Rugby Glossary


10 Meter Line – A solid line running parallel to, and at a distance of 10 meters out from, the try line. It also marks the area of the pitch where a conversion kick may be attempted, as it must be at least 10 meters out from the in-goal zone.

10’s – A version of rugby played with 10 players a side and 10 minute halves.

15’s – See Rugby Union.

22 Meter Line – A line on each side of the pitch that designates each team’s defensive area, similar to the ‘red zone’ in American football.

7’s – A version of rugby where only seven members from each team play at a time, and in seven minute halves, often with a mix of three forwards and four backs.


Advantage – When the referee allows play to continue after one team has committed a penalty that does not prevent the other team from playing the ball, effectively giving the team with the ball an ‘advantage’ over the other team.


Back 10 – When a penalty is awarded, the offending team must get back 10 meters

Back Row – The third line of the pack, consisting of the eight man and two flankers.

Backs/Back Line – Consisting of a Scrum Half, Fly Half, Inside and Outside Centers, Left and Right Wings, and a Fullback, they’re usually the players who do the majority of the running with the ball. The Backs (who wear numbers 9-15) act much like the running backs and wide receivers on a (American) football team.

Ball Carrier – Whoever has possession of the ball at any given time is the ball carrier.

Ball’s Out! – Whoever starts the ball moving after a scrum, ruck, or maul will call this out to signal the start of play to his teammates.

Binding – This occurs when players lock hands and arms with each other during scrums, rucks, and mauls in order to both combine strength with teammates, and make a larger obstacle for your opponent to handle.

Blind Side – The area of the pitch between the ball and the closest of the two touch lines; the opposite is the Open Side.

Blocking – See Obstruction.

Blood Bin – When a player becomes wounded and starts to bleed, they are required to leave the pitch until the bleeding stops or gets bandaged. A temporary substitution takes place, and when the player who was bleeding gets it under control, they are permitted to return to the match. Such a substitution does not count against the set number of substitutions each team is allowed during the match.

Breakaway – See Flanker.

Breakdown – The term for what happens when the ball carrier gets tackled and a ruck is in the process of forming. Usually refers to the brief period of time when players from both sides compete to put their respective sides in a position to get the ball.


Cap – When a player is a member of a national team, and plays another national team (such a match is called a test), that player receives notoriety of that fact, called a Cap. Mostly a statistic to show the number of times every player on each team has competed in a test.

Captain – The one player from each team who’s in charge of their respective teams. They’re almost always the only players to communicate with the referee.

Centering (the ball) – After a try is scored, the place where the conversion kick takes place is both at least 10 meters out from the try line and a straight line out from wherever the ball was touched in the try zone. To make this kick easier, whoever scores the try will attempt to Center the Ball by touching it down as close to the middle of the uprights as possible.

Centers – Two positions in the middle of the Backs line, called Inside Center and Outside Center.

Charge Down – When one team attempts to kick the ball and members of the other team run full-speed at the kicker in an attempt to block the kick.

Clear(ing) the Ruck – The act of driving opposing players off of, and away from, a ruck.

Collapsing the Scrum – During a scrumdown, sometimes a player in the front row of one pack will attempt to pull down the player on the other team directly across from him/her in an attempt to create a weak part in the other team’s scrum, which would make it easier to push that pack off the ball. Because all the forwards in a pack are connected during a scrum, if one player falls several more usually do also. Sometimes it happens naturally, but if the referee decides that one player is intentionally trying to force the other pack to the ground, that player will be called for Collapsing the Scrum.

Conversion Kick – The opportunity to score two additional points after a try. A conversion kick is attempted at a spot that’s no closer than 10 meters out from the try line, and also a straight line out from wherever the ball was touched in the try zone. It can be a drop kick or place kick, the only difference being the opposing team is allowed to charge down the kicker (as soon as the kicker moves forward) if a place kick is attempted.


Dead Ball – When play stops for any reason, the ball becomes a dead ball and any action that happens after a dead ball has been called is nullified.

