Game Guide

Rugby is a sport that has translated well in many countries and its global popularity is evident. At gamerisms, we were searching for a 10th game to add to the sports section. Our standards were that the game had to be popular worldwide with players and fans that are keen and supportive of the game. During our research, we found all that with rugby plus an understanding of the mindset of supporters. They prefer not to be compared to US football or any other sport, but rather let the unique game of rugby stand on its own—as it deserves!

The result is what we at gamerisms believe to be one of the most comprehensive rugby glossaries on the web, so to all passionate rugby players and fans, enjoy your game!

Rugby Games Glossary
History of Rugby

There are 2 types of rugby games and both are covered extensively in this rugby games glossary. The first type is Union Rugby and is the most common game played, while the second type is League Rugby.

The primary differences between the two types are the number of players per team, scoring points and the end-result of a tackle. There is a detailed comparison chart below.

The history of the game is based on several variations of football played at Rugby School and various English public schools in the nineteenth century. Between the mid eighteenth century and mid-nineteenth century, the rules of rugby were based on local agreements. For instance, the ball could not be run forward at all. Handling the ball with the player's hands was allowed, but they could not move forward with it. Eventually this changed at some point between 1859 and 1865. An individual named William Webb Ellis is accredited with the concept of running the ball forward.

Rugby Games Glossary
Basic Rules

Rugby games have several different rules according to which version is played. The primary rules that are similar are movement rules and how points are scored. In rugby, the ball can be run or kicked forward, but it can only be passed laterally or backward. The teams are designated as attackers and defenders dependent upon whether they have the ball or not. The attackers have the ball. The defenders do not.

Union VS League

Union Rugby Players

Rugby games of this type are played with fifteen players per team. Players will contest possession after a tackle has occurred. Depending on how play progresses, either a ruck or a maul may occur. Union play also does not have a six-tackle rule. A team will keep the ball for an unlimited number of tackles barring the fact that they score, lose possession, or commit a form of offense.

The scrum is a large part of this game type. Several opposing players will push each other trying to achieve possession. The lineout is important as well. The lineout is where parallel player lines from each team attempt to catch the ball from the touchline when it is throw.

League Rugby Players

League players do not contest possession after a tackle. Play will instead continue with a play-the-ball. If the thirteen-member team does not score within six tackles, they lose possession. Scrum still exists in the league code. The importance is reduced however as it involves a fewer number of players and is rarely contested. Many league positions are the exact same as in Union rules rugby games. However, league rugby has no flankers.

Union Rugby Positions & Numbers

Rugby Union Positions - Forwards

Prop or Tight head or Loosehead
Hooker or Hook or Rake
Prop or Tight head or Loosehead
Lock or Second Row or Lock Forward
Locks or Second Row or Lock Forward
Flanker: Blindside or Breakaway or Loose Forwards
Flanker: Openside or Breakaway or Loose Forwards
Number 8 or Eight-man

Rugby Union Positions - Backs

Scrum-half or Half-back or Scrummie
Fly-half or Five-eighth or Fly or First Five
Left wing or Wing or Wingman
Inside centre or Centre
Outside centre or Centre
Right wing or Wing or Wingman
Fullback or Custodian or Sweeper
16 -22
Replacements or Subs

Union Rugby Players Terms

Back 3
fullback and wingers
Back 5
centers, wings and full back
Front Row
props and hooker
Half Backs
scrum half and fly-half
Inside Backs
inside centre, fly-half and scrumhalf
Loose 5
back row and half backs
Loose Forwards or Loosies or Back row
flankers & number 8
fly-half and centers
Outside Backs
outside centre, wings and full back
Outside Backs
outside centre, wings and full back
the forwards
Second Row
both locks
Three-quarters or Three-quarter Line
wingers and centers
Tight Forwards or Tight 5 or Front 5
the combined front row and second row

League Rugby Positions & Numbers

Rugby League Positions - Backs

Right Wing Three-quarter
Right Centre Three-quarter
Left Centre Three-quarter
Left Wing Three-quarter
Stand-off Half or Five-eighth or Fly half
Scrum Half or Halfback

Rugby League Positions - Forwards

Prop Forwards
Prop Forwards
Second Row Forwards
Second Row Forwards
Lock or Loose Forward
14 -17
Replacements or Subs

Subs do not take the number of the player they have subbed, but rather play with the number assigned at the start of the match.

