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Positions Guide

Olly Barkley of England attacks with teammates

Photo: Getty Images

A rugby team is split into eight forwards and seven backs, and these two units fulfill two very distinct roles. As such they tend to have different physical strengths and weaknesses – the forwards generally possess more power, strength and physical presence, while the backs can boast speed, acceleration and creativity. 

As former Australian international Patrick Fitzsimmons summed it up: “Rugby backs can be identified because they generally have clean shirts and identifiable partings in their hair. Forwards are gnarled and scarred creatures who have a propensity for running into and bleeding all over each other.” 

At the highest level of the modern game the physical distinction between forwards and backs has become more blurred as each set of players has become more mobile and more physical respectively. However, there are still very well defined differences in the roles that individual players have within the team. The navigation panel on the left provides a basic guide to each position and outlines the natural attributes that each player needs to excel.


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