Dead Ball Line – Because the ball can be played in the in-goal zone—after a failed Drop Goal attempt, for example—play does not automatically stop whenever the ball enters the try zone. The end of the in-goal zone is marked by the Dead Ball Line.

Drop Goal – A Drop Goal occurs when a player drop kicks the ball through the uprights while play is still going on, and is awarded worth three points.

Drop Kick – When the ball carrier drops the ball and kicks it at the exact moment it touches the ground.

Drop Out – A free kick taken from either the try line or the 22 meter line.

Dummy Kick/Pass – When the ball carrier motions as though they’re going to pass or kick the ball, then doesn’t.


Eight Man – The forward located at the back of the pack, supporting the second row from behind. When a pack wins control of the ball, the scrum half usually picks the ball up from right behind the eight man.


Fair Catch – If one team kicks the ball and a player from the other team catches the ball with at least one foot behind that team’s 22 Meter Line, that player may call for a Fair Catch as long as the ball is caught cleanly, usually followed by the referee calling a free kick.

Feed – See Put-in.

Fixture – See Match.

Flanker – One of two forwards that binds on to the outside of the pack immediately behind, and to the side of, the second row during a scrum. Referred to as Blindside Flanker and Openside Flanker, depending on which side of the pack they’re located.

Fly Half – A member of the back line, usually in charge of orchestrating plays among the backs. The Fly Half also usually receives the first pass after a scrum from the Scrum Half. Also referred to as the Outhalf or Outside Half.

Foot Up – When the hooker puts his/her foot out before the ball is put into the scrum; it’s not legal, but if observed by the referee it usually results in only a warning and another scrum-down.

Forward Pass – When the ball carrier passes the ball in front of him/herself; it is a minor penalty that results in a scrum down for the other team.

Forwards – The members of the team who make up the Pack, they’re the bigger players who do less handling and running with the ball. Consisting of two props, a hooker, two locks (or second rows), two flankers, and an eightman, they also make up one half of a scrum, the other half made up of the other team’s pack. They wear jersey numbers 1-8.

Free Kick – When one team commits a minor penalty, the other team will have the option to kick the ball down the pitch without the other team interfering. This is usually done to get the ball out of your team’s zone, or to set up a line-out.

Front Row/First Row – The forwards at the front of the scrum, made up of both props (loose head and tight head) with the hooker in between.

Fullback – One of the Back positions, often responsible for catching free kicks made by the other team.


Gain Line – An imaginary line across the pitch marked by the spot where the ball was when play stopped. It’s commonly decided by the spot where a penalty was committed, or the point on the touch line where the ball went out of bounds.

Goal – A goal is awarded when the ball is successfully kicked between the posts (uprights). This is done with a drop kick during normal play or after play stops because one team committed a penalty; in the second instance, the ball can be placed on a tee.

Goal Line – See Try Line.

Goal Posts – The upright structure at the center of the try line. The lowest bar (cross bar) is 9 feet 10 inches from the ground, and the side posts are 18 feet 4 inches apart.

Grounding – In order to actually score a try, the ball carrier must touch the ball in the opponent’s in-goal zone, the area between the goal line and dead ball line. The ball carrier must maintain control of the ball until it’s actually touched down in the in-goal zone; if it’s knocked loose before the ball carrier touches the ball to the ground, no try is awarded and play will continue.

Grubber – When a player kicks the ball and it rolls along the ground bouncing.


Halfback – See Scrum Half.

Halfway Line – A line that runs perpendicular to the touch lines in the middle of the pitch, covering its entire width.

High Shot/High Tackle – When a defensive player attempts to tackle the ball carrier above the shoulders, that player guilty of a high tackle, an example of the more moderate-to-severe infringements. Multiple high shots/tackles are a good way to get sent to the sin bin, or sent off.

Hooker – The hooker is the middle forward in the front line of the scrum, residing between the two props. During a scrum, the hooker is supported by the props and attempts to kick the ball backwards after it’s been rolled into the scrum.

