Rugby Terms


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Here are some terms used in rugby...

Advantage Rule

One refs don't play enough. He allows play to continue after a foul if stopping would disadvantage the non-offending team.

Ankle Tap

Spectacular when they work, but in reality a last-ditch effort by an out-paced player to tackle an opponent by diving and slapping his ankle.


Play one badly and you'll be in tears. In polite terms, it's a kick where it really hurts.


Not your alter ego after too many beers, but the playing area nearest the touchline and next to a scrum, maul or ruck. Domain of loose forwards and scrumhalf.

Cauliflower Ear

Move over Elephant Man. A deformity of the ear caused by repeated blows and rubbing of the head in a scrum, particularly in the second row. Also rugby parlance for selective hearing by your rugby mates.

Clearance Kick

A defender faced with a marauding charge by rampaging forwards manages to stop his knees from shaking long enough to boot the ball as far as he can into touch.

Dummy Pass

No, not a bad pass that's wildly astray. Rather, it's a feigned pass to deceive the opponent on defense.

Hospital Pass

Good pass for settling scores with a teammate you don't like. Ball lands into the hands of you mate in imminent proximity of a direct hit.

Liverpool Kiss

No act of affection. Unless you are Irish. Commonly known as a Head Butt.


Struggle among players for ball that has not touched the ground.


Contrary to other drug laden sports, another word for the ball


Like a maul, but ball is on the ground and heeled back into possession by players. Despite the rules, it's not always the ball that gets heeled back either.


Where the oxen of rugby love to be. A way of restarting play after an infringement. The eight forwards from each team pack down in tight formation and the ball is served into the tunnel and heeled back for possession.

Tap Penalty

Blink and you won't see it. That's the idea from the player of the team awarded the penalty who takes it. The kick is barely nudged forward before it's caught and either passed, kicked, or moved on the run.

Up and Under

A punt kick by a player on the attacking side where the ball is sent high into the sky over their opponent's head. This gives teammates time to, at least, scare the living daylights out of defenders as they charge down on the ball. Commonly called a Garryowen.

Phrases Used In Rugby 

"All day long" - For the next 80 minutes or less, depending on if this is said at the beginning of the match or during half-time. It illustrates an interesting time-dilation property of rugby, wherein two 40-minute halves can seem like an entire day. (An example is, "We can run the ball off the base all day long.")

"At pace" - Doing whatever it is youre doing while gasping badly for air.

"Ball's out!" - You can stop kicking, hitting, biting and shoving now.

Boots - Studded sneakers.

Charge down the ball - Why old rugby players have arthritis in their knuckle joints.

"Forwards don't kick!" - What onlookers sometimes chant after a forward's really awful kick. I have heard a really bad one referred to specifically as "a flanker's kick" once in televised rugby.

"Get behind the kicker!" - He's sensitive about others getting into the photograph.

"Get lower, second row!" - This is what loose forwards say when they want to be helpful in the scrum. Pushing harder themselves doesn't seem to suggest itself as a remedy.

"Good game!" - What is automatically said to members of the opposing side at the conclusion of the match. Whether or not it was a satisfactory game is another matter entirely.

Hoik - A verb describing when a rugger jams a finger into one nostril and forcibly sends air out the other, clearing the nasal passage of debris and providing people standing on the sidelines with a Kodak Moment.

Hrk - The noise a player makes when being high-tackled.

"It ain't a round ball." - A defensive statement that explains why you didn't catch that wildly bouncing ball. Or, after a loss, an attempt to explain the ways of Dame Fortune. Or, an attempt to explain life itself. Japanese Prime Minister and former rugger Yoshiro Mori once said: "Life is like a rugby ball. You never know in what direction it will bounce next!"

"Make a target" - Show the ball-thrower your open hands so that he can throw to them. This way, if you miss catching it, it's not your fault.

Motley - Anything other than the First XV. This word has an association with foolishness, but I'm not sure how to describe it.

"Pack's right (or left)!" - A good way to irritate the forwards. When most of them are on the right, call "pack's left!" and vice versa.

"Pass flat" - Make the guy youre passing to have to accelerate to catch the ball. This way he can get a higher velocity flattening by the opposition tackler.

"Put a name on it!" - An exhortation to loudly proclaim that youre going to attempt to catch the ball at kick-off when it comes your way, thereby giving yourself all the embarrassment in trying to catch it.

Rugby Queen - The players' attempt to turn the clock back to the good old days before feminism and political correctness.

Sin bin - Where a player has to cool his heels for assuming that rugby was sanctioned by the World Wrestling Federation.

Sir - What players call the ref when they know they're on dodgy ground.

"Tackle low!" - Prepare for a kneecap in your eye socket.

"Thank you <fill in the kicker's name>" - What is said to the player (usually a back) who makes a successful clearing or penalty kick. He is the only person to be verbally thanked during the course of a match. Never mind that the forwards may have turned their larger bones into shards to retain possession, the kicker gets thanked for abusing a little inflated leather ball. I hope he appreciates it.

"They were the better team on the day." - They beat the crap out of us when we didn't expect them to, but we still think they suck.

"What goes on tour stays on tour." (a.k.a. "Rule #42") - I plan to cheat on my wife or girlfriend. Might get some bodily fluids (my own or someone else's) on myself, too.

Wheels - Legs. This metaphor usually falls apart under scrutiny. (If a human being has "wheels," where is his stick shift? Never mind.)

"Who wants it?" - A metaphorical question asked at kick off. The idea is that one is supposed to burst down the field and wrest the ball from one of fifteen guys, all of whom have other ideas on the matter.

"With you!" - Give me the ball, stupid.