Rugby union player positions and playing area

Playing area

A competitive rugby union match is played on a large rectangular grassy field or artificial turf. The length of the pitch must be 100 m (109 yards) long between the two try lines and the width of the pitch should be approximately 70 m. These dimensions are largely based on the dimensions of the grassy fields at Rugby School in the early 19th century.

The pitch is 100 m long and 70 m wide. The goalposts are 5.6 m wide and the crossbar is 3 m high. Key features inlucde the dead ball line, try line, 22 m line and 10 m line.

Although there is a degree of flexibility as to the width of a rugby pitch, the length of the pitch and inner markings are very precise:

  • Rugby posts - these H-shaped goalposts are placed at the end of the pitch on the try line. These consist of two posts and a crossbar. The inner edges of the posts must be 5.6 metres wide and the bottom of the crossbar must be 3 metres above the ground.
  • 22 m line - this line is where 22 dropout kicks are taken and marks the end point from where a player can kick directly into touch.
  • 10 m line - this line indicates where a game starts or restarts from kick off. The opposition must start behind the line and a legal kick must pass this line unaided.
  • Try line - this line must be touched or passed and the ball grounded for an attacking team to score a try.
  • Dead ball line - this line marks the end of the playing pitch.

Players

A rugby union team consists of 15 players per side and is divided into forwards and backs. Like most sports, the team has very clear roles to support their overall success:

Positions include: loose-head and tight-head prop, hooker, lock forward, blind-side and open-side flanker, no. 8, scrum-half, fly-half, inside centre, right and left wing, outside centre, full-back.

Forwards

The positions numbers 1-8 on the field are called the forward pack. These players are fundamental in every set play, contest the lineouts and challenge in scrums. These players are usually bigger than the backs as their roles require them to win or retain possession of the ball.

No.PositionResponsibilities
1Loose-head propThey support the hooker in the scrum, provide power at rucks and mauls and lift jumpers in the lineout.
2HookerThey stand in the middle and front row of the scrum, and are responsible for winning the ball and throwing the ball at lineouts.
3Tight-head propThey support the hooker in the scrum, provide power at rucks and mauls and lift jumpers in the lineout.
4Lock forwardThese are usually the tallest players on the field. They provide lineout jumping, bind the scrum and drive it forward.
5Lock forwardAs above.
6Blind-side flankerThey are near the back of the scrum and provide additional force and aim to win turnover ball.
7Open-side flankerAs above.
8Number eightThey are the link between the forwards and backs and can control the ball at the back of the scrum, ready to launch an attack.

Backs

The positions numbers 9-15 on the field are called the backs. These players are usually smaller than the forwards, but require the physical skills of speed, agility, balance and awareness.

No.PositionResponsibilities
9Scrum-halfThey link between forwards and back at set pieces and feed the ball into the scrum.
10Fly-halfThey are very important for directing the play and tactics on the pitch. They need to communicate, make good decisions and are usually the team's goal-kicker.
11WingThey stay on the outside of backlines and provide speed and power to an attack.
12Inside centreThey need to read a game well, direct team attacks and break defences with good running.
13Outside centreThey need to read a game well, direct team attacks and break defences with good running.
14WingThey stay on the outside of backlines and provide speed and power to an attack.
15Full-backThey usually catch opponents' long kicks, provide the last line of defence and kick from their own 22 m line.