How do you play Number 8 in Rugby?

I’ve been playing rugby a lot recently with friends and getting better and more used to it. Due to lack of players and officiality we tend to simply divide positions amongst front and backs.

However in the last game we had a scrum on the field and I was chosen as the number eight. The ball got back to my side and instinct took over and I got the ball close to the try line before being taken down.

Suffice to say this gave me an incredible liking for the position and my question stands: How does one play number eight in Rugby?

4 Answers

  1. number 8 and flanker have a lot of similarities, except number 8 has more ball handling responsibilities.

    what you did is exactly what number 8s do. if the ball reaches your feet in the scrum, you either pick it up and make a blind side run or pass the ball outside the scrum to the scrum half.

    in the lineout the number 8 is also an extra jumper, but also watches for overthrows.

    i play number 8. usually i play flanker on defensive/ tight head scrums (if they have a solid scrum) and number 8 when its our ball. if they have a decent scrum that allows me to be the blindside flanker and take on their 8th man if he makes a blindside run.

    when its our ball, i usually communicate with my scrum half what we are going to do with the ball. if they have a pesky scrum half i will normally pick up the ball, their scrum half will engage me, and then i offload to our scrum half. (we have a crap scrum half) if they have flankers who are being coached throughout the game i make a lot of blindside runs and usually hook up with my flyhalf when i get tackled.

    temper yourself though. if you pick and run everytime they will key in on that. more importantly your job is to provide clean ball to the scrum half so they can give clean ball to the flyhalf.

    so youre not supposed to be a glory hound, always seeking the ball and going for it. i make it a point to only attack them from the back of the scrum in the second half. that way they dont expect me to pick and go. and i dont do it every scrum.

  2. This Site Might Help You.


    How do you play Number 8 in Rugby?

    I’ve been playing rugby a lot recently with friends and getting better and more used to it. Due to lack of players and officiality we tend to simply divide positions amongst front and backs.

    However in the last game we had a scrum on the field and I was chosen as the number eight. The ball…

  3. I’m an 8 and my coach tells me that if i do nothing else in a match i should make three runs past the game line and tackle two people behind their game line. 8 isn’t difficult it just takes getting used too

  4. Just stick your head in and when the ball comes to the back of the scrum, hold it between your feet. Or under one foot. Or you can pick it up and have a run with it

Relevant information


This website is dedicated to helping you become THE rugby hero on your team. If you wear the #8 jersey, the first step in getting there is to know what a hero rugby number 8 looks like:


The number 8 in rugby often serves as an additional lineout
option. For this reason, it helps if they have a fair bit of height to them.

At the highest level, the average rugby number 8 has a
height of 1.92m or 6ft4in. Coaches
and selectors continue to choose in favour of taller players in this position.

Weight of the 8th

Because of the physicality involved in being an eighth man,
there is a certain body type that best suits the position.

A balanced physique is optimal. That means that the number 8
needs strength, speed and endurance. A top tier number 8 weighs around 110kg or 243lbs.

Strength and
conditioning standards for a top-level number 8 in rugby

The number 8 in rugby is often viewed as the epitome of
athleticism. Think Pierre Spies or
Sergio Parisse. If you want to become THE rugby hero at 8th man,
those are the levels you should aspire to. However, you can’t be all show and
no go. Below are a set of standard tests of athleticism. EVERY top-level number
8 in rugby is expected to meet these standards:

  • Max squat of 1.6X your bodyweight
  • Max bench-press of 1.3X your bodyweight
  • 3km run time of under 11min45sec
  • 40m sprint of under 5.3sec

Reach these numbers and you can be confident that your athleticism is not what is holding you back.

Rugby number 8 weight
by age

It would be silly of anyone to expect that a 15-year-old rugby number 8 should be the same size as a 30-year-old. You can look at the chart below and gauge where your weight should be, depending on your age.

Age Weight
14 73
15 77
16 81
17 85
18 90
19 94
20 99
21 105
22+ 110

The idea is that you increase your weight gradually. This
achieves 2 things:

  1. You never have to over eat
  2. You develop muscle mass over the years without a
    large surplus of fat mass

Body composition is probably the more important metric to
track instead of weight. As an eighth man, it is no use carrying around 30kg of
extra fat just to claim that you are 100kg+.

At junior levels, a rugby number 8 who picks up weight
gradually might be overlooked in favour of the heavier guys. Don’t worry about
it. As you slowly gain weight you rely on your skills to get ahead in the game.
Then eventually, when you are as big and strong as the brutes, they have no
skills to fall back on. That’s when you dominate.

Best rugby number 8 in
the world

One of the best ways to learn a position, is by studying how
the best in the world go about it. Choose one player that resembles you in
physique and attributes, then track everything about them.

The best modern number 8 in rugby to study is Kieran Read. The All-black captain has
a level of toughness most could only dream of. However, his most impressive attribute
is his diverse skill-set. Pay close attention to how he:

  • Runs into space when attacking in the wider
  • Explodes of the ground to win lineout ball
  • Frees his arms in the tackle situation to offload

If your role as an eighth man is more focussed on the tight game, study CJ Stander. Visit the Rugbypass index to see the current number 8s who are on top of their game.



As a number 8, you will be expected to put in your weight at
scrum time. You drive with your head between the two locks and bind to them.

