Blindside Flanker in Rugby

The flankers tend to be some of the most mobile and fast of the forward pack. They are incredible athletes because they need to be able to cover a lot of space as well as be incredibly powerful.

Blindside flanker number

Blindside flanker’s will wear number six in the game. It is only one position so they will wear number six to be able to differentiate between the openside flanker and the blindside flanker. The openside flanker will wear number seven. The exact number the blindside flanker wears when they come off the bench will change.

There is no set number for a blindside flanker coming off the bench. This is because usually substitutes will be able to play any position along the back row. Blindside flanker substitutes tend to wear 20 or 21, depending on the split of forwards and backs that the team has on the bench.

Role of the Blindside flanker

Much like other positions in rugby, one of the Blindside Flanker’s jobs is in the name of the position. The reason they are called Blindside Flanker is because at a scrum, they will be on the side of the scrum which is closer to the touchline, also known as the blindside. This is not actually one of the more important roles.

I mean it is important for the blindside flanker to cover that space. But because it is the blindside, teams tend to attack the openside much more which is where more of the space is. So it means that the blindside flanker can focus on the scrum.

It might not look like it, but the Blindside flanker will actually have quite an important job in the scrum. They need to drive as hard as they can to try to push the prop in front of them forward. A prop will be getting some drive coming from the second row, but the flanker also needs to drive otherwise the forward drive will be uneven.

Having a dominant scrum is a massive advantage for either team and having blindside flankers who are incredibly powerful means that you can get that dominance coming from one side of the scrum. But while in the scrum, the blindside flanker does also need to keep their head up.

For one thing, them being towards the back of the scrum means they need to be able to detach from the scrum and get into defence quickly. They have to be smart enough to know when to detach from the scrum and stop pushing. If they stop pushing too early, the scrum will go backwards and they could concede a penalty.

It is not just the scrum where the blindside flanker is important. Due to their size and frame, the blindside flanker will often have an important role in the lineout. The exact role will vary from team to team. Being a jumper in the lineout is often one of the roles of the blindside flanker.

Blindside flankers tend to have similar physiques to second row players, being one of the taller members of the team. Because of this they jump in the lineout to get as high as possible and hopefully catch the ball that the hooker is throwing into them. You can also see the Blindside Flanker be one of the lifters due to their strength.

Blindside flanker role in open play

Blindside Flankers will be a bit stronger and less athletic which is why for a lot of teams they are used in a similar role to the second row players. One of the other ways that they can have a similar role to the second row is ball carrying. The blindside flanker will be a big bruising carrier of the ball.

Quite often you will see the blindside flanker play an important role in attack. While they can be tall and strong like a second row, they will still have a bit more athleticism about them. This means that the blindside flanker can ball carry just as much as a Number 8 would. Teams are often happy to move their number 8 to blindside flanker if needed.

They break the line in attack and are crucial when you get down to the goal line. Their added athleticism means they are able to cover more of the field than some of the other forwards. It is a position which is increasingly getting more mobile and more athletic which means they can cover the space better in both attack and defence.

In defence the blindside flanker is equally as important. They need to get low in the tackles and bring the forwards down. Not only that, but they need to be physically dominant and not give up metres when the opposition is attacking the line. They are often the most important defensive forward due to their athleticism and strength.

Quite often you will find that the blindside flanker can be the leader of the team or at least the forward pack. They tend to be more experienced players who can bring the physicality as well as talk to the forwards and get them in order. They play the enforced role in that forward pack very well.

Arguably the most important role that a blindside flanker plays is bringing the physicality in the tackles. The blindside flanker is often the biggest hitting player on the team and so they will need to make the tackles against the oppositions biggest ball carriers. You will usually see the blindside flanker at the top of the tackle charts.

As the role gets more athletic, the blindside flanker is often involved in the ruck as well. They are there to powerfully clear the ruck in both defence and attack. While it is less common to see a blindside flanker jackal than an openside flanker, they still need to take opportunities at the ruck when they are available.

If a blindside flanker can be accurate getting over the ball, they are very difficult to shift.

Best Blindside flankers all-time

Jerome Kaino

Jerome Kaino was a huge part of the success that the All Blacks had in the 2010s and is widely regarded as one of the best rugby players of all time.

Kaino began his career coming through the Auckland academy which has produced countless All Black legends. Having been born in American Samoa, Kaino was offered a scholarship at St Kentigern College due to his rugby talent. This is the same college to produce All Blacks John Afoa, Dalton Papalii and Finlay Christie.

He made his Auckland debut in 2004 and immediately caught the eye of the international team, even before he had a Super Rugby contract. He made his All Blacks debut against the Barbarians in December 2004, but did not slot into the team straight away and missed the 2007 Rugby World Cup due to injury.

He was however back in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, having been installed as the starter when he returned from injury in 2008. He quickly became a crucial member of the New Zealand squad. In the 2011 Rugby World Cup he scored four tries and played almost every minute as New Zealand won the final.

After a stint in Japan, Kaino returned to the All Blacks team in preparation for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. He started in the successful 2015 Final and retired from international duty in 2018 when he signed with Toulouse. Kaino would win two Top 14 titles and one European Champions Cup with the French team.

Having retired from rugby in 2021, Kaino is now the Toulouse skills coach and academy assistant coach.

Thierry Dusatoir

French rugby legend Thierry Dusautoir was a man who played on both sides of the flank, but in the biggest games he would often play as the blindside flanker for France.

