it's easy to watch a rugby match, understanding which player performs which role is not so straightforward.Though rugby union is our topic of conversation today, you'll find virtually the same positions in other types of rugby. 



The forwards, as their name suggests, are the eight players positioned furthest forward and are the first to come up against the opposition.


You've no doubt heard of a prop or a hooker. These are the players that make up the front row. There are three of them - two props, wearing numbers 1 and 3, and a hooker, wearing number 2 - and they are the first players to come into contact with the opposition. Their basic role is to push at scrums and to clear out rucks. Stocky and not very tall, they get themselves noticed because they are often at the heart of the action. They are the first line of defence but also have a role to play in helping their team move forward. 

But why are there two props and one hooker? And what is the difference between the two positions? The simple explanation is that the two props are positioned on either side of the hooker, who, being lighter on their feet and quicker, must drive holes in the opposition defence and help their side move forward. Hookers need to be brave in playing a central role in the scrums, and they need to have blind faith in their two props. For their part, props occupy the toughest and most punishing position in rugby and take a lot of hits during the course of a match. 

Whether you're a hooker or a prop, going in for physical contact is all part of your job, which requires a lot of physical strength. Playing at hooker involves using your speed more. But if you're all about brute strength, then there's no doubt you should be pulling on the No. 1 or No. 3 jersey.


The second row, which is pretty uncomplicated, is formed by the two players that make up the second row in the scrum. They wear the No. 4 and 5 jerseys. They stand out because they are often the biggest players in the team. They are, however, very technical players who play a crucial role but are only rarely in the spotlight. Content to operate in the shadows, second-rowers are powerful players who help the first row push in scrums and who do the groundwork in mauls and rucks, either protecting the ball or helping to turn it over. They also jump to win lineout balls. Infrequent try scorers and rarely seen with ball in hand, second-rowers are nevertheless vital members of the team.There are some small differences between the No.5, the driving force at the scrum, and the No.4, the more mobile of the two. They are often interchangeable however. 

So if you're a rugby player with the build of a basketball player, the second row might just be the place for you. A word of warning, though: you'll need to absorb lots of blows and enjoy being out of the limelight.



Like the front row, the back row comprises three players. Wearing the No. 6 and 7 jerseys, the flankers are positioned on either side of the number 8. In terms of the type of player and technical skills, there is a difference between the flankers and the number 8. As is the case with the props and the hooker in the front row, they have slightly different roles to perform. 

The flankers must be effective tacklers and, because of their position on the pitch, mobile with it. The pairing is formed by a tall, slender player who can jump at the lineouts like the second-rowers and a smaller and stockier player whose role is more about tackling and slowing the ball at the ruck. 

The number 8 is a key player in the team who is often in the thick of the action. Selected for their build, number 8s also need to be experienced and able to read the game. They like to control the game and direct operations especially at the scrum. 

Back-rowers can come in different shapes and sizes. They are all powerful, mobile players, however, and need a lot of stamina to fulfil their duties at the heart of the game. If you have a gift for anticipating play and like to defend and attack, the back row is for you.


The backs are the seven players positioned between the forwards and the in-goal area they are defending. 


The scrum-half wears the No. 9 shirt. This is the player that feeds the ball into the scrum and who also delivers it from the base of a scrum, ruck or maul. Scrum-halves are a little like conductors. They set the tempo, assess the situation and work with the fly half to determine the direction of play. They are quick on their feet, react fast and are analytical when it comes to reading the game. They also need to be agile in making accurate passes, and dynamic and fast in combating the defensive work of opposing flankers when delivering the ball from the base of the scrum or in open play. They also need to have a good kicking game. They provide a link with the forwards and form what is known as the half-back pairing with the No. 10, the fly-half. 

If you have good hands and enjoy thinking on your feet while analysing the game in detail to make the right decision, then you might make for a good scrum-half. You will be your team's attacking spearhead and the player who drives the forwards on despite your relative lack of stature.



The fly-half (No. 10) is the team's second strategist. The fly-half works in tandem with the scrum-half. The pair have a vital job to do in the team and if they are unable to deliver the ball to the players around them, the team will struggle to function. The fly-half is positioned behind the scrum-half and receives a lot of balls from them. They are regarded as the team's orchestrator and are relied upon to make the right decision after receiving the ball. Like the scrum-half, they must have a good kicking game. Operating in a more withdrawn position than their fellow half-back, the fly-half has more space and time in which to think. This allows them to assess the position the opposition players are in and identify the best strategy to adopt. They can be described as pulling the strings. Even more so than the scrum-half, they are the opposition's main target”. Opposing forwards like nothing better than to go in hard on the fly-half. 

If you like to think on your feet and are undaunted at the thought of being tackled over and over, then being a fly-half might suit you down to the ground. But be warned: having a brain is not enough. You also have to be quick, react fast and be alive to what's around you. 


The centres occupy the middle of the pitch. There are two of them and they wear the No. 12 and 13 jerseys. Though they occupy the same position, they often complement each other to play both defensive and attacking roles. The first involves bringing their tackling skills to bear in defence and the second getting forward in support of attacks and unsettling opposing defences. Centres need to be fast, powerful and technically gifted. They must work in tandem with the half-back pairing situated just in front of them, and with the wings just behind them when the ball needs to be spread out wide.

No.12 or 13? If you're powerful, well-built and a good tackler, you can play at inside centre for your team. If you are quicker and a touch less powerful but still a good tackler, then put yourself forward as your team's outside centre.


There are two wings: the No. 11, who is the left wing, and the No. 14, the right wing. They are the last line of attack and often score more tries than anyone else. They also allow play to be spread out wide. Situated on either side of the pitch, they often go long spells without the ball but are invariably on hand to finish moves off. Though wings can come in different shapes and sizes (big and strong or small and fleet of foot), they must still perform the same tasks, namely evade opposition players so they can get over the try line. 

If you are sharp of mind and quick on your feet and can get from one end of the pitch to the other, then you were made to be a wing.



Unlike most of the other positions in rugby, the full-back operates in a lone role close to their team's in-goal area. The full-back is an all-rounder. They are the last obstacle standing between the opposition and the try line. The full-back possesses excellent defensive skills and has to patrol the entire width of the pitch and bring their tackling skills to bear. The No.15 must also be able to set their team back on the attack when fielding the ball in their own half from opposition kicks. Their kicking game is also a way of gaining territory, finding touch or testing out opposition players. 

Are you immune to the pressure of being the last defender? Are you a good tackler but can also get your team back on the attack?  Are you accurate with your kicks? Are you quick on your feet and do you have lots of stamina? Then forget about the other positions and be your team's full-back,the last player in the team but certainly not the least.

You now know all the positions in a rugby union team and we have given you all the advice you need to decide which one is for you. All you have to do now is go out and play!