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With 15 players per side, a rugby team is divided into forwards and backs. Forwards are usually the larger, stronger players on the team. Their main job is to win possession of the ball. The backs are often smaller, faster, and more agile and typically exploit the ball possessions, which are won by the forwards.

Both the forwards and backs play at the same time. All 15 players assemble on the field, called a pitch, and the match starts with a kickoff. The receiving team generally tries to move the ball downfield to score. However, in attempting to score, the team cannot pass the ball forward or block. The defenders can only tackle the ball carrier.


After the ball carrier is tackled, there is a scramble for the ball. Hence, a tackle does not stop play in rugby. Once tackled, the player must release the ball immediately so play may continue. The tackled ball carrier should attempt to release the ball advantageously toward his or her team. Still alive, any player may pick up the ball.

When players from both sides fight for the ball when it is on the ground, the situation is known as a “ruck.” This can be described as the most dynamic action of the game. The team that retains ball possession during tackles and ensuing rucks has an advantage over the other team.

Sometimes the ball is buried during a tackle, or a player commits a minor infraction of the laws (a penalty). If the team that has not offended doesn’t first gain an advantage from the continuance of play, the referee will stop play and call for a scrum to restart the match. The non-offending team has the advantage of putting the ball into the scrum and, therefore, will most often win possession.

During a scrum the ball must be worked backwards, and the player’s hand cannot touch the ball in the scrum. When the ball emerges, open play resumes. The remaining players who are not involved in the scrum must stay behind their respective offside line.

Once a team has worked the ball downfield and crossed the opposing team’s goal line, and forced the ball onto the ground with downward pressure, a try is scored. Each try is worth five points. After each try, the scoring team has the opportunity to score two more points with a conversion.

A Rugby Match: is two 40-minute halves with a 10-minute half time. 

Try: When a player grounds the ball in the opponent's in-goal. 5 points

Conversion Goal: An opportunity for the scoring team to convert their 5 points to 7 points. It may be a place kick or a drop kick over the bar and between the goal posts. 2 points

Penalty Goal: A penalty goal is scored by kicking the ball between the opponent's goal posts. 3 points

Drop Goal: (also called a Field Goal). Scored during field-of-play, the goal can only be won by bouncing the ball on the ground before kicking it through the opponent's goal posts. 3 points



Rugby Tips

Building a Scrummage

To play successful running rugby, a dependable source of quality possession is necessary. A solid scrummage platform provides the most effective source of primary possession, and therefore is the basis of successful running rugby.

The scrum should be viewed as a means and not just an end. It is a means of providing possession as well as denying the opposition quality possession. It is also a vehicle of exhausting the opposition and of imparting confidence to a team.

The best-quality scrum ball is delivered from a platform that is moving forward. Forwards must appreciate this and the fact that timing the release of the ball is of great importance.

Key Scrummaging  Factors

Foot Positioning

The feet must be positioned in such a way as to:

  • generate power
  • provide support
  • provide stability.

The positioning of the feet will vary according to position and will be a compromise between these apparently conflicting needs.
The rule of thumb is that in all cases, feet must be approximately shoulder-width apart to give a stable platform.

Binding and Grips

Binding and grips are a very important safety factor, as is determining the tightness and balance of a scrum.

Techniques of Pushing and of Resisting Opposition Push

Scrums must be able to generate and deliver a dynamic push and also be able to resist the efforts of the opposition, without wasting energy. The techniques associated with the "snap-shove" and of the "hold" are vital forms of strategy within the scrummaging contest.

The Control of Scrum Forces

Forces operate in a:

  • vertical direction (up and down)
  • horizontal direction (back and forwards)
  • circular direction (around).

Force must be applied in the right direction at the correct time if the scrum is to be effective. Coordination of effort is essential for maximum effect.

Body Position

Body and leg positions determine the capacity to push and to resist push.


Explosive power is generated by the large muscles of the legs. This can only be achieved when the legs are bent. The strongest position is both feet back and knees bent. An angle of 120 degrees between the upper and lower leg represents a good balance between the ability to generate explosive power and to travel forward.

Back and Neck

The power generated is transmitted through the back and neck. This is best achieved if the back is straightened by tilting the chin up and thrusting the pelvis down.

Scrum Formation

The fundamental objectives with regard to formation are:

  • to generate maximum power with efficiency of effort
  • to provide for the support and safety of the participants
  • to provide channels for the delivery of the ball.

Within a scrummage, the front row is regarded primarily as transmitters and directors of power and the back five as generators of power.

Front Row

Objective: to provide a platform and to transfer power.

The shoulders transmit force to the opposition. The force from the back five is transmitted through the pelvis, hips and back. The feet positions determine the squareness of the scrum, ball channels and support for the front row during scrummaging.

In an attempt to obtain a good bind, the props should step into the hooker (own ball loose head prop first, opposition ball tight-head prop first, aiding the hooker's positioning). The props should then adjust by moving out slightly to advance the inside foot and square up the hips. The hooker binds over the top and grips under the armpits.

To ensure that the props' hips are square, their inside feet should be pointing up the field parallel with the touchline.

The loose head prop on their own ball should form up with their feet in the position they will occupy in the scrum, the right foot behind the hooker and parallel to touch. The left should be slightly advanced to provide stability after engagement (6 inches). Feet are shoulder-width apart, knees bent for balance and mobility. The right leg should provide as near a vertical surface as possible for the lock to push on.

The hips should be tight and square:

  • to help maintain a tight compact scrum when power is generated
  • to ease use of upper body.

The right shoulder should be just behind the hookers, but they should attempt to engage with it first, so it must be pushed through and square.

Height adjustments are made by bending the knees. Angling of force at opposition is made by adjustment of the hips.

