RUGBY TERMINOLOGY: A concise list of terminologies of rugby. You will find 100s of rugby terms and definitions used by players and officials, all listed from A to Z.
Rugby players and competition referees can use this vocabulary of rugby terminology. The titles and common match rulings will also help spectators and sports fans.
The official rugby rules and regulations is a good place to start if you are learning to play. These rugby key words cover the advanced lingo and sports terms related to the game.
Shoot through to the most common rugby terms by clicking the alphabetic facility below. Or, take a timeout and sharpen your knowledge and understanding of the game.
This comprehensive list of rugby terms and meanings continues to grow. Check in often for more information associated to rugby playing techniques and match-winning strategies.
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A – Accidental Offside
In rugby union terms, a deliberate offside gets penalised. However, the referee often allows play to continue without a penalty.
This may occur if the offside position was accidental (not deliberate) and does not create an advantage for the team in possession of the ball.
What does advantage mean in a list of common rugby terms A-Z?
The referee applies advantage by allowing play to continue despite an obvious infringement of the rules for certain circumstances.
The ‘All Blacks‘ team is a term used by the national rugby team of New Zealand. They are famous for the terrifying energy and awe in their All Black Haka rugby chant.
B – Ball
The inflatable four-panelled oval or egg shaped rugby ball measures 11 to 12 inches long with an end to end circumference of 30 – 31 inches.
The narrower middle circumference measures 23-24 inches. Rugby balls are usually made from leather or synthetic material and weigh close to 15 ounces.
The ball is meant to be manipulated with the hands or the feet and it is carried, passed laterally, and kicked.
The ball may be changed during the game if it becomes necessary; however players must use the same ball for a goal or penalty kick before changing it.
Ball (or player) Touching the Referee
If a player contacts the referee or the ball touches his body, if he determines that there is no advantage, he can allow play to continue. If advantage is gained through contact with the referee he orders a scrummage.
The Bledisloe Cup Trophy is awarded each year to the winner of the Test match series between Australia and New Zealand.
In rugby union terms, the blindside is also known as the ‘weakside‘. It refers to the narrowest side of the field or pitch in relation to a scrum or a breakdown in general play.
The term means two or more rugby players have bound together using at least one arm in the linkage.
C – Calcutta Cup
Scotland and England contest each year for the famous Calcutta Cup trophy during the Rugby Six Nation Championships.
The rugby carries definition refers to a scrum offence. The infringement is committed within 5 meters of the try line, or a player carries the ball over his own try line and then continues to touch it down.
In such instances, the referee awards a scrum on the five meter line. This ruling is to prevent the most brutal packs driving the ball over the try line within the scrum.
Rugby conversion rules are a set piece of play which follow a try. The ball is a placed and kicked towards the goal posts from the 25 yard line and perpendicular to where the try was grounded. A successful conversion is worth two points to the attacking team.
D – Dead Ball
A ‘dead ball‘ is one of the terms in rugby union used most by the officials. The definition of a dead ball is the time when play stops or a situation following an unconverted try.
The dead-ball line the marks the end of each in-goal area.
Drop Goal Points
Three points are awarded for a drop goal in rugby union. A half-volley drop goal is made by dropping the rugby ball from your hands to the ground and the kicking it between the goal posts and above the crossbar.
A drop kick uses the half-volley technique to kick the ball from the ground. The player drops the ball from their hands and kicks it as it rebounds from the ground.
Committing an offense in-goal or placing the dead ball in-goal by the defending team results in a drop out. The drop out is a kick on or behind the 25 yard line and the opposing must not move over the line during the kick.
Making a successful drop kick over the opponent’s crossbar is termed a drop goal resulting in three points for the scorers.
E – Eggcatcher
Eggcatcher is one of the largest online rugby equipment shops in the United Kingdom. Eggcatchers stock over 1,000s of rugby product lines including rugby boots, rugby shorts, rugby protection and replica rugby paraphernalia.
Egg Chaser (egg chasing)
The rugby term egg chaser refers to ‘egg chasing’ players who play the game with a ball which is an oval shape ‘egg shaped’. Even though some people see the phrase ‘egg chasers’ as derogatory, in general it is meant to be nothing more than friendly banter exchanged between different sports fans.
