Center (XV rugby)

Article

July 3, 2022

Center or three-quarter center (English: center) is a rugby union position. There are two centers per team, usually referred to as first and second centres, who are numbered 12 and 13 respectively and are part, along with the wingers, of the three-quarter line.

Job Description

The offensive role of the centers is to perforate the opposing line either by their physical power, or by their agility (thanks to support preventing their defender from intervening correctly) or by their technique (combinations of passes). Modern rugby tends to favor fairly strong players in the center position, but this is not always systematic. In this position, the most powerful players can use force to perforate the line of defense following a failed tackle, resulting in a dangerous situation, or a regrouping with the mobilization of many opposing defenders on the back, or pass the ball after being tackled. Nevertheless, there are still in modern rugby centers with a lighter size whose role is to perforate the defenses by combinations of passes and trajectories of races intended to surprise the defenders. This center profile was fashionable for a long time before the professionalization of rugby, like players such as Philippe Sella or André Boniface. However, the current centers are often heavier and more powerful, some weigh more than 100 kg and have a size very close to the third lines. On the defense side, they must be good tacklers because they form a line of defense with the fly half and the wingers. For tactical reasons, they can also choose to opt for a sliding defense aimed at reducing the lateral space for the attackers and lending a hand to their winger. There is a role distinction between the first and the second center and the players evolving in one of the positions do not always have the same facilities to evolve in the other. The first center often has a greater technical background than the second center, because he is more often called upon to make passes, and can also play on foot to find a touch, to generate a favorable situation for his winger, or to clear himself. The first center is then a second opening half: it is remarkable to note that in New Zealand the opening half and the center are called respectively first five eight and second five eight whereas the second center is called center. This name would testify to the existence of a continuity between the opener and the first center, whose positions would be associated in the rugby language of New Zealand (which is not the case in other Anglo-Saxon countries where the opening half is called fly half and the centers, Inside center for the first center and Outside center for the second center). The second center is generally a player with greater physical qualities, often faster and/or stronger. The fact that he intervenes after the opening half and the first center means that he is less under the pressure of the opposing first defensive curtain and that he has more scope to launch his runs and highlight his punching qualities. There were also the "pocket centers" like Didier Codorniou who was the last of this species (1.69 m for 69 kg).

Iconic Players

Here is a list of players of players who have marked their position, members of the World Rugby hall of fame or voted World Rugby's best players: Rugby Union Portal