Rugby Union Rules of Play & Scoring

  1. A rugby union field is a maximum of 144 meters long by 70m wide. There are 15 players per team + subs.
  2. Rugby union rules dictate a right to contest possession. A team in possession is not required to surrender possession while they are able to keep the ball in play.
  3. Possession remains challenged following a tackle or if a ruck or maul forms. Opponents are given a scrum if the player in possession drops the ball forward or else moves the ball forward.
  4. Scrums are challenged in rugby union
  5. Play does not stop when a player is down in the case of a tackle. The tackled player plays the ball and the tackler must give way at which time, a ruck is formed.
  6. Rugby Games Glossary Try: and resulting points are scored if an attacker grounds the ball before a defending player. A player that is in touch or touch-in-goal, but not the ball carrier, may score a try by grounding the ball in-goal.
  7. The goal posts and padding at ground level are considered part of the in-goal area thus grounding the ball at the foot of the posts is worthy of try points.
  8. Once an attacker is tackled close to the goal line and stretches to ground the ball on or over the goal line, a try is scored.
  9. Once a scrum nears or crosses the goal, a player is likely to ground the ball.
  10. Conversion kick may be either a place kick or drop kick.

Rugby League Rules of Play & Scoring

  1. A rugby league field is between 112 and 122 meters long by 68m wide. There are 13 players per team + subs.
  2. Rugby league has a six-tackle rule. The team in possession has a set of six tackles before handing over possession.
  3. Possession cannot be challenged at this point, instead play restarts with a play-the-ball or a handover.
  4. League scrums are not challenged.
  5. In rugby league, a play-the-ball action occurs after each tackle.
  6. Rugby Games Glossary Try: and resulting points are scored if an attacker grounds the ball at the same time as a defending player.A player that is in touch or touch-in-goal, but not the ball carrier, may not score a try by grounding the ball in-goal.
  7. he goal posts and padding are not considered part of the goal line, therefore will not result in a try.
  8. A player that does not reach the try-line or in-goal may not stretch out to score if a defender is in contact with them.
  9. Once a scrum nears or crosses the goal, a try may not be scored in a scrum. However, when the ball is out of scrum, the player has a chance to charge through his scrum to score.
  10. Conversion kick may be a place kick only.

Rugby Games Glossary Scoring: Union vs. League

  • While the ways to score are similar for both games, the points awarded are different.
  • The try is worth 5 points in rugby union and 4 points in rugby league.
  • In both games, a conversion following a try is worth 2 points.
  • A drop goal is worth 3 points in union and 1 in league.
  • A penalty goal is worth 3 points in union and 2 points in league.
  • If a foul is committed by the opponents during a try, the referee may award the points if it is determined that a goal would have resulted.

Rugby Game Regions: Union vs. League

This Rugby games glossary could not be complete without listing where the two types of games are played. The sport has caught on all across the globe and in each area; it has taken on a life and language of its own. Varied game terms are used in Australia and New Zealand vs. US and Europe.

The top-tier countries in this sport for overall enthusiasm and consistent play are England, Wales, France, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, Italy, and South Africa. Japan and America are noted entries in the second or third-tier countries.

In some countries, such as Madagascar or Fiji, rugby games are considered the national sport. The same is true in South Africa, Wales, and New Zealand to name a few.

Rugby Glossary

Rugby Games Glossary A

Accidentally offside
occurs when an offside player finds it's impossible to avoid contact with a challenger resulting in a scrummage for that player's team.
referee's call that allows a non-offending team to continue playing uninterrupted even after an infraction. This allows them to take advantage of the fact that their opponents broke the rules without being penalized for being innocent. It is a fair play system. How long the advantage lasts is up to a referee.
All Blacks
New Zealand's national team.
Ankle Tap
refers to a normally last-ditch tackle attempt. This attempt involves a diver and slapping assault to the attacker's ankle. If this is properly executed during rugby games, it will result in his legs being knocked together. This move is also known as a Tap Tackle.

Rugby Games Glossary B

Back Row
consists of 2 second-row players plus a loose or lock forward to form the back row of the scrum.
refers to the player group that will normally not be involved in a scrum or lineout. Usually this is number nine through fifteen. This does not include the scrumhalf.
The name for an invitational rugby team. The most famous of them is based in the UK. They draw upon the finest players throughout the globe and bring them together with the goal of playing matches against international teams. They are also known as Baa Baas.
is a critical skill for safe playing. In rugby games, this is the method for grasping and gripping opposing players during a scrum, maul, and ruck.
Bledisloe Cup
title of the yearly competition that occurs between the Australian and New Zealand teams.
term for the weak side of the field. This is the short side of the rugby field in comparison to where a set piece, maul or ruck, is happening.

