Teams & Playing

Each team of 15 players is divided into eight forwards and seven backs, each with defined roles in the team. Essentially, the powerful, hulking forwards are ball-winners who also play a major part in retaining possession when a player on their side is tackled. They take part in rugby's set pieces – the scrum and the lineout – and secure possession; the fast, elusive backs receive the ball from the forwards then run and pass to create space.

The team lines up with numbers which correspond to their position. Numbers 1-8 are designated as forwards and 9-15 as backs.

Backs Forwards
Number Position Number Position
15 Full back  1 Loose-head prop 
14 (Right) wing  2 Hooker 
13 Outside centre  3 Tight-head prop 
12 Inside centre  4 Lock (second row) 
11 (Left) wing  5 Lock ( second row ) 
10 Fly half  6 Blind-side flanker 
9 Scrum half  7 Open-side flanker 

8 No.8

More information about the specifics of each position can be found in the positions guide.

Winning the game

The object of the game is to score more points than the opposition. Points are accumulated through scoring a try (five points), a penalty (three points), a drop goal (three points) or conversion (two points). Details of how these points are awarded can be found in the scoring guide. The attacking team strives to move forward by kicking, passing or running with the ball in hand, but when the ball is being passed, it may not travel forward. If it does then a scrum is awarded to the opposition.

The scrum

A scrum is one of rugby’s set pieces. It is awarded to the opposition if a player loses control of the ball and propels it forwards with their hands or arms, resulting in contact with the ground or another player.

The exception to this rule is when a player charges down a kick. In this case open play continues even if the ball rebounds forward off the hand. 


When a team is defending, they will try to stop the opposition advancing toward their try line by hauling to the ground players who are carrying the ball. The tackling and scoring guide provides more information about tackling in rugby.

If successfully tackled, the player carrying the ball must release it once he or she is on the ground. This allows a ruck to form. A ruck is when a group of players from each team – normally the forwards – tries to push the other over the loose ball and move it back to their own side with their feet.

When a ball-carrier is tackled, but held up rather than pulled to the ground, then a maul may form. Here forwards from each side bind onto the ball-carrier and each other and try to work the ball back to their side using their arms and hands.

Generally, the quicker a team can ruck or maul the ball back to their side, the more likely they are to create a penetrative attack.

Rucks and mauls are a test of power and aggression. They may look like a free for all, but there are strict rules governing them. For example, once a ruck has formed, players may not touch the ball with their hands until it is out of the ruck. Players must also not join the side of a ruck or maul; if they do so, they are penalised for being offside.


A player is also offside when they are ahead of a team-mate in possession, whether the team-mate is running with the ball or kicking in open play. If an offside player becomes involved with play before the player with the ball moves in front of them then they will be penalised.

An offside is also called if a defending player is not behind the rearmost person on his side of a ruck, maul or scrum when the opposition is in possession. At the lineout, the line of offside for both teams is set at 10 metres from the point of the lineout.