Hospital Pass – When the ball carrier makes an ill-timed or poorly executed pass to a teammate resulting in that teammate receiving a vicious hit from an opposing player.


In Touch – The term given when the ball crosses either of the touch lines or dead ball lines, essentially meaning the ball has gone out of bounds and is dead.

Infringement – When a player commits a penalty, it’s called an infringement. A penalty will be awarded to the opposing team, resulting in a scrum down, free kick or penalty kick. In cases of more severe penalties, it can also result in one player being sent to the sin bin, or sent off the pitch.

In-Goal Area – The ends of the pitch between the try line and dead ball line, where the ball must be touched down to score a try.

Injury Time – Time added on to the end of each half to make up for any time where play stopped because of an injury; the amount for each half is determined at the referee’s discretion.

Inside Center – One of the two centers in the middle of the back line, closer to the scrum/pack than the outside center. See Centers.

Inside Half – See Scrum Half

IRB – The International Rugby Board, an organization that oversees and adjusts the Rugby Union laws and bylaws, and also moderates the Rugby World Cup tournaments every four years.


Jumper – Any player in a line-out that jumps and gets lifted by teammates while trying to catch the ball.


Kick Off – To start a match, or resume a match after one team scores or after half time, a player will dropkick the ball at or behind the 50 Meter line. The ball must go at least 10 meters forward, and once it reaches that mark it can be played by either team.

Knock-On – A knock-on is when the ball touches a player and moves in a forward direction, similar to a forward pass but without a pass having necessarily happened. It is a minor infringement, and results in a scrum-down to the other team. It’s also called a Knock Forward.


League – See Rugby League.

Leg Up – See Foot Up.

Lifter – Any player involved in a line-out who lifts a jumper.

Lineout – When the ball goes out of bounds, a lineout takes place to resume play. The team not responsible for the ball going out of bounds gets to throw the ball back in (similar to a throw-in for soccer/football). Two rows of players line up perpendicular from the touch line where the lineout is taking place, with a few meters in between them, and when the ball is thrown in each team will lift a player who will attempt to catch the ball and secure possession for their respective teams.

Lock – The name for both forwards in the second row of the pack/scrum. Also referred to as a ‘second row’.

Loop – A loop occurs when the ball carrier passes the ball to a teammate, then immediately runs behind that teammate and catches a pass from the same player.

Loose Forwards – Part of the pack and scrum, the loose forwards consist of two flankers and an eight man. The flankers support the second row players on each side of the scrum, and the eight man supports the second row players from behind. Also the name of the player at the rear of the pack in League rugby.

Loosehead Prop – One of two props in a pack, who’s on the left side of the scrum.


Mark – As determined by the referee, the spot where a scrum takes place.

Match – The technical term for a rugby game.

Maul – A maul occurs when the ball carrier runs at members of the opposing team but remains standing upright, not going to the ground (which would set up a ruck). At least three members of each team will bind on and push the ball carrier toward each side’s respective in-goal zone; in other words, if your team has the ball you push towards the other team’s try line, and if not you push away from your try line. The ball must keep moving in a maul; if both sides push to a stalemate, the ball carrier must pass the ball out or ground it and start a ruck, or a penalty will be called, usually a scrum to the other team.


Non-Offending Team – Whichever team is being awarded a penalty, as opposed to the team that committed the penalty.

Number 8 – See Eight Man.


Obstruction – Because blocking for the ball carrier is illegal in rugby, no player can purposefully put himself between the ball carrier and a member of the opposing team (which would obstruct the defensive player from making a play). When this occurs, a penalty will be awarded to the defensive team.

Offside – A player is offside when they essentially make a play on the ball from an illegal starting position. The ball acts as a continually-moving line of scrimmage or offside line, and any attempt at a defensive play must be made by coming straight at the ball carrier, or at least from a forward direction, just as an offensive player must be behind the ball carrier to make a play. For example, a defensive player who attempts to make a play on the ball carrier from the side or behind the ball carrier is offside. A player can be offside without any penalty, so long as there is no attempt to make a play before that player gets back onside.

