Sale Sharks Coach Mike Forshaw discusses the key elements in winning the ruck with focus on core strength, staying on feet and winning the daylight battle. Great viewing.
The number 8’s duties are similar to his loose forward team-mates – to tackle, carry and provide the backs support in breaks.
The Number 8 also has the added responsibility of securing possession at the base of the scrum.
The number 8 should have a psychological advantage over the opposing scrum-half, the little guys who are like big roosters!
Former South Africa scrum-half Joost van der Weisthuizen was a classic. He would come up to you at the back of a scrum and say ‘I’m going to get this ball off you’ – well, that’s one of the nicer things he would say!
A number 8 has such an important role to release wingers, the fly-half and full-back.
Personally I don’t think enough teams use the base of the scrum as an attacking option in the modern game.
You don’t necessarily have good footballing skills, but you have to have a good awareness of creating space.
When you’re looking at the ball at the base of the scrum you must have that innate sense of position, of knowing where your team-mates are.
By Zinzan Brooke
Former New Zealand number 8
Think of the open side flanker as your ‘rat-up-a-drainpipe’ type player, if you will, or the ‘groveller’.
Because defensive lines are so tight in the modern game, the open-side’s role is turning rucks and mauls into continuity play again.
It’s such an important role now, and that’s one of area of the game that has changed so much since my playing days.
In the old days the benchmark was set by someone like Michael Jones. Back then he was seen as the new breed, the guy who forged the gap between the forwards and backs.
Jones created the continuity, he always seemed to be on the shoulder of the inside or outside centre or he was steaming up on the inside of the wingers to score tries.
But the guy who first mastered the new wave of open-side flankers was former All Black Josh Kronfeld. England’s Neil Back was another pioneer too.
The way guys tackle these days, they’re not always looking to just smash the opponent back.
At the tackle area or a ruck situation, you’re talking about a 50-50 ball, and often a tackler will be willing to sacrifice a few metres to get into a good position.
Their job is to then get the ball-carrier into a body wrap, pull him to the ground, get up in one movement and rip the ball.
Often the tackler will deliberately wrap up his opponent, knowing that eight times out of 10 the ball-carrier will be penalised for holding onto the ball.
Australia’s George Smith and Phil Waugh are other stand-out guys but All Black captain Richie McCaw has taken the game to a new dimension.
I wouldn’t say he’s exactly a step-up from Kronfeld, but he’s such a leader and has such a presence on the field which can change the direction of a game.
So there’s a real art to modern open-side play and McCaw has mastered it.
By Zinzan Brooke
Former New Zealand loose forward
The blind side flanker is the guy who cleans out the rucks and is primarily a defensive player on the blind-side, shutting down the opposition number eight or number nine.
He needs to be someone who likes that confrontation and physically robust approach, and of the three back-row positions he needs to be the absolute bedrock.
The role hasn’t changed much over the years, a blind-side flanker still has to make sure that the opposition doesn’t get over the advantage line – it’s his job to smash them back.
If it has changed at all it’s in the ball-carrying, not necessarily the off-load, but you have to be able to carry the ball to defensive lines and through defensive lines.
The All Blacks, for example, play a high-risk level of rugby these days, punching holes and then using short interplay to get in behind the opposition.
For this, the blindside and the rest of the back-row are often used more as three-quarters to punch holes because they’re bigger and can draw two defensive players, and if you can do that you’ve created a hole somewhere else.
My idea of world-class number sixes would be New Zealand’s Jerry Collins or the old All Blacks legend Michael Jones.
By Zinzan Brooke
Former New Zealand loose forward
The key elements to the hooker’s game are line-outs and scrummaging, and because of the way the game has gone, he has to be like a loose forward in open play.
He’s likely to be the last up at every second breakdown, so he’ll need to be around for support and ball carrying.
Having a really big, heavy guy who can’t get across the pitch is a waste of a position in modern rugby.
Like all rugby players these days, the hooker has to be able to handle a ball, but scrummaging technique is going to become even more important with the change of rules.
Before, you could get away with a little bit of a charge, but now the charge is more controlled from a short range, so guys with good technique will do a lot of damage – good damage.
When packed down, a good hooker will try to get a lot of pressure through his right shoulder, and will do an awful lot of standing on his left leg as he goes for a sweeping strike down one of the channels.
Striking for your own ball is important and though you rarely strike for the opposition ball, it depends on the scrum.
It’s considered the height of arrogance to strike against the head but I always tried to have a go at one or two.
Hooker Training Playlist
A prop’s main role is to scrummage, support in the line-out, tackle and hit the rucks and mauls.
No matter how fast and powerful the game becomes, a prop will always be a prop.
The difference nowadays is that props also have to be able to catch, time a pass to put team-mates into space and run.
Many top props are now very powerful runners and you may even see the odd sidestep.
The tight-head prop is very much the fulcrum. He anchors the whole scrum and is destructive in a negative sense.
He will be trying to put the opposition loose-head under pressure.
The primary role of the loose-head, on the other hand, is to look after the hooker so he can get a clean strike at the ball, but these days loose-heads have to be destructive too.
The tight-head plays on the right of the front-row and mainly uses the right-hand side of his body, whereas the loose-head’s left side dominates.
Because of this it is fairly rare to find someone who can excel at both.
To be a good prop, you’ve really got to enjoy the position – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, putting your head where it hurts.
It’s possibly the only true position on the field where you actually have a one-on-one with your opposite number and I relished that aspect of it.
You need to love that confrontational challenge to get the most out of it.
England’s Phil Vickery is an example of a perfect modern loose head prop.
He’s a fantastic scrummager, great in the line-out because he is quite tall, he has good hands, contributes all around the park and regularly tops the tackle count.