England National Rugby Union Team
The England national rugby union team represents England in rugby union international championships and tournaments.
Specialised pieces of equipment used in rugby are required to increase safety and to add enjoyment to the game.
Rugby Union is a physical full-contact sport, and as such the players use proper protective gear and paraphernalia to reduce injuries from crunching tackles and crushing knocks during the games.
F – Fair Catch
You are only allowed to make a fair catch of the ball either inside your own 25 yard zone or the in-goal area.
You must make the catch from the direct kick and clearly shout ‘Mark’. A successful fair catch results in a free kick and is also a legal way of stopping play.
A rugby field measures 109 yards long by 77 yards wide with an in-goal zone of 11to 27 yards wide. The field substrate playing area must be grass, clay, sand, or a synthetic surface.
Fifteen Meter Line (15m)
The 15 meter line runs parallel to the touch line and 15 meters from it. Players are not allowed to stand behind this line during a line-out.
The first row is a group made up of the hooker and two props. First rows meet in the scrum and try to prevent the opponent from moving the ball forward.
Five Meter Line
The 5 meter line runs parallel to the touch line and 5 meters from it marking the position of the first player in a line-out formation.
Five Nations Championship
The Five Nations Championship was a league format annual tournament from January to March. The contesting teams were England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and France. In 2000 Italy joined the competition now making it a Six Nations Championship.
A small post with a flag on top is located where the touch line meets the dead ball line, the goal line, the 22 meter line, and the halfway line. The flag marks the outer edges of the playing field.
The flank is the third-row position to the right of the no. 8 forward. Flanks use power and speed to play offensive and defensive roles.
Playing a third-row position to the left of the no. 8 forward. This player combines power with speed to play offensive and defensive roles.
Striking, tripping, or kicking an opposing rugby player is deemed to be a foul. Penalties are also given for dangerous tackles or obstruction of a player who is not in possession of the ball.
Free kicks are granted after minor infringements or after a fair catch. Drop goals are not allowed from a free kick.
The fullback is a position in front of the goal and fullbacks are the last line of defense for an opponent attempting to score a try.
G – Gain Line
In rugby terminology, the wording ‘gain line‘ is a hypothetical line. The rugby frequently asked questions section covers the information in more detail.
But, the gain line is the distance beyond which the attacking team must progress to gain territory and as a rule it occurs after a set piece or a breakdown in play.
Also known as ‘An Up & Under’, Garryowen is a slang term named after an Irish Rugby Club with the same name. It describes a high lofted kick used to give the forwards time to get under the ball during its flight.
Kicking the ball over the crossbar and between the two upright goal posts of the opposing team is called a goal. Goals are allowed from a conversion kick, a penalty kick, or a dropkick. It also refers to the frame consisting of two uprights and a crossbar.
The goal line marks the start of the in-goal zone.
The Goal Post and its padding are considered to be in the in-goal area even though the padding extends into the field of play. So a try can be awarded by grounding the ball against the padding in the field of play.
Winning all your matches in the Six Nations Tournament is called a Grand Slam.
H – Haka
The All Blacks Haka ritual is a traditional and motivating Maori dance performed on the field by New Zealand rugby teams before the match begins.
Half Way Line
The half way line separates the field into two sides, one for each team. The kickoff takes place on the halfway line.
Heading the Ball
Heading the rugby ball is allowed according to the rules of the game but it is a maneuver that is rarely used by the payers.
A high tackle is one which makes contact above the player’s shoulder and is an illegal tackle which is penalized by the match referee.
The rugby ball holder and kicking tee is platform molded on all sides to make a brim around an inner depression. It is most commonly used as a rugby ball stand.
Kicking Tee holders are manufacture in a vast range of attractive colors and innovative designs using durable, sturdy and genuine material.
It is also possible to buy a rugby ball holder in a variety of customized designs, embossed or imprinted with designer logos as required by corporate and individual clients.
The Home Nations is a collective term for the teams of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
The hooker plays the position between the two props. A hooker attempts to gain possession of the ball in a scrum and to kick it back to teammates.