Onside – On offense, you’re onside so long as you don’t go in front of the ball carrier. On defense, you’re onside so long as you’re not behind the ball carrier.

Open Side – The area of the pitch between the ball and the further of the two touch lines; the opposite is the Blind Side.

Out Half/Outside Half – See Fly Half.

Out of Bounds – See In Touch.

Outside Center – One of the two centers in the middle of the back line, closer to the touch line than the inside center. See Centers.

Over the Top – When a ruck occurs, members of the defensive team must go through the offensive players who bound up over the ball. Any attempt to jump or go over the ruck to get the ball is an infringement.

Overload – When there are more defensive players around the ball carrier than there are offensive players it’s called an overload, which refers to the imbalance in the number of players from each side. Strategically, when an overload occurs the offensive team should recognize it and pass the ball to a teammate at a different part of the pitch, because if there are more defensive players than offensive players around the ball carrier at that point it automatically means that there is the opportunity to have fewer defensive players than there are offensive players elsewhere on the pitch, creating an advantage for the offensive team.


Pack – In Union rugby, the eight forwards involved in a scrum, consisting of three lines; the first is made up of the props and hooker, the second by two locks, and the third by both flankers and eight man. In League rugby, the six forwards involved in a scrum, consisting of two props and a hooker (front line), two second row forwards, and a loose forward (similar to the eight man in a Union pack).

Peeling Off – When a lineout player leaves the lineout formation to catch the ball.

Penalty – After a moderate to severe infringement has been called, the non-offending team is awarded a penalty. The offending team must back up 10 meters from the spot of the infringement, regardless of what the non-offending team chooses to do, and cannot move forward until the non-offending team has crossed that 10 meter mark. The non-offending team has three options with how they use their penalty kick: 1) kick the ball far down the field (usually to get the ball away from your team’s in-goal zone, and often out of bounds); 2) the ball carrier taps the ball with his/her foot and uses the 10 meter head start to run straight into the opposing team (very popular with forwards, especially if the non-offending team is close to the other team’s in-goal zone); 3) try for a penalty kick, if it’s close enough.

Penalty Try – When the team with the ball would’ve scored a try but was prevented from doing so because the other team committed an infringement, the referee can award the offensive team a try anyway, called a penalty try.

Pill – Nickname for a rugby ball.

Pitch – The term for the field where a rugby match is played. It can be no more than 100 meters long and 70 meters wide. It must clearly indicate a half-way line, a 10 meter and 22 meter line at each end (located at 10 and 22 meters out from the try line at each end, running the entire width of the pitch), and two hash-marked lines running parallel to both touch lines the entire length of the pitch, five meters out from each touch line.

Place Kick – When the ball is kicked from a tee (or other means to keep the ball upright and in place i.e. pile of sand), rather than a drop kick.

Pop Kick – A small kick, usually short in distance but several meters high; it’s often used to get the ball past/over a close defender without actually engaging that defender. Also see Up and Under.

Pop Pass – A pass, usually soft, that only moves a few meters and is mostly vertical in movement.

Prop – One of two forwards in the first line of a pack; see Loosehead Prop and Tighthead Prop.

Punt – When the ball carrier releases the ball and kicks it before it touches the ground.

Pushover Try – A try scored when one pack in a scrum pushes the other pack across the second team’s try line, then grounded by a player from the first team.

Put-in – After the packs come together in a scrum, the ball is introduced by rolling it into the space between both teams’ front lines, which is called the put-in.


Raking – When a player is on the ground in the middle of a ruck, it’s likely that player will be raked, as the other players in a ruck aren’t allowed to reach into the middle of a ruck to possess the ball with their hands. It’s not uncommon for members of one team to purposefully and painfully rake their cleats on a player from the other team during a ruck.

Red Card – A signal by the referee that a player has been sent off.

Referee – The only official presiding over a match. The referee is also the timekeeper. Sometimes referred to as ‘The Sir’ or ‘Mr. Ref’.

Replacement(s) – Each team is allowed to substitute a certain number of players (depending on the rules of the league that the match is governed by) during the course of a match. Substitutions must be allowed by the referee, and are only allowed when a dead ball has been called.

Right to Contest Possession – During the course of normal play, possession of the ball is not fixed and can be attained by either team. In other words, the defensive team can try to obtain the ball from the attacking team at any time; there is nothing that guarantees possession for one team aside from penalties. Winning scrums, rucks, and lineouts are some of the most common ways of contesting possession of the ball. The right to contest possession exists in Union rugby only.

Rolling Maul – A maul that’s actually a series of continuous mauls with multiple direction changes; instead of running straight at the other team and having many players from each side bind on, the ball is continuously moved left or right, with only a few players binding on in each new maul.

Ruck – A ruck occurs when members (at least three) from both teams bind together and converge on the ball after it’s been placed on the ground, most often after a tackle. Each side attempts to go through the other to obtain possession of the ball.

Rucking – When a ruck occurs, there’s usually a swarm of people involved, and in order to get possession of the ball and pass it out, players involved in a ruck will often sweep at the ball with their feet to move it. It’s not unusual to see a player on the ground fall victim to a bit of raking while this goes on.

Rugby Ball – The ball used in a rugby match, shaped like a football but wider and with blunted ends.

Rugby League – A code of rugby played with 13 players a side and a different set of rules from Rugby Union.

Rugby Union – The code of rugby most commonly played, with 15 players a side and 40-minute halves.

Rugby World Cup – An international competition of national teams in the Rugby Union played every four years. Teams are invited to the RWC (Rugby World Cup) by winning qualifying matches.

Rugger – Nickname for a person who plays rugby.

Rules – The laws by which a rugby match is officiated.


Scrum – A scrum (or scrum-down) is the set piece used to start play back up after a minor infringement, usually a knock-on or forward pass. The packs from each team line up in the following formation: props and hooker in the front, locks behind the props, eight man behind the locks, and one flanker on the outside of each lock. Each pack will bind together, then the referee will call out something close to “Touch (the front rows on each side get into position), Hold (the packs tense up, ready to push), Engage (the packs collide together).” The scrum is created, and play resumes when the ball gets rolled in. The forwards in a scrum may not disengage until the ball exits the scrum and is passed off or played by a player not in the scrum.

Scrum Cadence – The series of words used by the referee to start a scrum. The cadence usually consists of four sequential terms — crouch, touch, pause, and engage — which act as a series of preparatory phases. These four phases allow the packs to gradually enter the scrum, rather than rushing into it.

Scrum Half – The back player who, among other things, is responsible for rolling the ball into a scrum and collecting it as it exits a scrum. Also known as Inside Half and Half-Back.

Scrum-down – The action of bringing the two packs in a scrum together. Also see Scrum.

Second Row – The second row of the scrum, consisting of two locks; it’s also another name for the ‘lock’ position.

Send-Off – When a player who engages in exceedingly dangerous or harmful play is kicked out of the game, that player becomes a send-off, and cannot be replaced by another player.

Set Piece/Set Play – The different ways that play is resumed after a stoppage. Scrums and line-outs are the most common.

Sin Bin – If a player either repeatedly commits severe infringements, or one extreme infringement that’s not worthy of being sent off, that player is placed in the sin bin (the area behind that player’s in-goal zone) for a length of time determined by the referee. That player’s team must play shorthanded until the time is up.

Skip Pass – When there are at least three players from one team in a row, and the ball carrier passes it to the third player rather than to the player closest to him/her, a skip pass has taken place.

Stoppage Time – Any time that play was stopped because of injury is called stoppage time, and gets added on at the end of each half.

Support – A player or group of players in close proximity to the ball carrier, usually off to one side, available for a pass if the ball carrier’s progress is impeded.