He made his international debut in 2006, scoring a try on debut against Romania. He would quickly become an important part of the French side, landing him a move to Toulouse the same year.

Dusatoir was the driving force behind Frances upset of New Zealand in the 2007 Rugby World Cup Quarter-final. He made 38 tackles in that game and was nominated for World Rugby Player of the Year partly down to that performance. He was a dominant tackler.

In 2011 he was a driving force in the French team reaching the Rugby World Cup Final. For that he was named 2011 International Player of the Year. France would not have gotten that far without him but there was nothing Dusatoir could do to stop the All Blacks team of 2011.

He would once again be Frances captain in the 2015 competition, but this time they met the All Blacks in the Quarter-finals and lost heavily. He was also massively influential in club success.

Dusatoir won five French Championships as well as reaching the Heineken Cup final three times, including starting in the successful 2010 final. Dusatoir is a legendary figure of French rugby and he will be remembered as a strong ball carrier and powerful tackler.

Schalk Burger

South Africa have always been able to produce some massive forwards and Schalk Burger is no exception to that rule. He also comes from rugby heritage.

His father was an international lock and it helped Schalk to grow to 6ft 4in when his career started. He was part of the Springboks side that won the U21 Rugby World Cup in 2001 as well as captaining that team in 2003. He made his first team debut in 2003 and would go on to play 86 games for South Africa.

He was one of the players to come into the Springboks after the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Burger had showed he could play well against international talent in Super Rugby and so was part of the South Africa squad from 2004 onwards. While he did at times play openside for the Springboks, but preferred the blindside.

After a serious neck injury, Burger returned to the South African team for the 2007 Rugby World Cup and played a key role in the Springboks defeating England in the final. Burger was consistently one of the best flankers in the world for almost 15 years before retiring in 2019.

His list of accolades includes to European Champions Cups, a World Cup and captaining his Stormers side to the Super 14 final in 2010. He was incredibly physical and could dominate anyone in the tackle. He won 86 caps for South Africa and was International Player of the Year in 2004.

Best Blindside flankers right now

Peter O’Mahony

Ireland and Munster legend Peter O’Mahony has been one of the most consistent blindside flankers in international rugby. He made his debut in 2010 for Munster having been the captain of the Ireland under-20s before making his Munster debut.

At 33 years old he is now one of the most experienced members of the Irish team and has been around in a lot of successful Irish teams. He is now a two time Grand Slam winner as well as a four time Six Nations champion. The Irish team has undergone a lot of change in between those two Grand Slam championships.

He is one of the few players to still be there from that team and it is partly due to leadership. O’Mahony is the ultimate leader, backing up his talk on the pitch with a brilliant work rate. He also uses that experience to get over the ball whenever necessary.

One of the things that has been most impressive about O’Mahony is that he has continued to play at a word class level even as he gets later into his 30s. There is a lot of talent trying to break into the Irish team at the moment but O’Mahony is holding them all off at the moment.

He toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2017 and many people believed he should have started the final two tests against New Zealand. A proper nuisance at the breakdown, O’Mahony is exactly the sort of leader every team wants.

Siya Kolisi

Kolisi is a great example of how the Blindside Flanker can be the leader of any incredibly successful team. The flanker made his Stormers in 2012 and graduated to the Springboks squad in 2013. Kolisis showed his talent straight away, being named man of the match in his debut.

He became a regular member of the squad but not part of the starting line-up for quite a few years. Kolisi started to become a starting regular when he took up a leadership role in 2018. He became the first ever black player to lead the Springboks in a test match.

He would continue to be the Springboks captain from that point onwards, including being the captain of the Springboks when they won the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Kolisi was a staple in that Springboks team and certainly helped South Africa to the title.

While his leadership may be his primary asset, Kolisi is also a brilliant individual player. He made his way into the Springboks side due to his incredible work rate and being a menace at the breakdown. Kolisi is not quite as physical as some older Springbok Blindside flankers.

But he covers the space really well and is always towards the top of the tackle lists. Despite being South Africa’s captain, he does not always get the individual recognition he deserves. But Kolisi has been one of the best flankers in the world over the last few years.

Jamie Rithcie

Ritchie may still be pretty young, but he has already made a huge impact on Scottish rugby. Growing up in Dundee, Ritchie made his Edinburgh debut just 18 years old when he came off the bench against Leinster.

Having played for Scotland at Under-16, Under-18 and Under-20 level, Ritchie was always likely to make the move up to the senior team. He did this in 2017, before making his debut in June 2018 against Canada. Ritchie really showed his world class ability in the 2020 Six Nations.

He picked up the man of the match award in the games against France and Scotland, despite being punched in the face in the game against France by French prop Mohamed Haouas. Ritchie showed that he has some incredible all round ability.

When you watch Jamie Ritchie play, it is difficult to find where his weaknesses are. He is a very good carrier of the ball, big enough to create bit hits as well as absorb them. He has the speed and quickness to shoot through gaps when they are available. In defence Ritchie does not always get the credit for his work in the ruck.

But he is as good at creating steals as Hamish Watson. Much like the other two on this list, Ritchie has shown his leadership skills from very early on. Gregor Townsend named Ritchie Scotland captain towards the end of 2022 and it seems like this will be a position that Ritchie holds for quite a while as he is still just 26 years old.

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