What Is The Difference Between The Openside And Blindside Flanker?


Reddit users took to /r/rugbyunion this weekend to give their opinions on the difference between the openside and blindside flanker…

“Traditionally a 7 would be more of a breakdown merchant, excelling at slowing down and turning over opposition ball. Generally a bit smaller than a 6, they are good tacklers and good support runners. Often the first player to be there when a player makes a break etc. 6s are often known for their work rate and are generally a bit bigger so offer more of a crash ball option, they are also normally taller, offering a lineout option. With the Wales backrow at the moment you have two traditional opensides who are both very effective at the breakdown, however Tipuric is probably better with ball in hand (ie running) whilst Warburton is more of a defensive workhorse. Lydiate is a master of the chop tackle, allowing players like Warburton to get over the tackled player quickly and steal the ball. However he doesn’t really offer much else. A good international backrow is all about balance with many things to consider including how the number eight plays.”

“A six is often seen as more ball carrying, link up play with the backs and line out work. When people say a traditional seven, they mean a tackler and turn over specialist”

“7 is never onside. 6 is onside some of the time.”

“The 6 bigger, they do most of their work in close to the ruck. They carry the ball in close for short gains over the advantage line, they rack up a big tackle count on the fringes and they do a lot of work clearing bodies out of the ruck. They are line out targets, and generally a lot of players are able to cover 6 and lock but not 7.”

“The 7 is smaller and quicker, they range wide, linking with the backs and arriving to breakdowns first. They make a lot of tackles on backs wide of the ruck and try to get up and steal the pill away before anyone else arrives. The best 7s are the ones that can read the play better than anyone else”

“Normally 6s are workhorses: tacklers and tight ball carriers who you want to rely on to put a big shift in. Dan Lydiate and Scott Fardy are archetypal blindsides. Haskell and Robshaw as well.

7s can be open-field footballers like Tipuric (though he is a good fetcher) and Hooper, or breakdown specialists like Pocock or Warburton.

Different teams play different combinations and develop different types of back row, New Zealand tend to prefer their flankers to be of the footballer type but also very able to pilfer and make big hits (see McCaw). South Africa and England generally go for two big hitters and try to power teams off the ball.”

“Consider the scrum, the 7 sits on the open side and the 6 on the blind side. Their initial job must be to tackle to number 8 from an 8 pick up. If it’s an 8 pickup that gets popped to the 9, better get the 9.

If the ball is thrown to the backs, the role of the 7 and lesser extend defensive 9 is to run on the INSIDE shoulder of the defensive back. Why? Because they are there to prevent either am inside shoulder cut inside or a wing or full back cutting into the line at speed.

If a tackle is made, it is the normal for the 6/7 to be over the ball first and this is why to see a lot of penalties being won by flankers for the opposition not releasing the ball.

Number 6 has to cover the blind side in case the offence decides to run down there.

The flanker needs to be fit and be one of the best tacklers in the team.”

Read the full thread here.



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