I – In-goal
The goal posts are inside the in-goal zone which is bordered by the touch in-goal lines, the goal line, and the dead-ball line. A try is scored in the in-goal and worth five points when the player grounds the ball in the opposing in goal zone.
J – Jersey
Rugby jerseys are flexible garments covering the upper body often featuring the team emblem and the player’s name and number.
In rugby union terms a jockstrap is a tough plastic padding worn as underwear and an athletic support. The tightly fitting high-padded material helps to support and protect a player’s sex organs while playing this highly physical ball sport.
Jock straps and pelvic protectors are forbidden in some sports but wearing one is strongly encouraged especially in some junior leagues.
K – Kickoff
A kickoff always starts and restarts the game from the center of the field and kicked towards the opposing 10 meter line. Play restarts following the half-time interval and after a team score a try.
The kickoff still takes place even if the wind blows the ball backwards. The opposition are allowed to play on (if they choose) even if the ball does not travel the required distance.
In rugby terminology a ‘knock on’ happens when a player accidentally mishandles the ball. If it travels forwards and towards the opposition’s dead-ball line off your hands or arms it may be adjudged as a knock on.
You can attempt to regain control of the ball but if it touches another player or contacts the ground it is a “knock on” and play will be stopped as a rule.
L – Left Center
Left center is a ‘back’ position near the left wing. He should be an excellent passer because this player challenges opposing centers and breaks down their defense.
A ‘back’ who covers the left side of the field and uses his speed and agility to thwart opponents and score points.
When the ball goes out of bounds a line-out is usually used to return it into play. During the line-out, the ball is thrown from the pitch sideline between and above two lines of forward players from each team.
Line through the Mark
Regarding rugby phrases, the line through the mark is a line which is parallel to the touch line.
This is a second-row position on the right of the field. One of the lock forward’s roles is to recover the ball during line-outs, rucks, and mauls.
Loose Head Prop
The loose head prop plays a forward positioned left of the hooker. This player supports the hooker in a scrum and pushes the opponent to gain field advantage.
Lying On or near the Ball
Regarding rugby words and phrases, players are not allowed to lie on or near the ball.
M – Mark
Players may choose to make the ‘mark’ by shouting ‘MARK’ as they catch a high ball either inside their own ‘in-goal’ area or inside their 22 meters.
Players from both teams create a rugby maul by encircling the one with the ball attempting to gain ground. If the ball hits the ground or the ball holder emerges from the group, then that becomes the end of the maul. The referee may also end a maul by calling for a scrummage.
Micro Rugby (tag rugby)
Mini Rugby and micro Rugby sessions are the ideal way to give your child an extra edge in rugby. Micro Rugby is a not a full contact sport with crunching tackles like professional rugby rules.
Micro Rugby, often called tag rugby, is where it all starts. Get your tots in action from 4 to 11 learning about the sport at micro rugby level. When tots play tag rugby they learn about safety and enjoyment, and most definitely in that order.
N – No’ 8
Number eight plays the third-row position between the two flank forwards. This player relays the ball from the forwards to the halfs when play is in progress.
A standard rugby union team formation shows the player positions and their respective numbers. There are 15 players on each team, comprising eight forwards (numbered 1–8) and seven backs (numbered 9–15).
O – Obstruction
In rugby words, obstruction is an offense committed by a player who;
- Charges opposing players using something other than the shoulders
- Deliberately blocks a player in an offside position
- Attempts to force through their front team members while carrying the ball
- Tries to block an opposing player from moving around a scrum or ruck
A player is offside when he is in front of his team member who has possession of the ball. The referee penalises an offside by awarding a free kick or a scrum. The player returns from an offside position when the ball holder kicks the ball in front of the offside teammate or moves forward of the offending player.
Staying behind the player who has possession of the ball means you are onside and not offside.
In rugby terms A to Z the openside refers to the broadest side of the field or pitch in relation to a scrum or a breakdown in general play.
P – Peeling Off
Peeling off describes the players movement following a line-out as the ball is knocked back and they spread laterally across the pitch.
A successful penalty goal is worth three points and results from a goal kick. Penalty goals which pass through the goal posts are allowed even if the ball strikes the posts, the crossbar, or gets swept back in the air.
