Rugby Question: posistion names

I’ve started following Rugby a bit with the RWC on Fox Sports World nowadays, and I have a question about the position names:

Why is the name for #8’s position “Number 8”? Did it ever have a different name? Didn’t the position naming come before numbering the jerseys?

Some positions have multiple names, eg lock or second row for numbers 4 & 5, fly-half, out half or stand off for number 10. But as far as I am aware number 8 is the only name for number 8. Numbers 6, 7 and 8 are known collectively as the back row.

Some american websites also call the position 8-man, although I haven’t heard this term on this side of the atlantic.

According to one site:
He is called a number 8 for lack of a better name

The BBC site below can answer a lot of your questions aktep , and there is a World Cup thread elsewhere in IMHO I think. where you can ask if you got a specific problem.


I’ve looked at the BBC site (and lots of other sites).

But I can’t find out why anyone settled on “Number 8” (why not Tail, Push, Scooper, Rear, or something else?), or if the numbers preceeded position names.

I meant to start my post above by saying -in addition- to the cite from croakdale, the BBC site below…


From a women’s rugby FAQ, they list “number 8, eightman, last man and breakaway”. The only term I’m familiar with is 'Number 8". I’m guessing the last two terms comes from the fact that he’s at the back of a scrum and can breakaway for a run.


When my brother used to play this position, it was called ‘lock’. But back then, we called flankers ‘breakaways’.


To Agback:

Waa?! Flankers play in the number 6 & 7 jerseys, while numbers 5 & 6 are the locks.

Oh, sorry about that Agback - I just read your bio and I didn’t notice how old you are. I don’t know any of the historical terms for the #8 jersey, so your use of the word ‘lock’ wooshed me.

“Eighthman” is the name that I am most familier with for this position - which seems to be a South African term, although “Number 8” is sometimes used…


Yeah, “lock”, “second row” and “wing forward” were used - in the days of the 3-2-3 scrum formation - for what are now “No. 8”, “lock” and “flanker” respectively.

The last man in a Rugby League scrum (6 forwards in a 3-2-1 formation) is just called a “loose forward” - he’s the only one that is “loose” in that set-up.

Gratuitous piece of information: Antipodeans have used the terms “first five-eighth” and “second five-eight” for “fly-half” and “inside centre” respectively for years. OTOH, even in England we designate centres as “inside” and “outside” rather than “left” and “right” so in effect we use the five-eighth system whether we call it so or not.

Can’t speak for othe Antipodeans but I’ve haven’t heard of first/second five-eight, but have heard first receiver (the 5/8th) and second receiver (usually the inside centre).

The terms inside and outside centres were derived from traditional alignments.

The move to left and right centres reflects that coaches/players are now positioning one centre on either side of the ruck/breakdown.

The positioning has been taken from the defensive formations used in rugby league. In league they are both termed “the centres” and tend to vary which plays inside/outside/left/right.

G’day Woolly,

Sounds like the wheel’s turning, then. I think the NZs were the first to come up with the five-eighths system and we Poms took ages to catch up with the notion of having distinct roles for the two centres (or second five/centre, depending which you call it).

Mind you, this was back in the days when full-backs weren’t extra wingers and wingers weren’t extra full-backs and… I guess backs’ positions with the exception of scrum-half are getting ever more generalised.

mumbles on for a while about how the game was when he learned it at school in the Seventies

Ah yes the seventies…back in the days when Wales used to play Rugby Union…