In the game of rugby, few positions have as crucial a role as the flanker. Positioned on either side of the scrum, these dynamic players excel in the art of the breakdown. Their relentless pursuit of the ball, exceptional athleticism, and versatile skill set make them invaluable assets to their teams. In this article, we delve into the world of flankers, exploring their role, the qualities that define them, and highlighting some of the best flankers in the history of rugby.
The Role of Flankers
Flankers, also known as openside and blindside flankers, are positioned on either side of the scrum. Their primary objective is to disrupt and win possession at the breakdown. They act as the link between the forwards and the backs, providing support in attack, defending the gain line, and tirelessly contesting for the ball on the ground.
Ideal Physique Of Flankers
Flankers require a unique combination of physical attributes to excel in their role. While there is no one-size-fits-all physique, some common characteristics include:
- Strength and Power: Flankers must possess upper and lower body strength to engage in the physical battles at the breakdown, contest for the ball, and make powerful tackles.
- Speed and Agility: Quick bursts of speed and agility are essential for flankers to cover ground quickly, evade defenders, and provide support in both attack and defense.
- Endurance: Flankers are involved in a multitude of phases during a match, requiring high levels of endurance to sustain their work rate throughout the game.
- Height and Reach: A taller flanker can be advantageous in lineouts, providing an extra option for winning aerial battles and disrupting opposition ball.
Flankers possess a wide array of skills that enable them to be effective in their position. These skills include:
- Breakdown Prowess: Flankers must have a deep understanding of the laws surrounding the breakdown and possess excellent technique in order to secure turnovers, slow down opposition ball, and support their own team’s ball retention.
- Tackling Technique: Flankers need to be formidable tacklers, capable of bringing down opponents with precision and power. They must be adept at both low tackles to stop powerful runners and chop tackles to take down opponents around the legs.
- Ball-Carrying Ability: Flankers should possess the ability to make hard, direct runs with the ball, gaining valuable meters and breaking through defensive lines when necessary. They must also be proficient at offloading the ball to keep the attack flowing.
- Lineout Skills: Flankers often play a significant role in the lineout, where they act as jumpers or disrupt opposition ball. Therefore, a flanker with good catching and jumping skills can be a valuable asset to a team’s set-piece strategy.
Best Flankers in History
Several outstanding flankers have left an indelible mark on the game. Some of the notable ones include:
- Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
- George Smith (Australia)
- Francois Pienaar (South Africa)
- David Pocock (Australia)
- Michael Jones (New Zealand)
- Richard Hill (England)
- Sergio Parisse (Italy)
- Thierry Dusautoir (France)
- Neil Back (England)
- Juan Smith (South Africa)
Flankers in rugby are the epitome of versatility, combining physicality, skill, and tactical acumen to excel in their role. From their crucial involvement in the breakdown to their impact in both attack and defense, flankers play a vital part in shaping the outcome of matches. By understanding the role, ideal physique, and necessary skills of flankers, we gain a deeper appreciation for the complexities and contributions of these remarkable players who are the masters of the breakdown.
What is the role of flankers in rugby? A: Flankers play a vital role in rugby and are positioned on either side of the scrum. Their primary objective is to disrupt and win possession at the breakdown. They act as the link between the forwards and the backs, providing support in attack, defending the gain line, and contesting for the ball on the ground.
What are the different types of flankers? A: In rugby, there are two types of flankers: the openside flanker and the blindside flanker. The openside flanker wears the number 7 jersey and typically operates on the side of the scrum where there is more space. Their role is to compete for the ball and provide quick support in attack. The blindside flanker wears the number 6 jersey and generally operates on the side of the scrum where there is less space. They are often involved in defensive duties, including tackling and disrupting the opposition’s attacking plays.
What is the ideal physique for flankers? While there is no one-size-fits-all physique for flankers, some common characteristics include strength, power, speed, agility, and endurance. Flankers need upper and lower body strength to engage in physical battles at the breakdown, as well as the speed and agility to cover ground quickly, evade defenders, and provide support in attack and defense. They also require endurance to maintain a high work rate throughout the game.
Who are some of the best flankers in rugby history? Some notable flankers in rugby history include Richie McCaw (New Zealand), George Smith (Australia), Francois Pienaar (South Africa), David Pocock (Australia), Michael Jones (New Zealand), Richard Hill (England), Sergio Parisse (Italy), Thierry Dusautoir (France), Neil Back (England), and Juan Smith (South Africa).
Can flankers play in other positions? Flankers can often adapt their skills to play in other positions. For example, some flankers have transitioned to become number 8s (the player at the back of the scrum) or even locks (second-row forwards) in certain situations. Their versatility and understanding of the game make them valuable assets in various positions.
How do flankers contribute to the team’s success? Flankers are essential to a team’s success as they excel in winning turnovers, disrupting opposition possession, providing support in attack, and playing a crucial role in defensive efforts. Their relentless work at the breakdown, combined with their physicality and skill set, allows them to make a significant impact on the outcome of matches.