A penalty kick results from a foul. Penalty kicks are taken as a kick, a scrum, or a drop kick. Any player on the awarded team may take the penalty kick but the rest of the team must be behind the ball when the kick is taken. The opposing team should be a minimum of 11 yards from the kick spot.
The rugby ref may award a penalty try if the defending team commits foul play during the attacking team’s attempt to score a try.
A phase in rugby union refers to the time at which the ball is in play and between breakdowns. The first rugby phase would be winning the ball at the lineout, followed by a pass to a centre player who is then tackled, for example.
The second phase would be winning the ball back from the ensuing breakdown and then beginning the attack once more.
A place kick means placing the ball at rest on the ground before kicking it.
Playing positions on a rugby pitch, much like all the different shapes and sizes of the players themselves, they all fulfill many different roles and have varying responsibilities towards the game and the team.
Whether you are tall and thin or short and stocky, there is always an important role and a mantle or appropriate position for you to play.
Rugby matches play for 80 minutes. Usually, a 15 minute interval separates two 40-minute halves and allows the teams to change ends at halftime. Stoppage time is added to each end of the half in which it occurred.
Playing Time Lost
The referee used to add extra time if time was lost because a player makes a move and does not see it through. However, the referee now stops the clock according to new rugby regulations.
In rugby union terminology ‘popping’ is considered a dangerous and illegal move. Popping is when a front-row player lifts an opposing player off their feet. This usually happens during a ruck or a maul.
The sport of Rugby Union abandoned its amateur status in time for the 1997 season when it became fully professional.
A punt is a volleyed ball kick after it has been released from the hands.
Q – Quarterfinal
A match or round of a tournament that precedes the semifinal.
R – Referee
The rugby referee is the official responsible for applying the rules. Referees keeps track of time, signal for infractions, and they can expel a player from a game.
A back who is positioned near the right wing. This player should be an excellent passer because he challenges opposing centers and breaks down the defense.
A ‘back’ who is positioned on the right of the field. Backs use speed and agility to thwart opponents and score points.
A ruck is a set piece where several linking players from both teams encircle the ball on the ground trying to gain advantage by kicking the ball with their feet. Players on both teams pile on top of a ruck to gain possession of it.
Rugby boots should provide good traction and must conform to certain rugby equipment regulations including the stud size. The small spikes must be circular and the length of any studs must not exceed ¾ inch. The basal diameter of each stud must not exceed l/2 inch and the boots cannot have a single stud at the toe.
S – Scoring
The scoring system in rugby involves several methods. A successful try earns the team five points and a drop goal or a penalty kick earns three points. A conversion kick earns an extra two points following a try.
A scrummage restarts play following a rule infringement. A minimum of eight players from each team form a scrum by joining and interlocking together around the ball. The interlocked front row try to control the ball as it is passed in to the tunnel formed by the forwards.
A scrum half position acts as a link between the forwards and the backs. This player recovers the ball in a scrum and mounts the attack for the team.
The second row is a group made up of two forwards and their main role is to support the first row in a scrum.
The rugby sevens game plays out on a standard rugby union pitch. But, rugby 7s rules and regulations have some differences to the union game.
A visit to the rugby sin bin is to be avoided at all costs because your team will be a man down for some of the match. A sin bin is the bench area where players are sent as a punishment for committing a yellow card offence. Offending players must sit out for 10 minutes while the game continues without them.
Six Nations Championship
Rugby Union Six Nations ‘RBS sponsored’ Championship is a battle to crown the international tournament champion each year around February to March.
This is a position acting as a link between the scrum half and the backs. A stand-off half is usually an excellent strategist because this player directs the team’s offense.
A substitute is a player who starts the match on the bench and may be used later on the pitch. A maximum of seven player substitutions are allowed in a rugby game.
Rugby Union allows two types of substitutes who may be used as either a temporary or a permanent replacement. Temporary substitutes mostly replace any player who has been sent to the blood-bin.
They must return to the substitute’s bench when the injured player has returned to open play. They become a permanent sub if the injured player has not returned to the ground within 15 minutes.
A permanent substitute is a direct replacement for a player on the pitch. Rugby laws do not allow substituted players to return to the pitch.
