Flanker is the most popular of the rugby forward positions. They are often the stars of the forward pack and appear to be involved in every facet of the game. Their actual true role in rugby can be a bit confusing as they seem to do a bit of everything.
What does a flanker do?
They are expected to be strong defenders around the ruck and provide cover defense near the five-eighth during scrums and lineouts. They are good ball runners and run the ball wider than other forwards. The flanker’s main role is to be hard on the ball at the breakdown and win turnovers.
Flankers get to do a bit of everything from ball running, tackling, pinching the ball at the breakdown, making linebreaks and making try saving tries. It is no wonder that many kids grow up wanting to wear the number 6 or 7.
Many of rugby’s most famous players are flankers such as Richie McCaw, James Haskell, Michael Hooper, David Pocock and George Smith.
To be a successful flanker you need the right combination of speed, fitness, strength, power and agility. You need to be quick and agile enough to run with the ball away from the ruck and to get to breakdowns early enough to have an impact. You need strength and power to run the ball at and tackle big forwards. Then you need high levels of fitness to ensure you can continue to make an impact in defence and attack for the whole game.
Flanker is one of the most demanding positions on the rugby field. There is no rest for a flanker. They are expected to always be involved in the contest whether that’s competing hard at the breakdown, making a covering tackle in the backline or stepping past a few tired locks and breaking the line.
How Much Should A Flanker Weigh?
The average openside flanker should weigh 105kg (231 pounds), while the average blindside flanker should weigh 108kg (238 pounds).
Openide flankers need to be a bit quicker and agile than their blindside partners so tend to be a bit slimmer. They use this speed and agility to get to more breakdowns, run with the ball wider of the ruck and to provide cover defense in the backline.
In contrast blindside flankers need a bit of extra weight because they defend and run with the ball closer to the ruck. They are often making hard contact with the opposition’s props, locks and number 8s who tend to be the heaviest players on the field. The blindside’s extra weight helps them gain metres and tackle these giants.
How Tall Should A Flanker Be?
The average openside flanker should be 6ft 1 to 6ft 2 (185.5 to 189cm) tall , while the average blindside flanker should be 6ft 4 (192cm) tall.
Blindside flankers tend to be taller than openside flankers because they are often the number 3 option during a lineout. After the two locks the blindside is expected to be the best lineout jumper. This extra height makes it easier for the flanker to sail above his opposition to secure possession for his team.
Blindsides are also expected to run and defend closer to the ruck then openside flankers. This means they are often faced with the opposing side’s locks and number 8. The extra helps them deal with these players who tend to be taller.
Can A Flanker Pick Up The Ball During A Scrum?
A flanker can not pick up the ball during a scrum. Only the last player in the scrum can pick up the ball which is the number 8. The flanker can only pick up the ball if the ball has already left the scrum and is live.
How Do You Bind As A Flanker?
A flanker binds around the back of the lock nearest to him. The flanker will wrap their inside arm around the lock’s mid to high back depending on their preference. The outside hand will be placed on the ground to provide balance.
The flanker will place his inside shoulder on the prop’s upper hamstring just below his buttox. They will bend their legs, placing the weight on the balls of their feet and maintain a flat back. The flanker will drive straight forward and keep looking forward while maintaining a neutral spine.
What Is The Difference Between Openside And Blindside Flanker?
During scrums openside flankers push on the side which is furthest from the sideline. Opensides are typically a little bit lighter and shorter than blindside flankers. Opensides are expected to play wider of the ruck during attack and defence than blindsides and attack the ball harder at the breakdown.
Blindside flankers are similar to number 8s. They are expected to be strong ball runners and drive hard over the ball at the breakdown. They are meant to be taller and bigger than opensides but not as big as locks and typically a little smaller than number 8s.
In attack they are mostly taking hit ups directly at the opposition forward pack to soften them up before the backline looks to exploit holes in the opposition defence. At the breakdown their first thought is to drive over the ball rather than look for a pilfer.
They stand closer to the ruck than opensides and are less likely to drift into the backline. They still stand wider than locks and props.
Blindsides are not expected to be as fast or agile as opensides and they are not expected to have as high of a workrate. Blindsides do more of the gritty work of running it hard into the opposition props and locks and are in charge of bringing the big men down in defence.
Flankers are all round forwards. They need to be able to do everything including run with the ball, be strong tacklers, compete hard at the breakdown, save the backline by offering cover defence and even jump in the lineout.
If you want to be a top flanker you need the perfect combination of endurance, speed, agility, power and strength to ensure you can be stealing the ball at the breakdown one minute, running down a centre during open play and then making a linebreak of your own up the middle of the field.