Note: this page is based on IRB coaching material, my own experiences and feedback from other coaches.

In General

When you want to create a high performance rugby team you need to look at the team assets and individual strengths of players. Piecing together the optimum position for the players is one of the great teambuilding activities of the coach and his players.

I think a lot of rugby coaches underestimate the motivational power that will develop when you start working with the players and discussing where their competence's will benefit the team the most.

With these rugby players specific pages I hope to identify the main tasks that come along with the position. A great teambuilding activity would be to let the team match their individual skills with the positions.

Definition is one, to agree with these tasks is important, performing the tasks is the third thing. Doing all three with all the players in the team is an elementary step to a successful team !

Good luck in developing your team spirit!

General issues on the Back Row players

The Back Row Players are also called Loose Forwards or Third Row Players. The three back row positions have special requirements, but also some in common like speed, mobility, ball skills, accuracy, aggression on attack and defence and they must blend together as a 'unit'. At least one of the three must have 'height' for line out possession at the rear.

The backrow is the oil in the team: be there at the right time to keep the momentum of attack going (keeping the team in ball possession, pick up and run, pick and pass or chip). Do the dirty work in defence. The back-row should focus on the quick burst through the gap: lateral movement, explosive steps, agility., or hitting the defensive line at speed. Look at my SAQ pages to improve your running technique.

Most people will hardly recognise the value of a good No. 8 player untill in the game he is not there.....


Number Eight is a powerful scrummager and a strong runner who can surge off the back of the scrum and break the line of defence. A whole list of things:

  • Channel the ball
  • Protect the ball for the Scrum Half
  • Efficient control of the ball at the base of the scrum by hand or foot
  • Clear the ball: pick and break away to the right looking to link with Fly Half or Scrum Half on the outside or Flanker on inside.
  • Clear the ball: pick and break left combining with the Blind Side Flanker
  • Dynamic running with aggression to get over the gain line and skills to 'distribute' the ball.

I have a special page on the scrum.

Open play: offence

The Open Side Flanker should comfortable with the ball in hand when first in support of the ball carrier. His decision making skills are key: pick&go, pop pass, go over and protect the ball, wipe opposition player from the breakdown, ... He must 'read' the opposition backline, communicate with his own backline and be accurate in lines of running.

All the skills of the other two back row players but must have the ability both to go to ground to control the ball and to stay on his feet to continue the attack. Work with the other loosies and knowing what the backs are doing to get the right lines to get to the breakdown.

Support the ball carrier and carry on the attack. Do whatever it takes to win the ball!


Number Eight is an efficient defender, speed to get back and cover as well as confidence in relieving pressure from backs by taking the 'highball'.

Stop the drive from a opposition backrow move, tackle low to prevent the ball carrier to set up a maul. The back-row players should discuss the responsiblities in tackling opposite numbers: example:

  • #6 takes ball-carrier
  • #8 takes second ball carrier
  • #9 takes third ball carrier
  • Running lines from scrum or line-out into open play is difficult but the No. 8 should provide a cover in depth or just join the tacklers / markers next to the ruck/maul.

Key issues

  • Aggression, go forward and a strong "will to succeed".

My favorite number eight of the RWC 2011

On player, easy choice: Imanol Harinordoquy. The complete package.

General issues

More on the functional role idea: