Scrum Half # 9: Rugby Positions Explained

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The scrum-half’s basic role is to deliver the ball from the base of the scrum, ruck or maul to spark the backline, but that is too simplistic and ignores hundreds of other key characteristics.

The traditional skills of passing and kicking are obviously important and you need a broad range of those skills.

A scrum-half needs to be able to deliver the ball not just from the base but however it comes at him, whether that is over the head or through the legs.

And kicking is not just all about the traditional box kick. It’s little grubbers along the floor, or long punts or quick tap penalties.

Other elements such as defence, organising how the forwards links with the backs, man-management, decision-making, staying on your feet and minimising your time at the bottom of rucks also make up the scrum-half armoury.

But one of the most important attributes of a good scrum half is a natural instinct and confidence, though sadly these are quite often coached out of players in favour of the basics.

I don’t mean you have to be a fantastic public speaker or have that first-on-the-dancefloor confidence. It’s about being confident in your understanding of how the team are trying to play and being able to implement those ideas as an individual.

If a scrum half just shovels the ball out time and again, he isn’t a threat and as soon as he’s not a threat, the focus of the opposition back row and inside backs goes on the fly-half.

Good scrum-halves like Scotland’s Mike Blair and Chris Cusiter and Wales’ Dwayne Peel have all the traditional skills but you can’t take your eyes off them for a moment because if you do, they’re through the gap and gone and they’ve got the pace to finish.

Having that threat creates more room for their own backline because the opposition back row have to check for a split-second to see what they might have up their sleeves.

But you have to understand when to make breaks and when to pass and that comes from instinct and experience.

Number 8 #8: Rugby Postions Explained

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Number 8

The number 8’s duties are similar to his loose forward team-mates – to tackle, carry and provide the backs support in breaks.

The Number 8 also has the added responsibility of securing possession at the base of the scrum.

The number 8 should have a psychological advantage over the opposing scrum-half, the little guys who are like big roosters!

Former South Africa scrum-half Joost van der Weisthuizen was a classic. He would come up to you at the back of a scrum and say ‘I’m going to get this ball off you’ – well, that’s one of the nicer things he would say!

A number 8 has such an important role to release wingers, the fly-half and full-back.

Personally I don’t think enough teams use the base of the scrum as an attacking option in the modern game.

You don’t necessarily have good footballing skills, but you have to have a good awareness of creating space.

When you’re looking at the ball at the base of the scrum you must have that innate sense of position, of knowing where your team-mates are.

By Zinzan Brooke
Former New Zealand number 8

Positions Explained - Loose Head Prop

Loose & Tight Head Prop #1 & #3: Rugby Postions Explained

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Positions Explained - Loose Head Prop

A prop’s main role is to scrummage, support in the line-out, tackle and hit the rucks and mauls.

No matter how fast and powerful the game becomes, a prop will always be a prop.

The difference nowadays is that props also have to be able to catch, time a pass to put team-mates into space and run.

Many top props are now very powerful runners and you may even see the odd sidestep.

The tight-head prop is very much the fulcrum. He anchors the whole scrum and is destructive in a negative sense.

He will be trying to put the opposition loose-head under pressure.

The primary role of the loose-head, on the other hand, is to look after the hooker so he can get a clean strike at the ball, but these days loose-heads have to be destructive too.

The tight-head plays on the right of the front-row and mainly uses the right-hand side of his body, whereas the loose-head’s left side dominates.

Because of this it is fairly rare to find someone who can excel at both.

To be a good prop, you’ve really got to enjoy the position – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, putting your head where it hurts.

It’s possibly the only true position on the field where you actually have a one-on-one with your opposite number and I relished that aspect of it.

You need to love that confrontational challenge to get the most out of it.

England’s Phil Vickery is an example of a perfect modern loose head prop.

He’s a fantastic scrummager, great in the line-out because he is quite tall, he has good hands, contributes all around the park and regularly tops the tackle count.

By Jason Leonard 
Former England and Lions prop