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A normal rugby union team formation illustrating each of the positions and their respective numbers.

In the game of rugby union, there are 15 players on each team, comprising eight forwards (numbered 1–8) and seven backs (numbered 9–15). In addition, there may be up to eight replacement players "on the bench". Jersey numbers 16–23 differentiate them. Players are not restricted to any single position on the field, although they generally specialise in just one or two that suit their skills and body types. Players that specialise in over three positions are called "utility players". The scrum (an assemblage used to restart play), however, must consist of eight players (providing an outside), fly-half, scrum-half, number 8, loosehead and tighthead) The names have changed over time and with geography. Early names, such as "three-quarters" and "out-halves", are still used by some people, while in New Zealand the fly-half and inside centre are called "first five-eighth" and "second five-eighth" respectively, while the scrum-half is known as the half-back. Additionally, there are a range of names for various groupings of players: the "front row" is the two props and the hooker; the "tight five" consists of the props, locks and hooker; the "back row", or sometimes "loosies", are the number eight and flankers; the "half backs" are the scrum-half, fly-half; the "centres" are the inside centre and the outside centre; the "outside backs" are the wings and full-back.

The backs play behind the forwards and are usually more lightly built and faster. Successful backs are skilful at passing and kicking. Full-backs need to be good defenders and kickers, and have the ability to catch a kicked ball. The wingers are usually among the fastest players in a team and score many of the tries. The centres' key attacking roles are to try and break through the defensive line and link successfully with wingers. The fly-half can be a good kicker and generally directs the backline. The scrum-half retrieves the ball from the forwards and needs a quick and accurate pass to get the ball to the backs (often firstly to the fly-half). Forwards compete for the ball in scrums and line-outs and are generally bigger and stronger than the backs. Props push in the scrums, while the hooker tries to "hook" the ball. Locks are tall and jump for the ball at the line-out after the hooker has thrown it in. The flankers and number eight should be the first forwards to a tackle and play an important role in securing possession of the ball for their team.


Rugby union positions sections
Intro  Overview  History  Names of positions  Backs  Forwards  Utility players  Rugby sevens  See also  References  Bibliography  External links  

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