Defensively, you will have the responsibility of watching
closely to see when the opposition take the ball out of the scrum. As soon as
that happens, you will need to work with your flankers to make tackles around
the scrum as quickly as possible.

Your biggest responsibility at scrum time will be when you
are in possession: The hooker will kick the ball back towards you and it will
move past the locks and eventually reach your feet. When this happens, you have
3 options:

  1. Keep the ball in the scrum, continue to drive
  2. Pick the ball up and run yourself
  3. Protect the ball so that the scrum half can pick
    it up easily

Whatever you decide to do will require good ball control and
co-ordination with your feet, so this is a skill worth working on.


For the number 8 in rugby, lineouts are a core competency.
Often, you will be expected to be the lineout jumper and win possession for
your team. There are 3 mini-skill sets you will need to master to do this

  1. Jumping:
    An explosive jump can make a massive difference in what percentage of your
    lineout ball you win. It also allows you to increase the chances of getting up
    in front of your opponent to disrupt their ball.
  2. Ball
    handling: You will be required to catch and control the ball in awkward
    positions. Being in the air and having an unstable base can unsettle the
    amateur rugby flanker. But you can develop an edge over them by working on your
    ball skills.
  3. Lifting:
    Flankers not only jump at lineouts, they lift too. You will need to read the
    lineout calls and manoeuvre yourself into a position where you can support the
    lifter. Learn to do this swiftly to ensure your lifter has a significant
    advantage over the opposition.

With all else equal, the selectors for your team will look
at your lineout ability as a deciding factor for whether you will make the team
or not. Become comfortable with the idea of being a go-to man at lineout time.


Depending on your assigned role, you might have different
expectations for ruck-time as a number 8. If you are instructed to play a tight
game, ball carrying and contesting breakdowns will form the bulk of your
actions on the field.

When playing a more open field role, you will need to make
more clean-outs and protect the ball once your team mates have been tackled.


A rugby number 8 will make around 10 to 12 tackles in an average game. This is close to the highest
tackle rate in the team. Your shoulders will take a beating, so you need to be

Beware of attempting to use your long limbs to make arm
tackles on players who are far away. This can often lead to an arm slipping up,
for a high tackle or a missed tackle because the was not enough weight behind
it. Get your shoulders in there!

Ball carrying

Every number 8 in rugby should have the ability to threaten
the opposition defensive line. To carry the ball effectively, your sole
objective should be to cross the advantage line. Meaning you should always be
moving forward.

There’s a saying that goes: “Run at the space, not the face.” Large forwards often make the mistake of assuming that their mass will get them through every tackle, so they simply run directly at smaller players. Watch the 80kg Faf De Klerk bully Nathan Hughes who weighs 115kg as proof that this attitude won’t work:


Always aim to run into gaps and at weak shoulders, you will gain way more ground by doing so.


Rugby number 8 lineout

You need to be agile and quick to move around to the lineout
position you will be lifted from. Agility drills might look stupid, but they
can prove effective if this is an area you need some work in.

Becoming comfortable in the air is also a worthwhile
investment of time. When you are worried about falling, it is impossible to pay
full attention to catching the ball being thrown at you. Build trust with your
lifters and get used to the idea that they won’t drop you.

You can become more explosive by doing exercises like box
jumps and speed squats. This will help you get in the air faster at lineout

Training and workouts for the rugby number 8

The number 8 in rugby needs high levels of strength in his entire body. You need especially strong legs and pressing muscles (triceps, chest, shoulders).

Exercises that MUST be in your workout include:

  • Deadlifts
  • Squats
  • Bench-press
  • Overhead press
  • Barbell rows
  • Lunges

These will build a stable base for you to grow from. For
more on this, go to the rugby workouts page.

Make sure you have the right rugby equipment

To be effective on the rugby field, you need the right gear.
I’m not talking fancy gadgets here, just the basics. I’d say, apart from
clothes, (obviously) these are the 2 pieces of kit you absolutely need:

  1. Rugby boots: A good pair of 6-stud boots with removable studs will do the trick. Make sure that you get boots that are wide enough and fit you comfortably. Visit the recommended kit page for my pick of rugby boots for you.
  2. Mouth guard: Locks take and make major hits during the game. It is no secret that your head can take a fair bit of punishment in a rugby game. Mouth guards are probably the most effective way of dampening forces felt to the head during a rugby game. An investment in a high-quality one will not be wasted.

Your mindset is key

If your goal is to become THE rugby hero on your team, your
mindset will drive all the changes I have suggested above. The mindset of a rugby
number 8 should be ATROX: “fierce; savage; having the appearance of

You can’t afford to lack aggression. By that I don’t mean
you should grab everyone by the throat at every opportunity.

I mean that your intent should ALWAYS be to dominate.
Dominate every tackle, every scrum, every ruck. Work on eliminating that ounce
of doubt you have before making a big hit, you know what I’m talking about.


Ultimately, all this information is useless to you if you do nothing with it. There is no way that anyone lacks the ability to become THE rugby hero on their team. It all comes down to whether you are willing to put in the work. So, today my call to you is that you work on perfecting ONE skill that will make you a better number 8.

If you are interested in learning about the other positions in rugby, click this link.

Leave a Comment