When is a fly half a 5/8th?

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When is a fly half a 5/8th?

by OxonRob on Mon Nov 07, 2005 2:09 pm

The thread about Riki Flutey suggests that there may be some interest in knowing how the modern positional names came about.

So....

Originally there were only two Rugby Positions - forwards and backs. It was only when the rules were first drafted in the 1870's that the full back, of which there were three, was named and his role defined. A rule change limited the position to one player on the rugby field for each team. The decision was then made that the other two players would be stationed at a midpoint between the forwards and the full backs and were to be called halfway backs. In time this was shortened to half backs. Their role and that of the full back continued to be in position to fall on the ball in the event of the opposition hacking it out of the scrum.

In 1878 at Cardiff, in Wales, they developed a short pass to one of the half backs who would then go charging ahead with the ball. He became known as the flying half back which in time was shortened to the fly half.

In addition they reorganised the scrum, developed short passes amongst the forwards and long passes amongst the backs. This led to the need for more players to be placed in the back line between the halves and the full back, so they were called quarters and the fact that three of them were put in this position led to them being known as "three - quarters". The middle player being called the centre with the two on his outside called wings.

The introduction of a fourth player into the three-quarters was to a large extent accidental, with Wales again being allowed to take the honour.

Cardiff were due to play a tough match away from home and their first choice centre was not available, so they promoted one Frank Hancock from the second side in his place. Hancock was a great success scoring two vital tries. When the Cardiff selectors sat down to pick their team for the next match they were keen to revert to their original team, but they were most reluctant to drop Hancock, so they compromised by introducing a fourth three-quarter. Within two years Wales had introduced it at international level and the game became closer in postions to today.

The New Zealanders were quick to see the advantage of having a fourth player in the three-quarters. Their solution was to change the standard rugby positions by pulling a forward out of the pack and put him between the half back and the three-quarters. Their problem was what did they call the new position. Legend has it that consent was reached by deciding that the half back was 4/8ths and the three-quarters 6/8ths, so therefore the new position must be a 5/8ths, a name that has continued to this day in that country. When fly half play developed they introduced the first 5/8th and the second 5/8th.

The forwards in the early days were just a mass of players, having an important role, but having no individual responsibility. When the scrum developed into the eight man unit it operated on the basis of first there, first down. From this came the formation of the 3-2-3 or the 2-4-2 scrum formations, both of which was developed in the United Kingdom, and it was from this style of scrumming that the term back row players first originated
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Rugby History

by Rich H on Mon Nov 07, 2005 3:16 pm

Rob, I think you might preface your piece with a disclaimer concerning accuracy! The version I posted on the other thread (minus my own erroneous conclusion regarding 5/8th's etc.) is to be found in many histories of the game.

To expand, there were typically 20 players on each side, all of whom could 'scrummage'. In the codification, a team was limited to 15 players of which only 8 could scrummage (standard formations coming much later). The remainder were designated into half-backs (2), three-quarter backs (4) and full backs (1).

I believe this to be the correct origin of three-quarters as opposed to the three one-quarters version. Logically why would a quarter be between half and full!?
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by OxonRob on Mon Nov 07, 2005 3:21 pm

So is the source I used!

http://rl1908.com/Rugby-Positions.htm
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Positions

by Rich H on Mon Nov 07, 2005 3:44 pm

A good source but, as I say, at odds with some others.

The following is a good link for beginners (me included, it seems!)
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