What Does The Back Position In Rugby Do?

Rugby backs make up the rest of the players not involved in the scrum. Backs are usually smaller and more athletic. They play behind the forwards and try to build up speed to exploit spaces in the opposing defense. On defense, they will try to stop the opposing team's backs from using their speed to exploit these holes.

Rugby Backs

The seven players that play on a rugby union team that are not directly involved in scrums are called backs. There are five types of backs:

  • Scrum Half
  • Fly Half
  • Wingers
  • Centers
  • Full-back

There is one scrum half, one fly half, two wingers, two centers and one full-back usually on the field. The backs, like the forwards, have both offensive and defensive duties. Backs are mostly smaller than forwards and rely on athleticism and speed more than power.

Scrum Half

Usually the smallest player on the field, the scrum half initiates most of the play. They are responsible for putting the ball into the scrum, getting it out and then passing the ball in either direction to their fly half or forwards to start an attacking move.

Fly Half

The fly half is the most important player on an offensive team. After a scrum, lineout, ruck, or maul, the fly half will often receive the ball from the scrum half and be tasked with initiating a move. That usually involves passing to one of their team's centers, kicking for territory or for a drop goal, or running with the ball themselves. The fly half will also take any penalty kicks or conversions. We learned about kicking during the scoring tutorial.

During a defensive series, the fly half will direct their backs to make sure that their defensive line is set. They are looking to see where an opposing attack is coming from and try to stop it before space opens up.

Pro Tip: Collectively, the scrum half and fly half used to be referred to as the half back (or half backs).


Wingers are positioned at the ends of each attacking and defensive line. They are usually the fastest players on the team because they are used to exploit space created at the end of the lines.

During a defensive series, wingers need their pace to try to catch opposing wingers who have managed to break free. They are often one of the last lines of defense as play often breaks down close to the touchlines.


Both centers are used heavily in offensive moves to try to create space. They will often receive the ball from their fly half after a scrum, lineout, maul, or ruck and run at the defensive line in an attempt to break through or draw defenders in order to create space for other players.

The inside center is used more as the decoy while the outside center will be used when space has been created to try to break through. The inside center will also sometimes be asked to kick if the fly half has been tackled or has been pulled away by an opposing offense or defense.

Full Backs

Full backs are often referred to as the 'last line of defense.' Like their name suggests, They are the furthest back man on both offensive and defensive series, mostly waiting to catch kicks or provide support where needed.

They have a variety of skills including pace, kicking, catching, and tackling. They must be versatile as they are asked to help in many areas depending on a teams' strategy.