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 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'. The backrow is the oil in the team, making everything work. Why are teams not "working", they miss the Loose Forwards - look at successful teams and their Loosies.....

At least one of the three must have 'height' for line out possession at the rear.

Every rugby player should develop his speed, for the center extra focus should be on the quick burst through the gap: lateral movement, explosive steps, agility. Look at my SAQ pages to improve your running technique.

Open Side Flanker

I have a small book titled "Bluff Your Way into Rugby". A chapter in the book describes all the different positions so you can convince others that you have played one. The description of the open side is: "Psychotic tackler". A dramatic view but right....


Back row players are line-out jumpers too. Develop your ability to catch with either left or right hand or both. Get organized with codes, different moves and practice. Your job is to secure the throw and give the team and attacking opportunity.

You have an important role defending rom the line-out: as soon as the jumper/catcher passes the ball to his Scrum-Half you are on the way to the inside shoulder of the opposition Fly-Half. You leave a big gap for the opposition Scrum-Half of course, but this is not your worry. Communicatie the run-up and the subsequent drift with your ow Fly-Half.


Again a whole list of things to do for the back row:

  • Bind correctly, discuss this with your prop.
  • Channel the ball
  • Watch the ball when it moves through the scrum
  • Protect the Scrum Half
  • Explode of the scrum when the ball is out.

Work on the back row moves.

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!


The Open Side Flanker has the ability to stop short/blind side attacks with deadly accurate and intimidating tackling. Speed is important for this role but accuracy in lines of running and physical presence in defense is essential.

Fearless, quick, accurate with a range of tackles.

Key issues

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

My favorite open side of all times

Richie McCaw, was at Eden Park when he reached the 100 mark, emotional stuff!

General issues

More on the functional role idea: