All Manner of Men
(Stolen without shame from the Richmond United RFC web site Somebody in this club may have written this, or may not. Anyway, I fixed the formatting and some of the grammar. And if you're a back reading this and object to the forwards orientation of the piece, hey, the truth hurts. - Wes)
There are eight forwards. They take part in scrums, lineouts, rucks, and mauls - essentially everything that is meaningful in the game. The close physical work necessary for the forwards engenders a sense of comradeship not shared by the prancing, self-centered and effeminate backs. The game has evolved, thank goodness, with multi-phase possession allowing the forwards to demonstrate their running ability with the ball.
Props and Hookers
The front row is the cauldron, the foundation for all good rugby play. The front row is noted for their power and good looks, like no necks, battered ears, and S-shaped noses. Such players are noted for their intelligence and longevity well into their forties.
The second row is the engine room where the power flows. The second row - or lock forward - is tall, with plenty of leverage strength in the legs. He must be productive in the lineouts as a jumper or supporter. Mobility is added plus. The second row is much appreciated by the front row for their power in the scrummage but they are generally not as good looking as the front row.
The loose forwards
The loose forwards include the #8 and the flankers. The loose forwards are respected by the front row for their mobility, fitness, defense and support work. The loosey must have tremendous fitness and ball fetching instincts which are not completely understood or trusted by the props and hooker, who are perfectly content to scrummage all day for the ball.
The little scrum half provides the ball to the backs when the forwards are damn well ready for the strutting backs to knock it forward. The forwards have grudging respect for the scrum-half because he trys hard and is not afraid to get dirty with the rest of the scrummies. The wise scrum-half will drink and buy beers for the scrummies to maintain his favored position with the forwards.
It is rumored that the Fly has the best vision, hands, kicking ability, and overall tactical decision making ability on the side. The forwards do not understand or trust this individual. The hard-working scrummies generally expect and anticipate a knock forward from the fly so they can have the pleasure of another scrum-down.
These hombres are supposed to be deadly tacklers, with strong running instincts and good hands. Alas, the centers are lumped in there with the prancing flyhalf. If the fly doesn't knock on, surely one of the centers will muff it up so the scrummies can experience the joy and satisfaction of another scrum-down.
The Fullback and Wingers
These guys may as well be from Mars. They are allegedly fast with excellent striking ability. They are supposed to score lots of trys, catch the high ball, and counter attack with flair. But the stark reality (well understood by the forwards) is that the fullback and wingers prance and preen more than the inside backs. They don't get dirty and are always playing with their hair and pulling on their collars. In fact their sexual orientation has been called into question on numerous occasions. Some props think fullbacks and wingers are "real purdy."
(A prop sent this to me. He, in turn, got it from another prop. It bears a passing likeness to "All Manner of Men." I think it's interesting that the rugby props seem to dominate rugby literature. - Wes)
Front Row: Without a doubt the manliest men on the pitch. Large, often hairy, beer swilling carnivores that can and will smash anything in their path. Reveling in the violence inherent in the scrum, they are rarely considered "nice" people, and in fact to some they aren't even considered humans at all. Front rowers tolerate this attitude far and wide because they recognize their role at the top of the food chain and are used to suffering the fools that surround them. Accused by some of simply being dumb, I prefer to think of this group as "open to unconventional ways of thinking."
Locks: Slightly below the front row on the food chain. As with front row players it is inadvisable to put an appendage you wish to keep near this group's maw when they are in the feeding mode. This group of large, often foul-smelling brutes is also more than willing to relish the finer points of stomping on a fallen opponent's body and will gleefully recount the tale ad infinitum. While they tend to take the tag "Powerhouse of the Scrum" a little too seriously, they can be useful if inured with the proper hatred of their fellow man. While members of this proud fraternity like to think of themselves as "open to unconventional ways of thinking"- they are usually just dumb.
Back Row: These are fine, fit fellows who, like a bunch of hermaphrodites, are confused as to what their role in life should be. While they know they are undeniably linked to the forwards, there are those among them who long for the perfect hair and long flowing gowns that come with being a back. Some relish the forward role and will do anything to win the ball and there are others within this group that will break the prime directive of the forward and do anything to prance foolishly with the ball. Generally, these guys are not all bad, but I, personally, have to wonder about any forward who brings a hairbrush and a change of clothes to a game.
Scrum Half: Some like to think of this back as an honorary forward. I myself tend to think of the No. 9 as half a fairy. While the toughest back almost always fills this position, this idea is almost laughable - kind of like the hottest fat chick. The scrum half's presence is tolerated by the forwards because they know that he will spin the ball to the rest of the girls in the backline who will inevitably knock the ball on and allow them the pleasure of another scrum. The No. 9 can take pride in the fact that he is the lowest numbered back and that as such he can be considered almost worthwhile.
Fly Half: His primary role is the leader of the backs - a dubious honor at best. Main responsibilities as far as I can tell are ability to throw the ball over people's heads and to provide something soft for opposing back rowers to land on. Expected to direct the prancing of the rest of the backline - the fly half, like any good Broadway choreographer, is usually light on his feet. While some may argue that these girls must be protected, I find it hard to support anyone whose foot touches a rugby ball on purpose.
Centers: Usually come in two varieties: hard chargers or flitting fairies. The hard charger is the one to acquire, as he will announce his presence in a game with the authority rarely found above No. 8. The flitting fairy is regrettably more common and will usually attempt to avoid contact at all costs. The flitting fairy is also only one good smack away from bursting into tears and leaving the pitch to cry on the shoulder of his inevitable girlfriend. Both types will have extensive collections of hair care products in their kit bags and will be among the best dressed at the post-game festivities.
Back 3: While some people refer to this group as two wingers and a fullback, I swear to God I can't make out any difference between them. They are all bleeping bleeps if you ask me. How these three guys can play 90 minutes of RUGBY and stay clean and sweat free is beyond me. I know for a fact that their jerseys sometimes go back in the bag cleaner than when they came out. These ladies are fond of sayings like "Speed Kills" and "Wheels Win" - how cute. Well, I have a saying too: it's "You're a bleeping bleep!!" These guys will be easy to spot after the game because they are the finely coifed, sweater wearin', wine sippin', sweet-talkers in the corner avoiding the beer swilling curs at the bar. On the whole, I really don't mind this group because in the end, they sure are purty to look at.
More forwards vs. backs lore: In 1978, the Wallabies were about to play the All-Blacks at Eden Park. On the morning of the match, stand-in manager Ross Turnbull talked to the team, then asked the backs to leave him with the forwards. It was just Turnbull with the pigs.
"Look," he said, waving an airy hand at the just-departed backs, "these Phantom comic swappers and Mintie eaters, these blond-headed flyweights are one thing, and we will need them after the hard work's done. But the real stuff's got to be done right here by you blokes."
The Wallabies went on to a famous win, and that story, recounted by one of the forwards in the room, Chris Handy, has always been the best exposition of the difference between backs and forwards.