Rugby A – Z

Introducing the 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗝𝗮𝗰𝗸𝘀 𝟮𝟲 𝗗𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗥𝘂𝗴𝗯𝘆 from A to Z to celebrate the great game of rugby and the fast approaching 2022 Major League Rugby season.

For 26 days, we will highlight the key terms you need to know on the rugby pitch. To say thank you to our amazing Season Ticket holders, we’ll also be giving away exclusive prizes for each letter of the alphabet at the end of each week!

🔒➡️ Lock in your season tickets for 2022 today to take advantage of these great prizes!

  • Accidental offside – A player is accidentally offside if the player cannot avoid being touched by the ball or by a team-mate who is carrying the ball. Only if the offending team gains an advantage should play stop.


  • Advantage – The period of time immediately after an infringement in which the non-offending side has the opportunity to gain sufficient territory or tactical opportunity to negate the need to stop the game due to the infringement at the discretion of the referee.


















    • Alickadoo –  A non-playing member of a rugby union club who helps in the running of the club by performing various roles, usually on match days. These roles are not committee positions but are essential if the club is to function properly.


    • Ankle tap – An ankle-tap or tap-tackle is a form of tackle. It is used when the player carrying the ball is running at speed and a defending player is approaching from behind. Even if the defender is not able to get close enough to the ball-carrier to wrap his arms around him in a conventional tackle, he may still be able to dive at the other player’s feet and, with outstretched arm, deliver a tap or hook to the player’s foot (or feet) causing the player to stumble.














    • Apply pressure – Using the principles of play (i.e. going forward, supporting, maintaining continuity) to create opportunities. Teams need to accurately and quickly use skills. Sometimes these skills will not be enough in this phase of play, but might be in the next.


    • Assistant referee – Assistant referees and touch judges are responsible for signalling touch, touch in-goal and the success or otherwise of kicks at goal. In addition, assistant referees provide assistance as the referee directs, including the reporting of foul play. The referee is appointed by the match organiser.


    • Attack – The team with possession of the ball, similar to “offense” in American sports.

    • Ball carrier – refers to the player in possession with the ball before, during, or after the tackle in which certain laws pertain only to the player holding the ball. Only the ball carrier can be tackled by an opposing player.


    Blindside – The narrow side of the pitch in relation to a scrum or a breakdown in play; it is the opposite of “openside”. The blindside flanker (jersey #6) has the job of stopping any move by the opponents on the blind (or ‘narrow’) side from a scrum.


    Blitz defense – The blitz is a defensive technique that relies on the whole defensive line moving forward towards their marked man as one as fast as possible, as soon as the ball leaves the base of a ruck or maul, cutting down time and space of the attack. The idea of this technique is to prevent the attacking team gaining any ground by tackling them behind the gain line and forcing interceptions and charged down kicks. However, the defending team can be vulnerable to chip kicks and any player breaking through the defensive line could have lots of space to play because the defense is running virtually full speed in the opposite direction and must stop, turn and chase.



    • Blood bin –  or blood replacement — refers to a temporary substitution for a visibly bleeding player.


    • Box kick – This is a kick taken from behind a ruck, scrum, or maul, normally by the scrum-half, in which he turns away from the ruck facing the touchline, and kicks the ball back over the ruck into the clear “box” of space behind the opposition to allow his own team to chase through and regain the ball in undefended territory.


    • Breakdown – The breakdown is a colloquial term for the period immediately after a tackle and the ensuing ruck. During this time teams compete for possession of the ball, initially with their hands and then using feet in the ruck. Most referees will call “ruck” or “hands away” as soon as a ruck is formed. Most infringements take place at the breakdown, owing to the greater variety of possible offences at a breakdown, for example handling in the ruck, killing the ball, offside at the ruck and so on.

    • Captain – Not only is the captain a player, he is a leader, communicator, key decision-maker, and important link between team and rugby coach.

    • Cautioned – A player who deliberately or repeatedly infringes the laws is cautioned, and shown a yellow card. A cautioned player is suspended from playing for ten minutes.

    • Center – They are the players wearing shirts numbers 12 and 13. They are divided into inside and outside center.

    • Charge-down  – When a player makes a defensive clearance kick, but it hits an opponent who has run towards him in an attempt to block it, it is known as a charge-down. These can be good try-scoring opportunities.

    • Choke tackle – Tackle in which the tackler tries to keep the ball carrier on his feet and push him backwards before taking him to the ground. This is harder to execute but gives the tackler’s side a gain in territory.

    • Cone – cones for use in agility drills and as boundary markers for rugby training.