Rugby Players Terms C

Calcutta Cup
yearly match that occurs between Scotland and England—a classic match.
refers to an award granted for playing in a match. However, in modern rugby this award is generally only granted if the player has played a match with their national team against another nation's team. There is no physical award most of the time as it is an honor designed to show how many rugby games the player has participated.
formation of one back along with an inside and outside center.
Charge Down
lingo for a block made against a kick by an opposing player.
Chip Kick
jargon for a short shallow kick during rugby games designed for delivery over the head of an oncoming defender. It is typically used when a supporting player is in line to catch the ball behind the defender. If necessary, the kicker may catch it as well.
Clearance Kick
action of kicking the ball into the touch. This is designed to relieve the pressure from a team under heavy assault.
following a try score, a conversion kick is attempted from the area where the ball was grounded in the try attempt and parallel to the touch-lines. Usually taken as a place kick. It is allowed to be rushed if the kicker makes a movement toward the ball. However, if it is taken as a drop kick then it will be uncontested. Conversion points are awarded if the ball passes over the crossbar and between the uprights as in the upper part of the letter H.

Rugby Players Terms D - E

Dead ball
occurs when the referee halts play or ball goes out of bounds.
Drop Goal
kick toward the goal that will score three points if successful. During rugby games, the attacking side makes this attempt by first dropping the ball then kicking it after it hits the ground. See Drop Kick.
Drop Kick
occurs when the player drops the ball and upon touching the ground, then kicks it to score.
Drop Out
lingo for action that restarts play via a drop-kick. This will occur when one team takes the ball and touches it down behind their own try-line. It also happens if the ball goes over the dead-ball line.
jargon for a fake pass which is meant to deceive an opponent who is about to tackle the ball holder.
term for player's action of passing, running and collecting the ball usually performed by the hooker position, but may be an acting halfback, acting half or dummy-half.
The United States' national team.
Ellis, William Webb
the individual credited with inspiring the creation of modern rugby in 1823. The story of how he picked up the ball and ran with it did not occur until several years after he died. It is still a popular story though.

Rugby Players Terms F

Fair Catch
occurs when a player receives the ball resulting from a kick by the challengers and calls 'Mark'. Rules dictate that this player must be within the in-goal area behind his team's 22-meter line. A free kick is generally given from the spot of the kick.
term for action in which the ball is thrown into the scrum via the scrum-half.
jargon for rugby union play that consists of 2 halves along with 15 players on each team.
First Receiver
term for player receiving the ball--likely from the dummy half.
lingo for a game of rugby
rugby players terms for 1 of 2 forwards who have the responsibility to connect on the outside of the scrum. Other references are wing forward, breakaway, flank and flank forward or loose forwards. There are no flanker positions in rugby league.
Blindside Flankers
all-round utility players that possess speed, tackling, handling skills and are typically beefier than other team members. Duties include halting the movements of challengers on the blind side of the scrum. While larger than their fellow open side flankers, their duties entail being used as a jumper, covering defense, breaking tackles and breaking the challengers, thus requiring increased physical strength. Additionally, blindside flankers are generally part of the rucks or mauls.
Open side Flankers
smaller and faster than their blindside flanker brothers, these players are positioned in the scrum furthest from the touchline and are adept at moving into open play quickly and challenging their opponents' weaknesses.
term for back, a player position in the back row and one who receives the ball from the scrumhalf. Other references are outside half, out half, stand-off, stand-off half, five-eighth, first five-eighth, first five, fly or pivot.
lingo for an action where a hooker puts his foot forward before the ball is put in motion by the scrum-half.
Forward Pass
as all rugby game passes are directed backward, a forward pass is an illegal motion of the ball. A penalty scrum is called in favor of the opposing team when this happens.
players who form and challenge scrums, typically stronger and bulkier team members. These players bind together to create scrums. They will form a line-out and are involved in nearly all rucks and mauls.
as with other sports, tripping, striking, kicking, obstructing, charging, or grabbing a challenger is not permitted and penalties are the result.
Free Kick
action that takes the form of an uncontested kick. It is awarded to a team when there is a minor penalty by the other team. The only type of direct kick allowed toward the goal is a drop goal.
Front Five
in rugby players terms, referred to as the tight five. This is a common name for the front and second rows. These are the player positions of props, hookers, and locks.
Front Row
term for the combination of props, hookers, and locks at the front of a scrum during rugby games.
player positioned deep behind the main defenders. As the last line of defense, he must prevent the attacking challenger from breaking that line. Other name references are custodian, sweeper or number 15.

