Converting from Back Row to Hooker

Converting to a new position can be a challenging task. As a back row, predominantly a Blind side flanker that’s piled on a few alcohol pounds, learning a new position can be really quite difficult. Especially when the new position is hooker; now for me this is the case, but adapting position seems the easiest way to get game time, and for a lot of players this is the same. Playing hooker for a few seems easy enough. Let’s face it, throwing in at the line out seems simple enough, hooking? Course that’s easy; and yet it’s only until you play hooker that you understand the pressure they’re put under.

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Lineouts, that’s simple right?

Of course on a still spring/summer morning in April that’s easy enough, throwing a straight dart to your team seems simple enough. But the slightest gust of wind suddenly makes throwing at the lineout that much harder. And yet throwing in 5 metres out from your own try line suddenly is the simplest task in the world. Every hooker knows this is now one of the hardest tasks a player can have. All I’m saying is don’t underestimate the hooker’s role. One sudden gust of wind can upset even the most experienced players.

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The other key aspect of a hookers game is to get a clean hook on the ball at scrummage time. We’ve all watched an international match, hearing ex-professionals such as Brian Moore or Keith Wood here about the hooker getting a clear contact to hook the ball back. But the way the game has evolved means for many the ball is so fed that even the weakest of packs maintains its’ own ball and therefore the “hook” has almost become redundant in modern rugby. And therefore this part of the game is almost redundant. Now for me this has been a similar case; whoever has put in at the scrum is expected to win the ball, making at least one of the hookers job that bit easier.

Many a player has had to convert from different positions to a hooker; take Tom Youngs for example. An up and coming centre; who didn’t quite break through into a first team shirt spent hours on the training ground and in the gym to become a centre. He epitomises the demands a modern hooker has to go through. In previous years a hooker was a lump that occasionally carried that only had two jobs; to retain scrums and be accurate at the lineout. But a modern day hooker is a different beast entirely.

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Shalk Brits is a perfect example; at 16 stones he’s hardly a hefty character. But he’s one of the fittest players on the pitch (even if he can’t tackle Wayne Barnes) All I’m suggesting is that the position of hooker has changed over many years. Evloving from a 20 stone+ character to one of the fittest players on the pitch; expected to carry the ball as hard as he tackles, and be one of the first players to each break down.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtWVyoX0FsA

But this brings me on to my closing point, don’t underestimate the hooker. He’s one of the most pivotal positions on your team. He’s evolved from a lump to one of the fittest players on your team. So make sure he’s an expert at his job. His ability to retain the ball at the scrummage even though rules have lazed over recent years, and throw accurate line out ball could be the difference between an easy victory for your team and an absolutely catastrophic defeat. Let’s face it everyone knows the most important aspect of a rugby game is to retain the ball at all costs.

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