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December 18, 2021 2 min read

A Flanker is a loose-forward. While some Flankers, such as Justin Tuperic, have the silky skills of a back, they are generally selected based on their ability to put the hard yards in defensively, around the breakdown and at set piece. Its always a bonus to have a flanker with good hands of course. To fulfil these roles, they are expected to have a high level of fitness and decent sprinting speed.

Flankers aren't expected to chase down wingers, who are the try scorers and generally the fastest players on the field, but if a flanker is in a situation where they have the angle of the winger, then they will be expected to tackle the winger or at least slow the winger down long enough so that their teammates can complete a tackle. 

Having a taller flanker, such as Pieter Steph du Toit, will help your team by giving them another jumping line-out option. A shorter, stockier flanker comes with the advantage of a low centre at gravity, which helps with being a menace at ruck time. This includes protecting your own team's ball, stealing opposition ball or just slowing down opposition ball. The slower the ball the opposition can get at ruck time, the more time it gives your team a chance to set their defence. 

It is also important for a flanker to have a decent pass from the base of the ruck, as they are often the players who need to pass the ball to the backline or a pod of forwards if the scrum-half can't get to the ruck fast enough.

David Pocock is an example of a shorter flanker, who excelled at breakdown work. Especially when it comes to stealing opposition ball. David Pocock is also one of the few examples of rugby players who are now running for senate in their adopted country. But thats a story for another time. 

Openside flankers sit on the open side of the scrum and wear number 6, except for in South Africa, where they wear number 7. Openside flankers are generally heavier than Blindsides. This heaviness helps with playing "direct rugby", a confrontational approach to the game. This style has been optimized by recent Springbok sides. Heavier bodies in rugby tend to tire earlier though, which is why having a balanced reserve bench is important.

Blindside flankers, who sit on the blindside of the scrum, are tasked with watching the opposition blindside winger who may receive the ball off the scrum. It is crucial for a flanker to leave the scrum as soon as possible, so they can make a tackle or get to the next breakdown first.

If you're looking for one thing to improve on as a flanker, its your fitness. Flankers should be able to run all day and night, whilst never going back in contact.

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