The blindside flanker occupies the number 6 shirt in a rugby team and will often be amongst the tallest members of the squad. Many modern blindsides are able to cover a number of positions including lock, openside flanker and number 8 depending on their exact physical attributes. Despite this versatility the position of blindside flanker is still very specialist in it’s own right. A modern blindside flanker will need to be tall and strong but must also be one of the fittest players on the field as he will be expected to play a key role in both attack and defence. The blindsides huge engine will see him making tackles all over the field, attempting to win turnovers and gaining hard yards when in position of the ball. He will however usually be slightly lighter than his second row counterparts as he will usually be amongst the top tacklers in a team.
Modern blindside flankers usually weigh in at over 16 stone and are generally well over 6 feet tall. He will be of a lean athletic build with long rangy legs to cover a great deal of ground. The blindside flanker will usually be one of the tallest members of a team as they are usually a third line out option, being slightly lighter than the number 8.Whilst not necessarily the bulkiest member of the team, the blindside must still be well built as he will have to use his strength to tackle and ruck with any member of the opposition.
In The Loose
In open play the blindside flanker will have a key role to play both in attack and defence. When his team have the ball he will be expected to slip seamlessly into the back line and act as a third centre. He will therefore be required to have good ball handling skills and the vision to be able to off load or take contact dependant upon the situation facing him. Some blindsides will even find themselves out on the wings in attack due to their impressive pace. Tom Croft is a great example of this, his pace making him a potent threat in attack, able to out sprint many backs.
In defence the blindside flanker will be expected to be a key defensive lynchpin, not just putting in tackle after tackle, but also getting back to his feet to attempt to win turnovers for his team. At the breakdown the blindside will also be expected to patrol one side of the ruck where he will attempt to stop and opposition player from running through and gaining ground.
In The Scrum
The blindside flanker will bind onto the scrum on the short side, i.e. the side of the scrum closest to the touchline. The blindside will bind on to the scrum alongside the locks and will push through the backside of the prop to help provide extra forward drive. Ideally the blindside flanker should only bind with the one arm so as to be able to react to any opposition movements around the scrum.
The second role of the blindside flanker is defending around the fringes of the scrum. The blindside flanker will have to observe the oppositions play off the back of the scrum ready to detach as soon as the ball is loose and make a tackle if necessary. Quite often the ball will be fired out into the opposition backs in which case the blindside should join into their teams defensive line. However, should the number 8 or scrum half attempt to run the ball down the short side of the pitch the blindside will often be the first or second tackler.
Making the tackle when the opposition are running down the short side is imperative for a number 6 as failure to stop the opposition running it could easily result in a breakaway try as most of his own team will be lined up on the openside. Should it be the scrum half who makes the first up tackle the blind side must be quick to react in order to avoid the ball being off-loaded and should be one of the first to the breakdown to attempt to win the ball.
During the scrum the blindisde may also be able to interrupt the opposition ball running through should the scrum begin rotating, however you must be careful to remain bound the whole time or risk being penalised.
In The Line Out
As one of the taller members of the team the blindside flanker will often be used as a jumping option at line out time. As well as being a jumper you may also be required to lift other members of the team dependant on your line out calls. The blindside flanker will usually be placed somewhere in the middle of the line ready to either jump or lift depending on the call.
In A Maul
Depending on the formation of a maul the blindside flanker may or may not become involved in the tussle. If the blindside has been lifted and caught the ball which has resulted in a maul then naturally he will end up at the very centre of the drive. He may also patrol the fringe of a maul should he not be dragged into the centre, watching for any opposition players who may attempt to break away from the back of the maul whilst the opposition are distracted.
Depending on the size and momentum of the maul the blindside may instead opt to join into the backs line ready to attack or defend depending on who has control of the ball. This provides extra options on either play for his team rather than him needlessly becoming involved in a maul that is either going forwards or not moving.
Voted the third greatest All Black of all time, Michael Jones is an outstanding example of how to play blindside flanker. Whilst not the tallest blindside flanker to have ever played the game (he originally started playing as an openside flanker) his pace, athleticism and raw power ensured he became one of the greatest All Blacks and blindsides in history. Perfectly combining the toughness of a forward with the skills of a back Jones perfectly epitomised everything a top blindside flanker should be.