Rugby Players Terms G

ball must pass between cross bar and goal posts either by drop-kicking or during a penalty kick.
specialized player position(s) for goal kicks, however any team member can attempt a kick.
Goal posts
measuring 18 ft, 4 inches across along with cross bar 9 ft. 10 inches above in the shape of the letter H and placed at each end of the field.
Grand Slam
occurs when there is a Six Nations Championship that is won with neither a loss nor a draw. Congrats all round!
jargon for a kick that causes the ball to roll and bounce along on the ground.

Rugby Players Terms H

ceremonial display including a dance and chant. It is performed by many Southern Pacific teams as these rugby players challenge their opponents before a match.
player position, also known as the Scrum-half. These players typically feed the ball into a scrum. They also retrieve the ball at the base of a scrum.
term for 2 players on each team, also known as halfback and five-eighth positions. These team members are skillful at strategy, targeting the ball in attack and are positioned near the forwards.
High Ball
lingo for an overhead kick that sends the ball high into the air and places pressure on rugby players trying to catch it due to on-rushing opposition.
Home Nations
Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland
forward play position where the player is responsible for starting the ball followed by running or passing to a team member. Positioned in scrum's front row, he is supported by the props and functions at the dummy half position.
Hospital Pass
jargon for an unfortunate pass for the catcher. A split second after they receive the ball they are tackled hard by one or more opposition members. Rugby players catching such a pass will often need medical attention. Sometimes this is used as a sneaky way to settle scores with teammates.

Rugby Game Terms I - K

term for field area between try-line and dead ball line.
Injury Time
in toper-class rugby, a referee may publicly stop or start time for lengthy interruptions. This can be for injuries and even commercials in some televised events. This causes the game to extend beyond the allotted forty minutes per half, so time stoppages are re-added for play. At the club level, this concept can vary greatly.
refers to the International Rugby Board. This is the Rugby Union's worldwide ruling body and is responsible for setting or adjusting the sport's laws. They also run the Rugby World Cup tournaments for the 15s and 7s. These tournaments occur every four years.
lingo for a player in a lineout who jumps to catch or intercept a throw. It is also a name for the rugby jersey.
Knock On
jargon for a ball lost, dropped, or knocked forward from a rugby player's hand. This results in the ball being awarded to the opposition in a scrum.

Rugby Game Terms L

term for a rugby variation that is played by 13 players with different laws than the Union style. Until union went professional in 1995, there was a great deal of antagonism between the two types. Let's leave those debates for others and move on...
refers to action where the lineout jumper is lifted into the air to make it easier to intercept or catch a throw.
refers to a set play that restarts game play after the ball has either been kicked to touch or taken out. Each of the sets of forwards will line up on opposing sides while the ball is thrown down the middle.
rugby game terms for 2 players/side positioned behind the scrum front row of the scrum.
Loose forward or Lock forward
rugby players positioned behind the second rows in scrum who may run with or pass the ball.
Loose head
player position in a scrum, also known as prop or tight head.

Rugby Game Terms M

refers to specific place indicated by the referee as to where a scrum should form. A player inside their own 22 can call for a mark if they catch the ball when kicked by the opposition on the full. If the referee sees this as agreeable, the game restarts in a manner similar to a free kick.
2 defending team members, one of whom is positioned to challenge the attacking teams' dummy-half and the other to face the tackled player after tackling has occurred.
Similar to a ruck, this occurs after a runner comes into contact with the ball and is being held by an opposing player. Once three rugby players bind, it is called and a maul is set. The main difference with a ruck and a maul is that in a maul, the ball is held and not on the ground.

Rugby Game Terms N - O

No Time
lingo that describes the end of a match. Full Time superseded this.
Number 8
player who is situated between 2 locks who moves the ball to the scrumhalf and begins forwards' attacks.
During the occurrence of a lineout, ruck, maul, or scrum an imaginary line will be considered present. Any player crossing this line before the set piece is completed will have committed a penalty.
Outside Backs
term used when speaking of centre and wing positions.

Rugby Game Terms P

jargon for all the forwards and usually refers to players when they are bound to scrum.
violations of the code that award the other team a kick.
Penalty Goal
can be a place kick from a tee or a drop kick.
Penalty Kick
refers to an uncontested kick. It is awarded when one team commits a major infraction. This kick is allowed as a direct assault on the goal. If the kicker is successful, points are received.
Penalty Try
award granted when one team is repeatedly flagged for blatant violations that prevent a notable try from being scored.
lingo for the ball used in rugby widely used in the southern hemisphere.
Place Kick
action of a kick to the ball while it is resting on the ground. The ways that it rests varies. There may be an indention, a pile of sand, or even a standard kicking tee. These kicks are used for starting each game half. They are for penalty kicks or conversion kicks after a try as well.
Pop Kick
jargon for quick aerial kick typically out of reach of the defender. Also known as a chip.
of the ball may change with these play actions:
a) the ball is kicked to the challengers
b) after a failed goal kick or c) pass is intercepted.
2 players in forward positions on each team typically the strongest and bulkiest of all team members who are stationed on each side the hooker. Their duties are to defend against the challenger's forwards.
The Argentinian national team.
Pushover Try
terms for try scored at close proximity to the try line during a scrum. This try is scored by the forward pack of rugby players and is usually awarded whenever the number eight or scrum-half manage to touch the ball down after crossing the try line.
term for a dropped or kicked ball that does not touch the ground and does not score a goal.

