What Are Some Basic Rugby Terms And Lingo To Know?

Rugby Lingo and Terminology

Rugby is an extremely popular sport worldwide, being played by over 10 million and watched by over 500 million in 128 countries. While it is extremely popular abroad, many Americans have limited knowledge of the sport. However, once the terminology, lingo, and gameplay are learned, it is an easy and fun sport to be a part of. Read on to learn more about the terminology and lingo in rugby.

Rugby Terms for Beginners

There are lots of terms in rugby that are important to understand to play the game. If you’re new to the sport of rugby or are looking to teach others how to play, check out these terms!

Team: A rugby team is made up of 15 players: eight forwards and seven backs. Two teams compete for territory on offense or tackle the other team on defense in order for their team to score the most points over a period of 80 minutes.

Pitch: A name for the playing field in rugby, typically consisting of all grass. The standard rugby union size pitch is generally 100 meters long by 70 meters wide.

Offense: The offense in rugby is made up of eight forwards with the ultimate goal of scoring points. These forwards generally wear numbers 1-8. The offense must stay behind the ball carrier in open play or else they will be deemed offsides. Players can move the ball on offense by running, kicking, or passing it, but the ball can only be passed backward or laterally.

Tackle: A tackle occurs when the offensive player carrying the ball is held by one or more opponents and is fully brought to the ground.

Scoring: Points can be scored in four different ways: a try, conversion, drop goal, or penalty kick. Each method is worth a specific amount of points.

Try: A try is worth five points and is scored when a player grounds the ball on or beyond the opposite team's try line.

Conversion: A conversion attempt happens after a try is scored and is worth two points. For a conversion, the player must kick the ball in between the goal posts and over the crossbar.

Drop Goal: A drop goal is worth three points happens when the ball hits the ground and is then kicked between the goal posts by a player in open play.

Penalty Kick: A penalty kick is awarded when the opposing team makes an infraction, the offense then has the ability to kick the ball through the goal posts for two points.

Defense: The defense in rugby is made up of seven backs, with the goal to stop the opposing offense and regain control of the ball. These backs generally wear numbers 9-15. Defenders can tackle opponents anywhere below the shoulders, but players must use their arms in the tackle and dangerous tackles such as leading with the shoulders or high contact are not allowed.

Rugby Terms for Coaches

As a coach in rugby, you should be familiar with the basic parts of the game. Here are some more advanced terms you should know as a coach.

Ruck: A ruck happens directly after the offensive player is tackled by the defense; once the tackle occurs, play continues. As soon as the ball carrier touches the ground he must release the ball, while the tackler must simultaneously release the ball carrier to avoid interfering with the ball.  Immediately as this happens, teammates from both sides rush to the ball, link together, and push against their opponent in order to gain control of the ball. Players may only join the ruck from directly behind their teammates, not from the sides. Ideally, the offensive ball carrier aims to place the ball behind him and towards his teammates before the ensuing ruck to give them an advantage.

Maul: Similar to a ruck, a maul is formed by three or more members of a team pushing together to gain territory on the field. In a maul, once the tackle occurs all players must remain standing on their feet while linking together. The ball will be carefully handed to a player at the back of the maul while both offense and defense use their strength to attempt to push the other side back and gain more territory. If no forward progress is gained within five seconds of the maul starting then a stoppage will occur and a scrum will be ordered.

Scrum: Similar to a maul, except a scrum is ordered after a stoppage in play. A scrum includes eight players from each team. The player’s jersey numbers correspond to their position in the scrum. The scrum’s setup and steps will be signaled by the referee and various penalties tend to happen during scrums.

Lineout: To restart play, when the ball goes out of bounds, a lineout happens. In a lineout, two teams form parallel lines perpendicular to the sideline and the team in control of the ball designates a player to throw the ball in bounds. The thrower must follow a technique that uses two hands and throwing the ball over their head. Each team will lift a player into the air and attempt to grab the ball. After one team controls the ball, normal play is resumed.

Advantage: The period of time after an infraction occurs in which the non-offending side has the opportunity to gain territory or tactical opportunity that would negate the need to stop the game due to the infringement. The referee will signal advantage; if no advantage is gained then the referee will whistle and stop play.

Breakdown: The period immediately after a tackle and the ensuing ruck. The teams compete for the possession of the ball during this time. Most infringements occur during breakdowns.

Blood Replacement: A blood replacement occurs when a player sustains an injury that results in them bleeding badly and needing replacement. The replacement player is allowed on the field for 15 minutes while the injured is treated. If this time passes and the injured player has not returned then the injured player is not allowed back in the game.

Penalty: Disciplinary action placed on a player for committing an infringement. The team who did not receive the penalty is awarded possession of the ball and will receive a penalty kick.

Rugby Lingo and Slang

There are many different terms involved with the game of rugby. It can be difficult to keep up with all the lingo and slang, but here are some terms to help.

Blindside: The narrow side of the pitch compared to the scrum or breakdown. Opposite of the open side.

Haka: A traditional war dance from the Maori in New Zealand, popularized in the sport by the New Zealand rugby team.

Gate: A space formed by imaginary lines that are the width of the tackled player. All players entering a ruck should “come through the gate” or directly from behind to avoid a penalty.

Hospital Pass: A pass that puts the passers teammate in danger of injury.

Knock on: Dropping the ball in a forward direction. If this is done intentionally it can result in a penalty.

Sin Bin: The place where players who receive a yellow card are sent to sit for 10 minutes.


What is a touchdown called in rugby?

A touchdown in rugby is called a try. When an offensive player grounds the ball on or beyond the opposing team’s try line, they are awarded five points. Similar to football, there are a few ways to add extra points after a successful try through a conversion or a drop goal.