    • Contest – rugby is a rare game where every set-piece and tackle should be “fair contests for possession” between the attack and the defense. Rugby is entirely a game of mini contests. ​​The aim of the defensive team at scrum, lineout, kick off and tackle is to compete for the ball and turn it over, or at least reduce the quality ofpossession gained by the attacking side. 


    • Conversion – If a team scores a try, they have an opportunity to convert it for two further points by kicking the ball between the posts and above the crossbar—that is, through the goal. The kick is taken at any point on the field of play in line with the point that the ball was grounded for the try parallel to the touch-lines. So it is advantageous to score a try nearer to the posts as it is easier to convert it. The kick can be either a drop kick or a place kick.

    • Counter attack – The opportunity to counterattack occurs immediately after possession is regained through a recovered kicked ball; the attackers dropping the ball; the ball being turned over in contact; or a pass being intercepted. The first response from turnover ball is to get the ball in to space and go forward as quickly as possible.

    • Counter ruck – If a team (usually the team that took the ball into contact) has secured the ball at a ruck, and the other team manage to force them off the ball and secure possession themselves, the defending team is said to have “counter-rucked.”

    • Crash ball – It is an attacking tactic where a player receives a pass at pace and runs directly at the opposition’s defensive line. The crash ball runner attempts to commit two or more opposing players to the tackle, then attempts to make the ball available to team-mates by off-loading in the tackle or recycling the ball quickly from the ruck. By committing players to the tackle, the crash ball runner creates holes in the opposition’s defense, thereby creating attacking opportunities for team-mates.

    • Cross-field kick – A kick which goes from one side of the field to the other and is kicked very high, usually resulting in an aerial battle between an attacker and defender to catch it. This is usually used near the defending team’s try-line, often with the catch happening in the in-goal area itself. Most often used when the kicker knows the referee is playing advantage and his team will get a penalty if the kick fails – this is because the kick itself is very risky and likely to result in an interception.
    • Dead ball – Each end of a rugby league field has a dead ball line, when the ball (or player in possession) crosses or touches this line, the ball is said to have gone dead. This results in a goal line drop out if the defending team had caused the ball to go dead; otherwise, a 20-metre restart ensues.

    Directly caught – Direct from a kick means that the ball has been caught without having bounced off the playing surface or without having touched or been touched in flight by another player.


    Drift defense – The drift defense is a defensive technique that forces the attacking side into an ever-shrinking pocket near to the touchline. It operates by the defensive side moving forward and diagonally following the path of the attacking side’s ball movements. If used successfully the ball will usually end up in the attacking winger’s hands near the line of touch. This player would then find themselves surrounded on one side by a defending outside centre, with the opposing winger opposite and the touchline on his other side. This will prevent a cut-back and allows the Touchline to act as a 16th player. Its disadvantage is that if the attacking team are strong enough to break through the pocket tackle the defending team will have no players spare to cover a breakout.


    • Drop goal – A drop goal is scored when a player kicks the ball from hand through the opposition’s goal, but the ball must touch the ground between being dropped and kicked. It is worth three points. The team awarded a free kick cannot score a dropped goal until the ball next becomes dead, or until an opponent has played or touched it, or has tackled the ball carrier. This restriction applies also to a scrum taken instead of a free kick.

    • Drop kick – A drop kick is when a player kicks the ball from hand and the ball touches the ground between being dropped and kicked. If a drop kick goes through a goal then it results in a drop goal.

    Dummy pass – An offensive ruse, where the ball carrier moves as if to pass the ball to a team-mate, but then continues to run with the ball himself; the objective is to trick defenders into marking the would-be pass receiver, creating a gap for the ball carrier to run into.

    Dummy runner – Another offensive tactic; a player on the attacking team runs towards the opposition as if running onto a pass, only for the ball to be passed to another player, carried on by the ball carrier or kicked forwards. As with a dummy pass, this tactic draws defenders away from the ball and creates space for the attacking team.


    Dump tackle – It is a tackling technique. The tackler wraps his arms around the ball carrier’s thighs and lifts him a short distance in the air before forcibly driving him to the ground. The tackler must go to ground with the ball carrier for the tackle to be legal. This technique is useful to completely stop the opponent in his tracks. A dump tackle which drops the ball carrier on his head or neck is known as a spear tackle, and will almost invariably concede a penalty and possibly result in a caution for the tackler.

    • Eagles – The United States men’s national rugby union team represents the United States in men’s international rugby union.