T – Tackle
A complete tackle occurs when either the ball or the player with the ball is brought to the ground. If the player’s knees land on the ground then he has been successfully tackled and he must release the ball.
There are 15 players in a rugby union team.
Ten Meter Line (10m)
The 10 meter line is parallel to the halfway line and 10 meters from it marking the minimum distance the ball must travel during the kickoff.
The third row is a group made up of the no. 8 forward and the two flank forwards. The third row is the last line of players in a scrum.
Tight Head Prop
A forward positional player to the right of the hooker. The tight head prop supports the hooker in the scrum and pushes the opponent forward to gain field advantage.
The team captains toss a coin before the start of the game to decide who kicks off and who will choose which half of the pitch to take.
The ball is in touch when it connects with the touch line or goes over the touch line. The ball may be kicked or carried there by a player.
Grounding the ball in the in-goal is a touch-down. Players can use their hands to make the touch-down or they can cover the ball on the ground with their upper body.
Rugby Union matches require two touch judges positioned on each side of the field to assist the referee with his officiating. The official role of a touch judge includes signaling when the ball leaves the field of play and when a field goal is scored (the ball passes between the goals posts and over the crossbar).
Touch lines run along the sides of the playing field. When the ball crosses this line, it is thrown back into play by a line-out.
Traditionally, the Tri Nations was a test competition played each year between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Since Argentina joined, it is currently called the Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship or more commonly, the 4 Nations.
The Triple Crown is awarded to any of the four Home Nations which beat the other three home nations during the Six Nations Rugby Union Tournament.
Truck and Trailer
Perhaps better known as ‘obstruction in the maul’ but the rugby phrase ‘truck and trailer’ is also used commonly in the game. Truck and trailer is defined as a player acting as a screen, which usually blocks tacklers from reaching the ball carrier.
Some devious players circumvent these regulations in rugby union when two or more team-mates move forwards while binding around the ball together. Rugby referees often allow the maul to continue providing the tackler has a fair opportunity to compete for the ball.
A try is the term used to describe a player grounding the ball in the opponent’s goal area and is worth five points.
Twenty Two Meter Line (22m)
The 22 meter line is parallel to the goal line and 22 meters from it and the place where the ball is put back into play after a kickoff.
U – Up & Under
The Up and Under, also known as Garryowen or Bomb, is where a team kicks the ball forward and high (Up) with the aim of disrupting the oppositions defensive line while having time to get (Under) the ball.
Use It or Lose It
Regarding rugby phrases, if players fail to drive the maul forward the match official will intervene as a rule. Shouting the phrase ‘use it or lose it’ to the team in possession directs them to pass the ball within a five-seconds. Failing to release the ball gives the referee little option but to call a scrum.
V – Vest
Rugby vests are perfect for wearing when you are out training, in the gym, or simply chilling out at home.
W – Wheelchair Rugby
Wheelchair Rugby is a unique physical team sport for male and female athletes with some paralyzing disabilities such as tetraplegia or quadriplegia.
The IWRF sport-specific equipment modifications and basic rules for playing rugby while seated in a quad chair combine regulatory laws of handball, basketball, and ice hockey.
Wheeling the Scrum
Regarding rugby terms and commonly used phrases, wheeling the scrum means turning around by more than 90 degrees (a quarter-circle). The referee halts play for wheeling the scrum and followed by a repeat formation of the scrum.
The wooden spoon is considered as a mock and figuratively awarded to the last-placed nation at the end of the rugby union Six Nations Tournament.
The Rugby World Cup is a knockout tournament between the world’s top rugby teams and held every four years. The Web Ellis Cup is awarded to the winner of the Rugby World Cup competition.
X – Xbox One
A rugby video game where the weather gets players muddy and plays a large part in the gameplay. The wind affects the projection of the ball and rain causes the pitch to deform.
Y – Yoga Rugby
OK so practicing some basic yoga rules and regulations may not be in the ‘tough sports‘ league. Even so, yoga is becoming an increasingly important aspect in rugby training.
Z – Zoo League
We struggled to find a ‘Z‘ for this rugby glossary of words. But, Zoo Sport Rugby league sponsors certain fixtures, rugby news, player kits and sporting events.
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