French Rugby Words & Phrases

Improve your French with some French Rugby Words and Phrases that you can use in everyday conversation!

French Rugby terminology, gleaned from their TV commentators will give you loads of words to put into your Vocabulary Repertoire.


Imagine Jonah Lomu (m), the New Zealand RUGBY player, plays RUGBY while dressed in the French colors.

It is 2011 Rugby World Cup time and the French have just booked themselves into the semi-finals having beaten England.

I originally wrote this page in 2005 as I watched on TV and I updated it again in early 2007. An appropriate time as there were great rugby internationals being played at that time. All the Southern Hemisphere teams were playing in Europe, and the French were in action against the All Blacks again. In fact the former All Blacks captain Tana Umanga was playing rugby in France at the time, for a French team.

While in Paris in 2005 I watched on TV (la télévision) as the British and Irish Lions rugby team were beaten 48-18 by the New Zealand national team the All Blacks the previous week.

Again I watched on Saturday 9 July 2005, in the third International Test Match where the New Zealand team was again victorious 38-19.

The French names for all the rugby positions are at the bottom of the page.

With the 2011 Rugby World Cup in full swing in New Zealand, and with the French beating England in the quarter finals, many French speakers and learners of French will be interested in knowing some of the common French terms used in rugby. I'm updating this page as it is now 2011 Rugby World Cup time.

I took these French rugby quips and quotes from the French TV commentators - words and phrases which you'll be able to use in everyday French, as well as when involved in, or talking about French sport ... or any sport for that matter.

Some like "Hop-op-op-op-op-op-op-op!! " are just so wonderfully French as to be almost without comparison in English.

The commentators used this when one of players inexcusably fumbled, and dropped the ball. I guess the tone of the voice transmitted a great deal of course!

The French are very big supporters of rugby, particularly in the South of France, and the French rugby team is always one of the strongest half-dozen in the world.

Here are some of the random bits of French rugby and sporting vocab and phrases that came up during the match.

If there is any order to the following French phrases etc it is mainly chronological.

I just scribbled down phrases that would be useful to the student of French ...
... particularly if they are sports fans!

Le Rugby Français - French Rugby

The French rugby commentator opened his enthusiastic discourse with:

"Nous avons pour vous une bonne journée de sports qui demarre avec le rugby!"
We have for you a good day of sports which starts with the rugby!

Rugby being a very physical and manly, masculine game is appropriately a masculine word in French.

Le Rugby
The word rugby in French is le rugby.

Our courses teach this one with New Zealand rugby star Jonah Lomu playing rugby in the French colours.

Our pics include the French colours words are similar in French and English, enabling you get a visual snapshot of the word, its gender and context. Jonah being a man, a famous rugby player is used as the gender trigger to remind you that the word le rugby, is masculine in French.

To be clear. The word is not masculine because it is a masculine game. The word is masculine because all French nouns are either masculine or feminine in gender. These genders cause a good deal of bother to people learning French. We make it easier in our French courses by adding a GENDER TRIGGER to our word association cartoons to make it easier to rememeber the word's gender. In the case of the word le rugby, the famous All Black rugby player is used to REMIND you that the word is masculine.

Another useful French word here is
demarre from the verb demarrer, which means to start in French.

This word demarrer is also used in the sense of 'starting the car engine', or a truck's engine.

To remember this word consider the English where we use the word to 'mar' in the sense of something being spoilt. e.g. The game was marred by violence!

So if you can imagine that engines when they are closed down, are marred . . . well to start them you need to DE-MAR them!

...Here are a load more French rugby terms

un essai
a try
The word essayer in French means to try. So a try is un essai.

When a player puts the ball on the ground over the opposition's line in rugby this is called a try, and it gains your team 5 points.

As an aside it is called a try, (un essai in French), because touching the ball down over the 'tryline' then allowed the team that got the ball over the tryline, an attempt at goal. Originally the 'touchdown' or try itself gained no points, and one gained the points by kicking the ball over the posts. (Thanks to Andrew for this info).

la pénalité
The word for penalty in French is la pénalité. Sounds like pen-alee-tay.

Imagine a girl called PENNY LEE taking a penalty dressed in the French colours.

le ballon est passé entre les poteaux
the ball passed between the posts
The ball in French is le balon, a masculine word, that is almost like balloon.

There is another type of French ball which is played in les boules, which is similar to the game of bowls.

You will see people, particularly men, playing this game in parks all over France. A variant is called pétanque.