    • Number Eight – The number eight, or eighthman in South Africa, binds between the locks at the back of the scrum, providing extra weight at the push] Number eights interact with the scrum-half at the back of the scrum to control and provide clean ball for the backs. They can also pick the ball from the back of the scrum and run with it or pass it to the scrum-half. At line-outs, they can be either another jumper or a lifter. Around the field, they have a similar set of responsibilities as the flankers at the breakdown. Number eights are often strong ball carriers and run off the backs in an attempt to break through or push past the opposition’s defensive line.

    • Encouragement – the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.

    • Evasion – In rugby, footwork and evasion skills are the “fine arts” – ways to run with the ball and beat players with skill, pace and panache.

    • Fend – Fending is the action by the ball carrier of repelling a tackler using his arm. For the action to be legal, the ball carrier’s arm must be straight before contact is made; a shove or “straight-arm smash”, where the arm is extended immediately before contact or on contact, is illegal and classed as dangerous play.

    • Field of play – The field of play is no more than 100m long and 70m wide. Each in‑goal is not longer than 22m. The distance from the goal line to the dead ball line is not less than 10m. The perimeter area or run‑off is not less than 5m.

    • First XV – The preferred starting line-up of a team – more colloquially, the senior team of any club.

    • Five meter scrum – When a scrum offense is committed within 5m of either try line, or a player carries the ball over his own try line and touches it down, the referee will award a scrum on the five meter lie; this is to prevent all but the most brutal packs from driving the ball over the try line within the scrum.

    • Flanker – Also known as breakaways or wing forwards. They are the players wearing shirts numbers 6 & 7. They are the players with the fewest set responsibilities. The player should have all round attributes: speed, strength, fitness, tackling and handling skills. Flankers are always involved in the game, as they are the real ball winners at the breakdown, especially the number 7. The two flankers do not usually bind to the scrum in a fixed position. Instead, the open side flanker will attach to the scrum on whichever side is further from the nearer touchline, while the blindside flanker attaches himself to the scrum on the side closer to the touchline.

    • Flying wedge – The type of attack known as a ‘Flying Wedge’ usually happens near the. goal line, when the attacking team is awarded a penalty kick or free kick. The kicker tap-kicks the ball and starts the attack, either by driving towards the goal line or. by passing to a team-mate who drives forward.

    • Flyhalf/five-eight – Also referred to by a number of different names, they are the players wearing shirt number 10. This position is one of the most influential on the pitch. The fly-half makes key tactical decisions during a game. Generally a fly-half is also the goal kicker due to excellent kicking skills.

    • Forward pass – It is called a throw-forward in the laws of the game. – A forward pass occurs when the ball fails to travel backwards in a pass. If the ball is not thrown or passed forward but it bounces forward after hitting a player or the ground, it is not a throw-forward. If the referee deems it accidental, this results in a scrum to the opposing team; however deliberate forward passes result in the award of a penalty.

    • Foul play – Foul play is defined as the deliberate infringement of the laws of the game.

    • Fourth official – A fourth official is one who controls replacements and substitutes. He may also substitute for referee or touch judge in case of injury to either of them.

    • Free Kick – Also called short arm penalty. This is a lesser form of the penalty, usually awarded to a team for a technical offense committed by the opposing side such as numbers at the line-out or time wasting at a scrum. A free kick is also awarded for calling a mark. A team cannot kick for goal and the normal 22m rule applies for kicking for position from a free kick. A Free Kick is signalled by the referee with a bent arm raised in the air.

    • Fullback – They are the player wearing jersey number 15. They act as the last line of defense against running attacks by the opposing three-quarter backs. The full-back is expected to field high kicks from the opposition, and reply with a superior kick or a counter-attack. The full back is sometimes the specialist goal-kicker in a team, taking penalty and conversion kicks.

    • Gainline – The gain line is an imaginary line drawn across the centre of the pitch when there is a breakdown in open play, such as a ruck, maul or scrum. Advancing across the gain line represents a gain in territory.

    • Garryowen – A Garryowen, or up and under kick, is a high short punt onto or behind the defending team.

    • Goal line / tryline – Two solid, straight white lines (one at each end) stretching across the entire width of the pitch passing directly through the goal posts which defines the boundary between the “field of play” and the “in-goal”. As the goal line is defined as part of the “in-goal,” attacking players can score tries by placing the ball with downward pressure onto the goal line itself. The base of the goal posts and post protectors are also defined to be part of the goal line. The goal line is often referred to as the “try line” though that term does not appear in the Laws of the Game.

    Goose step – A goose step, made famous by Australian David Campese but now performed by many players, is a running technique where the player slows down and takes a small ‘hop’ into the air before sprinting off – sometimes in a different direction – upon landing. Its purpose is to confuse the defender, who is often unable to predict the sudden change of pace and direction.