Tight-head props follow similar steps, but they must ensure that they are as near to the hooker as possible. Ideally their feet will both be back and shoulder-width apart. The left leg provides the near-vertical pushing position for the right-side lock. The tight heads should also try to drive their inside (left) shoulders through to help them remain square.

Second Row

Objective: to provide power with maximum stability.

Second rows should bind with the right-hand lock over the top, as this allows them to have their right shoulder advanced to be square behind the tight head and keeping their body straight.

The locks should bind together prior to engagement on the props. A high grip (armpits) keeps the front row tight, while a low grip keeps locks close and straight. Locks should engage on the props in a position midway between the hips and knees, then force themselves up so that their shoulders are located just below the buttocks, thereby transmitting the force through the props' pelvis and spine. The back is kept straight by lifting the chin. Pressure is maintained on the props by pulling the shoulder forward.

Binding on the Front Row
The arm should be driven well through then taken across to bind on the pocket area of the prop's shorts (if the lock's ears rest near his hand then he is in the right position). To allow the lock's head into position, the hooker should allow his hips to sink forward, then reset himself.

They can start from crouched positions, with both feet slightly bunched up, so that after full scrummage engagement they will be in the correct pushing position or they can start from down on one knee (inside). The key is to quickly settle after engagement with minimum adjustment. After engagement, the locks should be in a position so that their backs are almost parallel to the ground, although their shoulders should be slightly higher than their hips.

Position of the Feet
The position of both locks is back, feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. The width selected is again a trade-off between stability and power generation.

It is important that the locks' bind remains tight during the engagement process so that they do not have to play catch up with their shoulders, thus disrupting the stability of the scrum and releasing the pressure.

Back Row Engagement

The flanker's first roll at a scrummage is to push.

Flankers have a number of rolls at scrummage as they in fact "fine tune" it by keeping it square and tight. They need to balance assisting the props and protecting the scrum half with providing effective drive.

The flankers should engage their pushing shoulder fairly square on the prop's buttocks at the bone of the pelvis. The flanker on the tight head prop's side should behind high up on the lock's back, with their body at an angle of no more than 30 degrees. This is to support the actions of the tight head who takes great pressure in a scrummage and to generate forward drive. The flanker on the loose head side can be flexible according to the wishes of the prop. His angle will however still be fairly acute to add power to the scrummage he may bind a little wider if the scrum half requires greater protection. Feet again should be well back and apart to achieve balance and power.

The number 8 when packing between the locks (mandatory now at under 19), number 8 must pack down with his head between the lock's buttocks and with his shoulders located at the base of the pelvis (snuggled on "nature's niche"). Bind around the lock's hips, gripping the top of the shorts and the jersey, with feet well back and apart and the knees bent for maximum power. If the 8 packs in channel one, his function here is to help give the scrum half an armchair ride. It is also an ideal place to launch back-row moves. The number 8 helps to steer the scrum and is the architect of ball control in a scrum that is under pressure.

All back-row forwards should consolidate their grips by rolling, and so locking the wrists.


Engagement is the responsibility of the whole pack. It must be achieved with maximum cohesiveness and minimum disruption to the structure. Communication and understanding is therefore vital. The front row prepares for engagement by crouching down and keeping balanced, with their weight on the balls of their feet and toes. This stance allows ease of movement. The back five, on the signal from the nominated communicator in the front row, engage the scrum. It is vitally important for the whole of the pack to keep hips square. Props should not overreach for their bind, as this will swing their hips outwards. All forwards should concentrate on: HIPS IN, KEEP SQUARE, STRONG GRIPS (grab and wrap), CHIN UP, FIRM UP THE UPPER BODY, DO NOT DROP THE KNEES TOO FAR.

Loose head:

  • Minimum adjustment: particularly avoid moving left leg back. Move to a good leverage position immediately (head on sternum). When the ball enters, lift and thrust. The neck is short, chin up and eye on the intended engagement point. Engagement tends to drive hips out, therefore efforts must be made to re-adjust should this happen.


  • Determines the height of the scrum. It should be the lowest he can operate at while complying with laws. Determines the place and tightness of the prop's upper-body bind. Exerts pressure on the opposition hooker by thrusting through to force the opponent into an uncomfortable height, or assist the loose head, mainly by pushing on the tight head.

Tight head:

  • Hips square and tight on hooker. The neck short, chin up and eye on the intended engagement point. Set the scrum as low as the hooker wants it. Drive shoulders through to set slightly in front of loose head to help avoid the wheel.

The engagement should be powerful, it must place the front row in a good position without disturbing the solidity of the structure. Over vigorous engagement and engaging with excessive power from a distance (charging) may seem effective but in reality it can disrupt the platform and lead to a scrum having to release pressure as it moves sideways or backwards at the request of the referee.


The hooker:

  • Controls the scrummage variations prior to engagement.
  • Signals the timing of the ball's entry.


  • Call to coordinate the shove or wheel.

Own Ball Stability

In an attempt to establish stability, the tight head's shoulders should be in front of the loose heads by 3 inches. (On their ball, the opposite should happen: the tight head should take his feet back.) The tight head should lead the scrummage in. To achieve this they should advance as above and the right-side second row and flanker should drive through. The tight head should try to lead in with their inside (right) shoulder first, as this helps to keep the hips in line.

                                  0             tight head
                            0                   hooker
                      0                         loose head

Engaging in this manner assists the hooker, as it throws the hooker into the correct position for striking. The loose head prop should try to prevent their hips from swinging out by not overreaching for their bind. The tight head should also tighten their bind to help prevent the wheel.

On the opposition ball, the loose head starts with their feet and shoulders advanced. They try to lead with their inside shoulder as they reach for their bind, which helps to keep the hips in.




For this section we thank & USA Rugby