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Do rugby teams ever use different formations the way football teams do? e.g. instead of left and right wingers, using narrow and wide specialists, replacing a back with a loose forward, etc.

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    I don't understand the downvotes here - this seems a reasonable question for someone not familiar with rugby. Any insight? – Philip Kendall Aug 21 '16 at 15:36
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    @PhilipKendall I am not the downvoter, but probably it reads too broad and could be researched. I am not a big fan of rugby and I am not sure what the OP means by narrow and wide specialist. – user10632 Aug 21 '16 at 16:39
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    VTC: too broad. The question would require a long discussion of the history of positions in rugby, and the development of the rules of the game. – Nij Aug 21 '16 at 19:35
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    I don't think it is too broad. I see it as game strategy. Although at the start of the game the positions are fixed (unlink football that can vary) there can be plays where positions are altered slightly. – aqwert Aug 21 '16 at 21:55
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    I came here with the same query. No reason why this page can't be part of my research – cja Jan 15 '17 at 13:20
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...replacing a back with a loose forward, etc.

The closest thing I ever saw to this was Pierre Spies. He played schoolboy rugby on the wing and became a forward relatively late in his playing days.

This meant that he was a forward that had the speed of a wing, The bulls would often use him as a huge backline player in that famous team of 2009.

That was the exception to the rule, though. For the most part, rugby's positions are highly specialised and when it comes to top tier rugby you need players that know the position well.

Do rugby teams ever use different formations

In the backline yes, often. Coordinated backline moves are for me the best part of rugby. It is to me the tell-tale sign of a well-coached team. Deception in backline play is a hugely interesting part of rugby coaching.

  • I don't think this interpretation of the question is reasonable. In the context of changing formations by replacing one position with another, "replacing a loose forward with a back" doesn't suggest taking someone who normally plays loose forward and putting them e.g. at #9 or 2nd-5. It implies removing the loose forward position entirely and having 8 backs instead of 7 backs. – Nij May 23 '18 at 3:45
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No. The positions are fixed and each player will have to fill those positions. As far as position formations there are no variations like there are in football.

However, during a match, depending on strategy players may either swap position or location on the field during a phase or 2, but only really skilled teams can do this since it is important to fill your roll and have the knowledge that the guy next to you is where you expect so you can pass to them.

In other cases utility players (typically backs) can be skilled enough to fill a different positions. (i.e. a player may be able to play full-back, or wing). Nowadays teams like the All Blacks pick players that can fill different positions off the bench. Forwards tend to be rather specialized so don't mix so much. Really only the flankers (6/7/8) could have players interchange but the tight 5 are so specialized they tend to stay in that position.

  • Flankers won't play as the 8th man often. The skill of controlling the ball at the end of the scrum is specialised enough that you need players familiar with the position to play it. – Neil Meyer Sep 27 '16 at 17:22
  • Ideally people will specialize, however my point in that better teams they get their players to train in other positions to give options in strategy and if they get injured. Blind side flanker (#6) can swap with #8 if required as they are not too dissimilar (as quoted to me from an actual rugby player). Australia and NZ recently they have had 2 openside flankers play 6 and 7 with some success. – aqwert Sep 27 '16 at 22:44
  • Specialised in what way? Is it a mental issue or a physical issue? – cja Jan 15 '17 at 13:23
  • I would say more physical, skill and tactical. Each postion serves a different role. Apart from the front row which need to specialise in scrums. Like the loose forwards learning how to blow away the man over the ball at the ruck, locks being skilled at lineouts, or the centers being tough and phyical rather than pure runners like the outside backs. I would say alot comes to body types but a skilled tallented player can adjust. Each position have different responsibilties and each position needs that player to learn those. – aqwert Jan 15 '17 at 19:57
  • Also the front row in particluar (1,2,3) need to be very specialised since scrums are very dangerous and only those that have specifically trained can participate in a full scrum. There have been times when no props were available (due to injury during the game) and someone else had to fill in. In this case the referee will call a no-contest scrum where both sides are not allowed to push.. for safety reasons. – aqwert Jan 15 '17 at 20:01
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In rugby,the different formations are generally concentrated on the forwards.In other words,the forwards are set around the field in a certain formation while the backs position themselves according to the forwards'formation. For example, coaches sometimes use the formation called the 1-3-3-1 formation. In this case you have four pods of forwards. One pod on the one end of the field containing one forward(preferably a more agile,mobile player). Two pods in the midfield each containing three players. And the last one again on the opposite end of the field as the first pod, containing also just one player. This is why they call it the 1-3-3-1 system.

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