What’s in a name? Sevens positions reimagined

Broadcaster and writer Jack Zorab argues that 15s positional terms in rugby sevens don’t do players justice

When Ned Haig created sevens in 1883 as a way of raising some money for his club, Melrose, he didn’t have the time to create new names for each position. That’s understandable. 

It’s remarkable, however, that in the 140 years since, neither has anyone else.

Sevens is the Olympic showcase for rugby and will soon appear at the Olympic Games for a third time. However, the names we have at our disposal in order to discuss the game are all lifted from 15s.

Sevens needs its own positional names. Names that go some way to explaining what a player does, rather than where they stand on the pitch.

So early in the new sevens season, we’ve donned the white lab coats of experimentation and drawn up a first draft of names for each role in a sevens team. 

They aren’t perfect, but we’re convinced that sevens needs its own positional names to bring more clarity to the wider conversation about the game and to make the most of attracting new fans to the game at Olympic Games Paris 2024.

Our seven proposed positional names are:


  • Power Forward
  • Hooker
  • Fast Forward


  • Pivot
  • Playmaker
  • Centre
  • Speedster


Power Forward

The Power Forward is your typical big unit: the player that puts the yips into the opposition when they get up a head of steam, with the ball, or even without the ball. Their bristling intensity is enough to make the opposition shudder at the thought of entering their orbit.

Right now, the available term for this position is, simply, ‘prop’ – but that doesn’t do justice to what these players are capable of on a sevens field.

The name Power Forward, I think, does. It does more than describe the key quality of this position. In borrowing from basketball, the name has an understanding that travels further around the world than ‘prop’ ever can. 

It’s time to put the glamour back into the scrum and reflect the huge importance of a Power Forward to a successful sevens team.

All-star Power Forward: As much as the current crop are major forces on the World Series, the archetype Power Forward was the USA's Danny 'Boom Boom' Barrett from a few years back. Run the clip below to see why.

Fast Forward

Balancing the other side of the scrum is the Fast Forward. The name neatly describes this player’s point of difference, they are essentially the faster of the two ‘prop’ forwards. They'll have great skills, be tough as teak and fit as a butcher’s dog. Their error count will also be ridiculously low.

New Zealand’s teenage superstar Jorja Miller is a Fast Forward. At times in Dubai, she was paired in the scrum with Portia Woodman-Wickliffe, as the Power Forward. Now that’s a combination, yes siree.

Some teams will select two Fast Forwards and no Power Forward, depending on the type of game they want to play. Being able to discuss those subtleties in selection is one of the exciting prospects of breaking down what we currently just call ‘props’ into Power Forwards and Fast Forwards.

All-star Fast Forward: New Zealand’s Tim Mikkelson. In his pomp, Mikkelson was so fast you would be forgiven for thinking he was a Speedster, as he shows below.


I have mulled at length – really I have – the idea that the hooker in sevens should be called something edgier. Hooking is a (very) small part of what this player does, plus they don’t typically throw-in to the lineout in sevens, so the similarities with a hooker in 15s are stretched. 

Instead they are expected to perform every single other skill the game throws at them, and execute those skills to within two percentage points of the players in the team who specialise in them. They are the heptathletes of the modern rugby world.

But sticking with hooker has its benefits. Everyone who is already a rugby fan knows exactly who the hooker is, while for fans new to the sport, it’s a name that intrigues, yet one with an entirely logical explanation behind it. A rarity in rugby, and that’s something to cherish.

Rising star Hooker: Australia’s Teagan Levi is only 20 years old but her performance in the final in Dubai was one for the ages from a hooker. She ripped open New Zealand’s defence on multiple occasions, as you can see in the clip below, counter-rucked ferociously, and scored two tries.



In this brave new world of sevens nomenclature, it's time we did away with scrum-half and fly-half. They make sense in 15s, but such is the difference in how a sevens team plays, it’s almost misleading to borrow these terms at all.

Here's why: other than feeding the ball into the scrum, a sevens ‘scrum-half’ doesn’t follow play in the same way they would in 15s. Sevens is too quick for that. Sevens requires every player to be a ‘scrum-half’. Whoever is closest to the ruck, plays it.

The name Pivot sums up their role nicely. The dictionary defines a pivot as a small, central point around which mechanisms can turn. That, in one sentence, captures the size of the typical player in this position, and their value to the team.

All-Star Pivot: Double Olympic gold medallist Jerry Tuwai (below). When you think of his importance to Fiji in years gone by, and the way he spins and twists through a defensive line. Pivot suits him much more than 'scrum-half'.


Playmaker is used colloquially in many sports, thus it’s universally understood. It refers to the player who runs the show, in an attacking sense.

Yes, the Pivot significantly influences their team’s attack but the Playmaker is the executor of the broader game plan. The conductor of the orchestra.

South Africa’s Justin Geduld is a classic example. His core skills are exemplary and in a team which never lacks for try-scoring firepower no matter who they select, Geduld is relied upon to start the fire, and keep it burning.

Unlike a fly-half in 15s, the Playmaker is not necessarily the first receiver from a set piece. Look at this clip from the Aussie Sevens women’s side in Dubai. Charlotte Caslick is Australia’s Playmaker but she’s the fifth player to receive the ball from this move, which results in a try for Maddison Levi.

All-Star Playmaker: Charlotte Caslick. As we see in the above video, Caslick is a decision-making supremo. The way she keeps the ball in two hands maximises her threat level and gives the players around her extra time.

She is an Olympic gold medallist from Rio 2016, a world champion from 2022, and a three-time World Rugby Women's Sevens Player of the Year. To complicate things ever-so-slightly, it would be more accurate to say that Caslick is a Pivot-Playmaker because she puts the ball into the scrum while also being her side’s attacking linchpin in open play. But part of the beauty of having a new suite of positional names is that you can play around with them to define how certain players – like Caslick – break the mould.


No need to change this name. This one does what it says on the tin. A centre in sevens, like in 15s, blends great hands with a wicked turn of speed to exploit gaps in the defensive line. Great Britain are well stocked in the department at the moment, with both Emma Uren and Harry Glover prime examples of out-and-out sevens centres. Uren has an outside break which can see off even the sharpest defenders, and Glover is blessed with an off-load that just can’t be contained by any defensive system.

All-Star Centre: Ireland's Terry Kennedy. Last year’s World Rugby Men's Sevens Player of the Year combines the nuts and bolts of his position with a stepping ability and outside swerve that puts him on a pedestal few can match. It's all on display in this clip.



In present money, this is the 'winger'. But ‘winger’ leans too heavily on describing where they are on the pitch, rather than what they do.

Yes the fastest player on the pitch is often found 'on the wing' (let's not do away with that useful phrase) but Speedster better surmises their key attribute, which anyone new to the sport can grasp instantly.

Speedsters come in many different forms. There’s the out-and-out pace of a Thalia Costa, or the mazy pitter-patter of Jasmine Joyce, or the fearsome finishing of Michaela Blyde.

But perhaps the best exponents of the Speedster role have come from the USA in recent times in the form of Perry Baker and Carlin Isles.

‘Winger’ doesn’t do these two superstars justice at all. They are the box-office tickets that everyone wants to see get the ball. Let’s match that excitement in how we officially talk about their roles on the field.

All-Star Speedster: Perry Baker. Whilst Carlin Isles is rugby sevens’ original Speedster, Baker has scored more tries, and can lay claim to scoring the best ever individual try in the format's history. Speed in motion is always an incredible sight, and no-one has ever conjured something as singularly graceful as this try.

For 140 years, sevens has played using names that, increasingly, don't fit. Is it time we started a debate on changing that?