7 Rugby Terms Everyone Should Know

Perhaps you’ve come across a Major League Rugby game being broadcast on cable and wondered what you were watching. It’s sort of like American football, you think, but it’s free flowing like soccer.

Why must they lateral, you ask yourself. Why do the players dog pile the ball carrier after every tackle? With the Major League Rugby’s championship game coming on July 7, any true sports fan must understand some rugby fundamentals.

Here is a list of the seven rugby terms everyone should know.

1. Try

The try is rugby’s touchdown, and it’s scored when a player crosses the opponent’s goal line and touches the ball to the ground. In Major League Rugby, the try is worth five points. As in American football, the scoring team attempts a conversion kick, which, if successful, adds two points for a total of seven points per try.
How to use: The Red team needs two tries to tie the game.

2. Knock-on

Unless it’s been kicked, the ball may not go forward, and when it does, the referee will stop play. Often a knock-on occurs when a player drops a pass or muffs a kick from the other team. A knock-on results in a scrum at the spot where the knock-on occurred.
How to use: If he hadn’t committed that knock-on, it was a guaranteed score.

3. Scrum

This is the set piece rugby is famous for. Sixteen large players binding themselves together and then pushing for all they’re worth. Scrums restart play after minor infractions like knock-ons. For example, if the Yellow team knocked-on the ball, the Red team would get the ball for the scrum. The team with the ball wins the vast majority of scrums.
How to use: That was a Yellow knock-on so it’s a scrum to Red.

4. Line-out

Rugby’s method for putting the ball back in play after it goes into touch, or out of bounds. Seven players from each side line up perpendicular to the sideline. If Red put the ball into touch, Yellow would get the ball. Yellow will have a player called a jumper to receive the ball. Red will attempt to spoil Yellow’s line-out and win the ball by predicting which player is the jumper.
How to use: If there were ever a good time to spoil a line-out, this is it.

5. Ruck

Rucks form when the ball carrier has been tackled. Rucks are similar to scrums in that each team attempts to push the other off the ball. The difference is that they form as part of the normal flow of play, and while they have a structure, they lack the regimented formality of the scrum. A maul is a ruck but the ball is held off the ground. Mauls often form after line-outs.
How to use: That was a good ruck by Red. They kept the ball.

6. Forwards

These are the big players, numbers one through eight. They form the scrum and line-outs and are the key players in rucks. The forwards will move the ball down the field through brute force, running the ball straight into the opposition, forming a ruck and repeating. They grunt a lot.
How to use: Man, the Red forwards are huge!

7. Backs

These players, numbers nine through 15, are speedy ball handlers who lateral the ball to one another as they seek space for running the ball through the opposition’s back line. Backs use speed and finesse to move the ball up the field, and they execute the kicking game. They score a lot of tries and receive a lot of glory.
How to use: Yellow’s backs are slicing through the Red line.

Knowing these seven terms will enhance your understanding of rugby and let you enjoy watching the game.

Glossary of Rugby Terms
Major League Rugby official website