Rugby Game Terms R

Red Card
Refers to a permanent ban from the remainder of a game. A player that receives one of these from the referee will have persisted in breaking the rules or for very dangerous play actions.
Similar to a maul, this occurs when a runner contacts the ball once it has reached the ground. When at least three total players are bound up a ruck is set.
abbreviation for Rugby World Cup, a tournament held once every four years.
lingo for name of the game.
Rugger Bugger
jargon that describes rugby players.

Rugby Game Terms S

type of formation used to restart play after a knock-on or a forward pass. Each of the forwards on both sides will bind together and then the scrum-half will feed the ball into the scrum. A referee may also call for a scrum.
Scrum Down
- rugby game terms for the formation of scrums.
another name for the half-back who is skillful at passing and tactical play.
refers to the process of both setting and completing a given scrum.
Second-row forward
2 players on each team who form the second row of the scrum.
lingo for a rugby variation invented by the Scotland portion of the Rugby Union. This version is played with only seven players. Three are usually forwards and the other four are backs. This is a much shorter game that usually has seven minutes halves.
Sin Bin
jargon for a sad little corner where all the misbehaving rugby players have to sit and wait for ten minutes due to being yellow carded. Poor saps.
Six Nations
tournament that is held annually from January until March. The attending nations are England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Italy, and France.
The South African national team. If you saw the movie Invictus, you know this.
Stand-off or five-eighth
team member, also known as pivot, who is skillful at kicking and moving the ball during attack.
Super 14
annual tournament held between the best provincial teams from South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

Rugby Game Terms T

A perfectly executed catch of a ball that has been kicked. A beautiful sight to see!
Tap Tackle
another term for Ankle Tap.
Tap Penalty
lingo for a penalty taken quickly. It occurs when a player taps the ball a short distance forward with their foot and rushes in to catch it and takes the other team off-guard.
rugby game terms referring to Union rugby game where only ten players are used. Each half usually lasts ten minutes. The games are typically played during a tournament.
term for a match played between two national teams. Also, may be named an international.
players in position at the perimeters of the field. Also known as outside backs.
Tight Five
jargon for the front five rugby players of a team.
Tight head
prop who acts as the anchorman in the scrum and leads the attack on the challenging scrum.
Touch, touchline
refers to the out-of-bounds line which runs along both sides of the pitch. Also, Touch rugby is a non-contact variation of the game.
Touch Judge
officials who are placed on both sides of the pitch. Their job is to mark the location where balls go out of bounds. They also point out serious infractions of a violent nature that a referee might not see.
annual competition carried out between the national teams of South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.
in rugby, the ball carrier must touch the ball to ground on or over the goal line. When the ball is touched to the ground by an attacking player, he scores a try.
Try Line
The goal line that extends across the pitch. The object of the game is to go beyond this line on the opposing side and touch the ball down as many times as possible on separate occasions.
lingo for the gap between the front rows in any given scrum. It also relates to a similar gap between the forward lines in a lineout.
act of taking the ball from the opposing team during play.

Rugby Game Terms U

is the most popular type of rugby game currently. This type of rugby can include 15, 10 or 7 players per side. The organizing body is also known as Union.
Up and Under
jargon for a tactical kick. The action pops the ball up very high but not too far away. The purpose is to allow the kicker and their teammates to recover it easily. It is designed to put pressure on the opposing team. May be called a Garry Owen after its creator.
rugby game terms for specialized team members who are skillful at playing both forward and back positions. Also known as utility forward or utility back.

Rugby Game Terms W - Z

Australia's national team.
Webb Ellis Trophy
is named after William Webb Ellis and presented to the team that wins the Rugby World Cup.
Wing or Wingers
rugby game terms for players recognized for their speed and ability to complete an attacking move.
Yellow Card
penalty card given to players performing dangerous or persistent breaches of the rules. Sentenced to ten minutes in the sin bin.
lingo for the first fifteen rugby players of a club or team. Similar in concept to 'first-string' or a 'starting line-up' in some other sports.