Open Side Flanker

Your Open Side is your psychotic flanker. He sticks his head into places nobody wants to go. He is your no.1 tackler.

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 smooth. 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.

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 opposition 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 be comfortable with the ball in hand and be the 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 favourite 7?

  1. Jen Kish, what a great player, character and how tough she is!

Related information

  • More on the positional roles in team roles¬†(and the navigation to other positions)
  • More on functional roles in Open Play

With these pages I hope to identify the main tasks that come along with this position. 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 a elementary step to a successful team !

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

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