There are seven backs in a rugby team and they wear the shirts numbered No 9 through to No 15. The backs comprise three smaller units, the half backs, the centres, and the back three and we will discuss each in more detail below. In very basic terms the role of the backs is to take the ball won by the forwards and score points, either by running or kicking the ball.
- The Half Backs
The Scrum-half is the heartbeat of the team. He provides the vital link between the forwards and the backs and is involved in just about every facet of play.
Usually a relatively small player in stature, the scrum-half is a playmaker, and it is crucial that he has excellent communication skills. He must be able to marshal the forward pack, coaching them at the rucks and mauls as to where to drive, body position etc.
He must also be able to deliver a variety of passes off both hands (spin, dive, and pop), kick effectively, preferably with both feet, and have the vision, acceleration and confidence to make sniping breaks around the fringes. In short he must pose a constant threat by varying his game which will focus the attention of the opposition back row.
The scrum-half is responsible for putting the ball into the scrum and collecting the ball at the lineout and must have superb handling skills and the ability to deal with bad ball should it come his way.
On top of all that the scrum-half must be a solid defender able to bring down big forwards in close and make covering tackles as a last line of defence.
The fly-half is variously known throughout the rugby world as the stand-off, outside-half, out-half, 5/8 and 1st 5/8. He orchestrates both the defence and the attack of the backs, and this role needs to be filled by a player who is an excellent communicator, quick thinking, and capable of making big tactical decisions under pressure.
He must read the game well, have finely-tuned spatial awareness along with first-class handling skills, and the ability to put a team-mate through a gap. The fly-half should have explosive speed and be an accomplished kicker off both feet.
The days of the none tackling fly-half are long gone and it is now a necessity that he is solid in defence as the channel between fly-half and inside centre is one that is oft-targeted.
To really shine as a fly-half it is also a must to have a spark of ingenuity and the ability to change the course of the game with a moment of brilliance.
- The Centres
No.12 and No.13 Centres
Most teams adopt the inside and outside centre formation, however occasionally you will see sides have their centres play left and right. All centres must have a good all-round game, have an excellent pass off both hands and be strong and committed tacklers. It is critical that the centres build up a rapport and develop cohesion, particularly in defence.
The inside centre is normally the bigger and stronger of the two, and it is still as necessary as it ever was that he has no hesitation taking the ball into contact and attacking the gain line. Ball retention in the tackle is crucial, as is aggressive head on tackling in defence. Added to that the inside centre is expected to assist with cleaning out defenders at the breakdown. It is said in some quarters that that there is little to choose between an inside centre and an openside flanker (except that the former tends to be a little prettier!).
The modern game also sees the inside centre take on the responsibilities of a back-up kicker and for that reason is known in New Zealand as the 2nd 5/8.
The outside centre is often the smaller but quicker of the two, who is able to make breaks, draw defenders and put the wingers and full-back into space. The ball handling and passing skills of the outside centre are likely to be superior to his inside counterpart.
- The Back Three
The back three refers to the two wings and the full back. These players must communicate and work well as a threesome, especially in defence. Wings often play some of their rugby at full-back and vice versa.
No.11 and No.14 Wings
Normally the quickest two players on the team, the wings can either play left and right, or blind and open. The left wing usually wears the No.11 shirt and the right wing the No.14.
The main responsibility of the wings is to finish attacking moves and score tries. Nowadays wings really do come in all shapes and sizes, but they all possess one extremely valuable weapon; raw speed. Dependant on the physique of the wing he may use the side-step and swerve to beat the man if he is slight, or strength and power to take on his opponent and break the line if he is bigger. Good ball retention skills are also a necessity for all wings.
They must also have good handling skills, be able to use a variety of kicks, be comfortable under the high ball and be able to defend well.
An ability to read the game well, have vision and to know when to come in off the wing to provide midfield support is hugely beneficial.
The last line of defence and playing a sweeper role the full-back must be a top-drawer tackler and unfailingly safe under the high ball. He has to have the mental fortitude to execute these tasks often with no support. He also must possess a polished kicking game preferably off both feet taruhan bola.
The vision and confidence to counter attack are also prerequisites in modern rugby and the full-back must have the speed to be able to do so. The full-back is often required to join the line either between outside centre and wing, or outside the wing and therefore requires excellent handling skills.