2 – Hooker

sean fitzpatrick hookerThe hooker packs down in the middle of the two props at scrum time whilst also being expected to play like a loose forward in the loose. The role of hooker has changed significantly over the years although looks set to return to a more traditional style with recent changes to scrum engagement laws.

Build

Hookers are generally slightly smaller than their propping front row counterparts but still large by comparison to the backs. A thick neck is a must as the pressure of the scrum will be felt mainly through this area as the hookers arms are pinned back during the engagement.

In The Loose

In open play the hooker will tend to play in a similar role to the loose forwards being expected to carry the ball in attack whilst making tackles and competing in mauls in defence. A hooker should have good hands but also still retain the physicality that allows them to hit rucks hard to secure his teams ball and turn over opposition possession.

The hooker will be expected to integrate into the backs during open play offering a ball carrying option who can also offload in order to maintain pressure on the oppositions defensive line. As the hooker is likely to be lighter and smaller than the locks and props he will be expected to cover more ground and therefore be in the top half for tackle counts.

In The Scrum

During the scrum the hooker packs down between the two props with his arms slung across his props shoulders. The props will then support the hooker during the engagement before the pack as a whole drive forwards. The hooker will then combine with his loosehead to take on the opposition tighthead and attempt to drive him up.

When his team have the put in the hooker is supposed to hook the ball back with one foot whilst his props support him. Although in recent years crooked put ins have meant the hooked often acts as a third prop by driving forwards whilst the ball is pushed through his legs, a new clamp down on crooked feeds mean that once again the hooked will have to use the art of hooking.

The scrum half should provide his hooked with some kind of signal when he is ready to put the ball in and the hooked should reciprocate the signal once the scrum is stabilised so that the ball can be put in safely and secured by his team.

In The Line Out

The hooker is one of the most important players at the line out as he is the one who will throw the ball in for his team to try to regain. The hooked stands on the side line whilst the two teams forwards line up either side of him 5 metres in. On his teams call the hooker will then proceed to throw the ball into the line out based on the call.

Top rugby teams have been known to have in excess of 100 different line-out calls, of which around 15 will be taken into any one match. Often a lock will take on the role of line out leader and call out the relevant play at which point the hooker must react by throwing the ball to the set location along the line.

This must be timed to perfect so that as his team throw a man up into the air to claim possession, the ball is thrown at the right height and speed to hit him once he reaches his peak. The hooked must throw the ball in straight between the two lines so both teams can compete or else face being penalised.

If the line-out call involves claiming the ball and then setting for a driving maul the hooked must quickly tag onto the back of the maul, often at the tail, and help his team drive it forward into opposition territory. The hooker may also be employed within the line out should the opposition have the throw in to add an extra lifter within the group, alternatively the hooker will remain in the 5 yard channel at the side of the pitch whilst the opposition hooker throws in.

In A Maul

Depending on how the maul is set the hookers role will either involve helping to drive his team forward or holding the ball at the tail. If the hooker has thrown the ball in he is likely to join the tail of the maul and may even hold the ball at the back. In general play the hooker should get involved and try to push his team forward and the opposition back.

Example

Sean Fitzpatrick is still widely regarded as one of the greatest players ever to have worn the All Blacks jersey, a team who he captained for five years. Fitzpatrick was capped by New Zealand as a hooker 92 times in total, playing in 3 World Cups and winning one.

Fitzpatrick epitomised the perfect hooker showing strength in the scrum whilst being mobile around the pitch and carrying strongly. His return of 12 tries for the All Blacks helps to demonstrate his all round play.

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One comment

  1. Very nice article indeed.

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