Rugby words to know for RWC23

We have just finished watching the Australian Matildas going deep into the Women’s Soccer World Cup finals. Our attention now turns to the men’s Rugby World Cup 2023 (RWC23) which starts tomorrow (9 September 2023). So before the tournament kicks off, familiarise yourself with some of the rugby words you need in your vocabulary.


A player uses physical contact to tackle an opponent to block their progress and take them to the ground. If you get hurt in the tackle it is important not to show any pain (fundamentally different to soccer).


A sidestep is a manoeuvre by an attacking player to quickly change their direction to evade a tackle. The Maori sidestep (made famous by Jonah Lomu) involves running straight over the top of the tackler. This is also known as running through the player. Sometimes the defeated tackler is known as a “turnstile” as their arms spin like one.


Ruck originated from “ruckus” a noisy commotion or disturbance. In rugby, a ruck is a situation immediately after a tackle when players from both teams contest the ball on the ground. It is the most technical part of the game where fast action and skills are needed to win the ball. The NZer Richie McCaw was famous for winning rucks while appearing to do so legally.


A scrummage was originally used to describe a disorderly situation. However, a rugby scrum is a structured set piece where the forwards (a team has eight forwards and seven backs) bind together to contest possession of the ball.

Hollywood pass

In rugby players pass the laterally (a forward pass results in play stopping and a scrum to form). A flashy, and high-risk pass is known as a Hollywood pass because it is unnecessary and intended just to show off. They often backfire in giving the ball to the other side.

Hospital pass

Another sub-optimal pass, a hospital pass makes the receiving player vulnerable to being tackled aggressively. It’s called a hospital pass because it often results in the recipient getting injured. I once played outside a player nicknamed “Dr Death” for the prevalence of his hospital passes.

Sin bin

When a player commits a serious foul, they may be sent to the sin bin for ten minutes (also known as the “naughty chair”). The referee shows them a yellow card (sometimes known as “the cheese”). More serious fouls invoke a red card removing the player from the game.

Rugby tragic

The Australian team, the Wallabies, have won the RWC twice but it is decades ago. They go in as underdogs. However, some diehard Australian rugby fans still believe we have a chance under our reincarnated super-coach, Eddie Jones.

I am a rugby tragic. We have a deep emotional connection to rugby and may display extreme enthusiasm, to the point of prioritising rugby over other aspects of our lives.

Enjoy the RWC23 armed with your rugby words. I predict it’s going to have some big surprises (postscript—not good ones for Australia).