Rugby Positions in French

le pilier
- like the word pile that relates to a concrete pole structure, that holds up the front-row of the scrum.
le talonneur
- the hooker hooks the ball with his TALONS.
le deuxième ligne
- literally the second line (second row).
Now here's an interesting one for your gender recognition. The word la ligne is feminine, and the second row, when referred to as a 'grouping' is referred to as la deuxième ligne. But when you refer to the individual chap himself, he is le deuxième ligne, masculine. See the difference?
le troisième ligne
- literally the third line (third row).
Number eight
le numéro huit
- literally the number eight. Now sometimes this chap is called un troisième ligne centre, literally a third row centre. The same discussion about la ligne/le ligne in the discussion about the lock above applies.
Scrum-half, half-back
le demi de mêlée
- literally the half of the scrum (scrum-half).
Fly-half, first 5/8
le demi d'ouverture
- literally the half of the opening.
le centre.
- so the winger is sick and is AILING.
- sounds a bit LA REAR.... but just remember it is masculine of course.

The French word la balle refers to a bullet, or to shotgun pellets.

The French word for post, as in goalposts, is le poteau.

Imagine Cambodian dictator (m)sitting with a POT on the goal posts. The masculine character of course reminds you that a goalpost is a masculine word, as we do in our 200 Words a Day! courses.

passer en avant
to pass forward
This is a sin in rugby unlike American Football or soccer football.

'Not only' in French! A Most Useful French phrase!

Non seulement il est puissant, il est vite!
Not only is he strong, he is fast!
The commentator used this as one of the players crashed through about five of the opposition.

puissant in French means powerful, or strong.

This is a good phrase to keep in your mental notebook - Non seulement in French means 'not only'.

Of course you can use this phrase in lots of other situations when speaking French or practising your French... like ...

Non seulement elle est gentille, elle est belle!
Not only is she kind, she is beautiful!

la brillance
The French word for brilliance is la brillance, and here the commentator was referring to the all Black's Man of the Match Daniel Carter. Did he put in a special performance in the first of the two matches!

The French pronunciation of la brillancehowever does not stress the double 'l', so it sounds like bree-yanse!

An easy way to remember this word, and its gender, is to replace Daniel here, with the female singer BEYONCE! of 'Destiny's Child' and image the brillance of Beyonce - the BRIYANSE of BEYONCE.

l'attaque offensive
the offensive attack

chercher aux fonds de leur ressources
digging deep (literally searching around the depths of their resources)
The French rugby commentators were here referring to the Lions players who really had to dig deep to try to maintain a chance of staying in the game.

se dérouler
to unwind
The French rugby commentators were referring to the Lions plans that were unwinding as each game progressed. The wheels were coming off their game.

ils sont toujours en difficulté
they are still in difficulty

The word toujours is a very common one that means both still, and always.

He was more frequently referring to the beleaguered Lions in this case.


bien accordé
correctly awarded

Here the commentator is saying that the penalty [la penalité] was correctly awarded, having seen the action replay.

The French verb accorder means to award, grant or concede.

Note the reflexive s'accorder is slightly different in that it means to agree, to come to agreement, to concur, to harmonise with someone or something.

...more French terms from rugby that you can use...

to kick
The verb 'to kick' in French is taper, which also means to hit, to strike or to hit. Taper also means to type in French.


volontaire et déliberé
voluntary and deliberate
The commentator was referring to a foul committed.

tous les caprices des stars
all the whims of the stars
The French have borrowed the word 'stars' from the English.

il est recompensé
he is recompensed/rewarded
The commentator was referring to the player who was rewarded for his hard work with a try [un essai].

la mêlée
The French word mêlée is used in English in the same sense as the French - a scramble, tussle, fray, a free-for-all fight!

The French also use it as their word for the scrum... which often ends as a scramble, tussle, fray, a free-for-all fight!

...and more French words from the French rugby commentary....

le dégagement
clearing kick
These are the long boots downfield.

It also means (1) the disengagement or release of something (like the brakes on a car) and(2) 'the redemption of a pledge or mortgage'; and (3) in military terms the extrication of troops etc from a town. And also the (4) escape or release of steam etc.

to release, let go e.g. of the ball
If you do not let go of the ball after you have been tackled you get penalised.

To tackle in French is plaquer. The noun tackle, as in a rugby tackle, is le plaquage. This word is also used for the 'jilting' e.g. of a lover.

To remember this one you could imagine a man tackling a brass PLAQUE.

Here's another that the French rugby commentators used:

le meilleur plaquer de la tournée
the best tackler of the Tour.

to injure, wound
A not uncommon occurrence in rugby! To remember that the French word for 'to injure' is blesser this imagine the Pope BLESSES the wounded! Some other related words are: blessé à mort - mortally wounded!

être blessé de quelquechose means to be offended by something.

la titularisation
Each time you play for your country you get a cap! The French term for this is titulariser.

and a final French rugby phrase you can use in every day conversation...

The commentators closed with some very complimentary things to say about the decisive New Zealand victories. Here's one:

C'est formidable de voir le niveau de rugby néo-Zélandais!
It's great to see the level of New Zealand rugby!
Formidable is one of those very common French words! You can use it in loads of situations!


We hope you enjoyed learning, reviewing or refreshing these French rugby terms, words and phrases.

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