What’s The Difference Between Openside and Blindside Flanker?

In the dynamic world of rugby, the positions of openside flanker and blindside flanker play pivotal roles in shaping the outcome of a match. Often described as the workhorses of the pack, these flankers operate on the fringes of the scrum and in the open field, showcasing unique skill sets that contribute to their teams in distinctive ways. This article delves into the intricacies of the openside and blindside flanker positions, highlighting their roles, similarities, differences, ideal physical attributes, and featuring some legendary players who have mastered these positions.

Roles of the Openside and Blindside Flanker:

  1. Openside Flanker:
    • Primary Role: The openside flanker is typically the more mobile and agile of the two. Their primary responsibility is to be the first player to the breakdown, contesting for the ball at rucks and mauls, and disrupting the opposition’s possession.
    • Defensive Prowess: Opensides are known for their defensive tenacity, making crucial tackles and often being involved in turnovers. Their ability to read the game and anticipate the play is essential for disrupting the flow of the opposing team’s attack.
    • Linking Play: Opensides are also adept at linking with the backs, contributing to attacking moves by providing quick and effective support in open play.
  2. Blindside Flanker:
    • Primary Role: The blindside flanker is often the larger and more physical of the two. They play a key role in set-piece plays, offering strength in scrums and lineouts. While they do engage in breakdown work, their focus is more on supporting the team’s ball carriers.
    • Physicality and Ball Carrying: Blindside flankers excel in physical contests and are often utilized as ball carriers, gaining precious meters with powerful runs. Their ability to secure possession and provide go-forward momentum is crucial to the team’s overall strategy.
    • Defensive Presence: While not as specialized in turnovers as opensides, blindside flankers contribute defensively by making solid tackles and disrupting the opposition’s attacking patterns.

Similarities and Differences:

  1. Similarities:
    • Versatility: Both openside and blindside flankers are versatile players who need to excel in multiple facets of the game. They must be proficient in attacking, defending, and linking with the rest of the team.
    • Work Rate: Flankers are known for their high work rates. They cover substantial distances during a match, tirelessly contributing to both attacking and defensive phases.
  2. Differences:
    • Skill Emphasis: Opensides focus more on skills related to the breakdown, agility, and defensive finesse. Blindside flankers, on the other hand, emphasize physicality, strength, and ball-carrying ability.
    • Breakdown Specialization: Opensides are often considered breakdown specialists, using their speed and agility to contest for possession. While blindside flankers engage in breakdowns, their primary emphasis lies on securing possession rather than winning turnovers.

Ideal Physical Size:

  1. Openside Flanker:
    • Height: Opensides are generally of average to slightly below-average height, allowing for agility and quick movement around the field.
    • Weight: They tend to be leaner and lighter than blindside flankers, with a focus on speed and maneuverability.
  2. Blindside Flanker:
    • Height: Blindside flankers can vary in height, but they often tend to be taller than opensides, providing an advantage in lineouts and scrums.
    • Weight: Blindside flankers are typically more muscular and heavier, leveraging their physicality in close-quarters play.

Great Examples of Players:

  1. Openside Flanker:
    • Richie McCaw (New Zealand): Widely regarded as one of the greatest openside flankers in the history of rugby, McCaw’s ability to dominate the breakdown and contribute across the field was unparalleled.
    • David Pocock (Australia): Known for his exceptional work at the breakdown, Pocock’s tenacity and skill made him a formidable openside flanker.
  2. Blindside Flanker:
    • Jerry Collins (New Zealand): Renowned for his physicality and powerful ball-carrying, Collins was a dominant force as a blindside flanker.
    • Stephen Ferris (Ireland): Ferris exemplified the blend of strength and skill, making a significant impact in both set-piece plays and open-field action.

Closing Thoughts:

In the intricate tapestry of rugby, the openside and blindside flanker positions add layers of complexity and excitement. As teams strive for a balanced combination of speed, agility, strength, and tactical acumen, the dynamic interplay between these two positions becomes a critical factor in determining success on the field. Appreciating the nuances of the openside and blindside roles enhances the overall understanding of the sport, shedding light on the strategic decisions that shape the outcome of matches.

Recent Posts