    Grand slam – In rugby union, a Grand Slam (Irish: Caithréim Mhór. Welsh: Y Gamp Lawn. French: Grand Chelem) occurs when one team in the Six Nations Championship (or its Five Nations predecessor) beats all the others during one year’s competition.

    Grounded – The ball can be grounded in-goal: By holding it and touching the ground with it; or By pressing down on it with a hand or hands, arm or arms, or the front of the player’s body from waist to neck.

    Grubber kick – It is a type of kick which makes the ball roll and tumble across the ground, producing irregular bounces making it hard for the defending team to pick up the ball without causing a knock-on. It gives the ball both high and low bounce and on occasions, the ball can sit up in a perfect catching position.

    • Haka – The haka is a traditional Maori dance performed by the All Blacks, the international rugby union team of New Zealand, immediately prior to international matches. It serves as a challenge to the opposing team.

    • Halfback – Can refer to either the scrum-half or fly-half, but in New Zealand is exclusively used to describe the scrum-half.

    • Halftime – The time at which half of a game or contest is completed.

    • Hāngi  – Good food is central to the spirit of hospitality. There are few experiences that rival sharing a feast cooked in a traditional Maori hāngī (earth oven), a centuries-old cooking method perfect for feeding a crowd and bringing a community together.

    • High tackle – A high tackle (or head-high tackle) is a form of tackle where the tackler grasps the ball carrier above the line of the shoulders (most commonly around the neck or at the line of the chin and jaw). Executed violently or at speed, a high tackle is potentially dangerous, so are often not just sanctioned with a penalty, but also a yellow or red card.

    • Holding – A penalty infringement from the ball carrier after a tackle has been completed. The tackled player may make one dynamic movement to place the ball but afterwards must release the ball. A defending player may make an attempt to poach the ball before the attacking support players arrive. If the player on the ground does not release the ball the jackler will be awarded a penalty.

    • Home nations – the nations of the constituent countries on the island of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and the Irish nation.

    • Hooker – Hookers traditionally wear the number 2 shirt. The hooker is the player who is in the center position of the front row of the scrum and who uses his/her feet to ‘hook’ the ball back. Due to the pressure put on the body by the scrum and the requirement to use both arms to bind to other players (and hence having no free arm to use to support or deflect bodyweight) it is considered to be one of the most dangerous positions to play. Hookers normally throw the ball in at line-outs, partly because they are normally the shortest of the forwards, but more often because they are the most skillful of the forwards.

    • Hospital pass – Any pass that is made which has the inevitable, unavoidable consequence of the receiver being tackled. This is because the receiver has already been marked and the opposing player is bearing down on the receiver so rapidly that, as soon as the ball is caught, the opposing player smashes into the receiver. Generally made in times of panic or when there is no one else available, it is called the hospital pass because of the inevitability of a hard tackle.

    • Infringement – A violation of the rules of the game, that often results in a “penalty” being awarded to the other team. Common infringements include forward pass, knock-on, high tackle, not releasing ball on the ground, not releasing the tackled player, obstruction, not straight, to name a few. 

    • In-goal – If any part of a defending player is in in-goal, that player is considered to be in in-goal, provided they are not also in touch or on or over the dead-ball line. If a player, who is in in-goal, catches or picks up a ball that is still in the field of play, that player has taken the ball into in-goal.

    • Injury time – The referee may stop play and allow time for: Player injury for up to one minute. If a player is seriously injured, the referee has the discretion to allow more than one minute for that player to be removed from the playing area.

    • Interception – The gaining of possession by running forward from the defensive line and taking a pass meant for a member of the opposition. The result is similar to the result of a line break, and has a good chance of leading to a try.
    • Jackler – Jackler: player who legally gets hands on a ball after a tackle, and doesn’t have to release when a ruck forms. The tackled player has to release the ball to a “Jackler”.
    • Jersey – a rugby jersey, is worn by players of rugby union or rugby league.
      • Kick off – A coin is tossed and the winning captain either chooses which direction his team shall play, or elects to take the kick that starts the game. Both halves of the match are started with a drop kick from the centre-point of the halfway line. The kick must cross the opposition’s 10-metre line, unless played by a member of the receiving team. The opposition are not allowed to encroach beyond the 10-metre line until the ball is kicked. If the ball does not travel 10 metres, goes straight into touch, or goes over the dead ball line at the end of the pitch, the opposing team may accept the kick, have the ball kicked off again, or have a scrum at the centre. After a score, the game is restarted from the same place under the same restrictions, with the conceding team drop-kicking the ball to the scoring team. However, in sevens, the scoring team kicks off.
      • Knock-on – Also called knock-forward. A knock-on occurs when the ball accidentally moves forward after coming into contact with the upper body of a player, and then touches either the ground or another player. It results in a scrum with the put-in to the opposition. If the ball is intentionally knocked forward it is deemed a deliberate knock-on; the opposition is rewarded with a penalty and the offending player is given a yellow card and sent to the sin bin.
      • Kicking into touch – Kicking into touch is a tactic whereby, when a team has been awarded a penalty kick as a result of a foul committed by the opposing team, the ball is deliberately kicked into touch, so as to move play further down the field towards the opposing team’s goal-line.
      • Kicking tee – the tee used to prop up the ball when kicking goals
    • Lateral pass – A pass to a player that is directly to the left or right of the ball carrier, but not forward.