Switch – When the ball carrier runs in one direction and passes the ball to a teammate that’s running behind the ball carrier and in the exact opposite direction.


Tackle – When one player wraps up the ball carrier and forces him/her to the ground.

Tactical Advantage – One way that the non-offending team can benefit from an advantage call. It refers to the non-offending team being able to continue playing the ball in such a way that they gain a quick upper hand over the offending team. For example, during an advantage period, the non-offending team quickly passes the ball across the field to its back line, where there are fewer members of the offending team; this creates a personnel overload in favor of the non-offending team.

Take – When a player cleanly catches the ball after a kick; usually commented on as a ‘good take’.

Tap Penalty – After a penalty has been awarded where the opposing team has to move 10 meters back, the ball carrier for the non-offending team can try to start play before the other team has completely moved back 10 meters, or a member of the offending team tries to make a play on the ball carrier before the whole team makes it 10 meters back. If this is successful, the offending team receives another penalty, and it starts all over again.

Tap Tackle – When a defender attempts to stop the ball carrier by slapping (tapping) one of the ball carrier’s legs into the other, knocking him/her over.

Territorial Advantage – One way that the non-offending team can benefit from an advantage call. It refers to the non-offending team actually gaining ground on the offending team during an advantage period.

Test – A rugby match between two national-level teams.

Throw In – When the ball is thrown in during a line-out, signaling that play has resumed.

Tight Five – A term used to describe the first two rows of the pack (consisting of five forwards), as they’re bound more tightly together than the third row.

Tighthead Prop – One of the two props in a pack, on the right side of the scrum.

TMO – Television Match Official. A member of the officiating crew who is capable of reviewing a match in slow motion to advise the referee about the correct call on a particular play.

Touch – See In Touch.

Touch Judge – An official who’s responsible for marking the point where the ball goes out of bounds, and to decide if a kick goes through the uprights.

Touch Rugby – A non-contact version of rugby that focuses on fundamental skills; touch rugby is often used to teach new players the basics of the game.

Touch-down – When the ball is in a player’s in-goal zone, that player can stop play by touching the ball down in his/her own in-goal zone, which stops play and allows that team to kick the ball away from their try line.

Touchline – The line on each side of the pitch marking out of bounds.

Try – The main method of scoring during a rugby match, occurring when the ball carrier grounds the ball in the opposing team’s in-goal zone. It’s worth five points.

Try Line – The lines that indicate the start of each team’s in-goal zone.

Tunnel – The space between two teams during a scrum-down or line-out.

Turnover – When one team accidentally gives possession of the ball to the other team.


Up and Under – A short, high kick specifically used to give other players on the kicker’s team a chance to run under the ball and catch it. Also known as a Garryowen, after the Irish rugby club that’s reputed to have invented it.


Weak Side – See Blind Side.

Webb Ellis Trophy – The trophy awarded to the national team that wins the Rugby World Cup. Named for William Webb Ellis, the man with whom the game of rugby is supposed to have originated in 1823.

Wheeling – During a scrum-down, sometimes one pack will try to rotate the scrum to one side or the other. This is called wheeling, and is allowed until the scrum has completely rotated 90 degrees to one side or the other. If this happens, play will stop and the referee will reset the scrum.

Wing Forward – See Flanker.

Wing/Winger – Two members of the back line, called Left and Right Wing. The right wing is the last player in the actual line of backs; the left wing lines up parallel to the right wing but spaced between 10-20 meters apart. The wings are usually the fastest players on the team.


Yellow Card – When a severe infringement is committed, or when a player repeatedly commits the same penalty, the player who committed it can receive a yellow card, notifying that player must spend 10 minutes in the sin bin.


Zulu – After a rugby player scores his/her first official try, some form of the Zulu tradition may take place. This tradition varies, but commonly involves the player running a lap (often humorously exaggerated) while observers pour their drinks on the player. Variations include stripping down during a match or jogging around the pitch in a humorous manner.

Share the knowledge