    • Latch/latching – A latcher is a player who binds himself to the ballcarrier in open play in order to add his power and weight to an attempt to break the line and gain yards. If the defense is able to stop the ballcarrier and hold him up, a maul usually forms. However latching on does not automatically create a maul.

    • Late tackle – A late tackle is a tackle executed on a player who has already passed or kicked away the ball. As it is illegal to tackle a player who does not have the ball, late tackles are penalty offenses (referees allow a short margin of error where the tackler was already committed to the tackle) and if severe or reckless may result in yellow or red cards. If a late tackle occurs after a kick and a penalty is awarded, the non-offending team has the option of taking the penalty where the ball landed. 

    • Lex – the Free Jacks horse. 

    • Lifter – In a lineout, the lifter’s role is to lift and support the jumper while the jumper is in the air and bring them safely to the ground. The lifter also plays an important part in the formation of the driving maul from the lineout.

    • Line break – Action by which the player with the ball gets through the opponent’s defensive line without being tackled. If there is insufficient cover, or the player has support, line breaks can often lead to tries.

    • Line-out – A minimum of two players line up parallel with each other one metre apart between the five-metre and 15-metre lines. Usually, the hooker of the team in possession throws the ball in while his opposite number [may] stand in between the touchline and the five-metre line. All players not involved in the lineout, except the receiver (usually the scrum-half) must retire 10 metres. The ball must be thrown in straight down the middle of the lineout and the hooker must not cross into the field of play while throwing in. If the throw is not straight then the throw is given to the opposition or a scrum awarded. Jumpers can be lifted by their teammates below the waist, but the opposition’s jumpers must not be obstructed, barged or pulled down.

    • Linespeed – The speed with which a blitz defense closes down the opposing team. A fast line speed will make it difficult for the opposition to cross the gain line.

    • Lock – Locks or second-row are the players wearing shirts 4 & 5. Locks are very tall, athletic and have an excellent standing jump along with good strength. This makes them the primary targets at line-outs. They also make good ball carriers, bashing holes in the defense around the ruck and maul. They also have to push in the rucks and mauls.

    • Loose forwards – The back row (or loose forwards) consists of three players – two flankers, one on either side of the scrum; and a number eight at the back of the scrum.

    • Loose head prop – The loose head prop is the player who takes the left hand position on the front row of the scrum. A loose head prop traditionally wears the number 1 shirt.
    • MarkA mark is the place where the game will restart after a stoppage, such as where a scrum-offense or penalty offense occurred, or on the touchline where the ball went out of play (or where the ball was kicked in the case of ball-back). Marks are generally defined by the referee, or the touch judge when the ball leaves play by the touchline. Marks can also be defined by a defending player who executes a clean catch (catches the ball before it bounces or touches another player) of a ball kicked by an attacking player if the defender is standing within his/her own 22-metre zone or in-goal. The referee then awards that player a free kick which must be taken by that specific player. Marks can be called when the ball is cleanly caught following a kick by the opposition for any type of kick except a kick off or restart after a score. It is legal, though very unusual, to call a mark from a clean catch of a penalty kick.

    • Match officialsMatch Officials are the referee, the assistant referees and any fourth official appointed to a Competition Match.

    • MaulWhen a ball carrier is held up (without being tackled) by both an opposing player and a player from his own team, a maul is then considered formed. The offside line becomes the last foot of the last man on each side of the maul. Players can join in only from behind that teammate. Anyone who comes in from the sides will be penalised by the referee. Hands are allowed to be used in the maul. If either team deliberately collapses the maul then that side will be penalised by the referee. If the ball does not come out in a timely fashion, the referee will award a scrum to the team that did not take the ball into the maul. Mauls can only exist in the field of play.