Thursday, 9 August 2007

The Total Flanker Guide to playing: Centre

Here’s something I definitely feel qualified to talk about. Not because I’ve ever played in the centre (apart from the odd cameo for 10 minutes or so) but because I’m sure I could. I mean, how hard can it be?

Sure, at the elite level a centre has to have a range of skills – great defence, great hands and distribution skills, pace, at inside centre a kicking game to rival the fly-half, at outside centre a devastating outside break…but how many centres at your rugby club are blessed with all that?

No, most centres at most clubs have one or more of the following attributes:

  • Tunnel vision – when this type of player gets the ball he is inevitably magnetically attracted straight towards his opposite number, oblivious to any calls of support from outside him or from his pursuing back row. Even having been flattened several times he continues to be drawn down this narrow channel – it’s why all backs who want to see the ball always volunteer to play inside centre.

  • Lateral drift – this type of player has absolutely no concept of running in a straight line and, as soon as he gets the ball runs sideways towards the farthest touchline, pushing the rest of the backs into an impossibly tight 5 metre channel before either throwing a hospital pass, being flattened himself or literally running into touch. Much loved by back row forwards.

  • Kicking delusions – this player believes he should be a fly half and so kicks nearly every piece of possession he receives. The trouble is that when he kicks it is always an adventure as neither he nor anyone else has a clue of where the ball will go. If it does go forward (by no means guaranteed) it inevitably ends up straight down the fullback’s throat or goes out on the full. He also takes every opportunity to try for a drop goal, spurning four man overlaps as his comical attempts either never make it off the ground or soar majestically over the corner flag.

  • Impossibly neat kit – for some reason centres are usually immaculately turned out, with socks up, shirt tucked in and shorts neatly pressed. Not only that, but they are often permanently tanned and their hair is rarely ever out of place. They nearly always look the most impressive players on the pitch until they get the ball.

That about sums it up. Hope it helps.


Jo said...

Hey...I found your blog completely by accident and before I knew it I was reading all of your archives. You write really well! Anyway...I just wanted to say that if you do decide to play for the Vets this year, PLEASE go to your dentist and get a proper gumshield made. Yes, it will cost you £40-£50 but those Shock Doctor ones are complete rubbish and will not protect your teeth from 20+ stone vet props in a flying tackle or landing on you in a ruck! Bad news about Strettle eh?

Total Flanker said...

Thanks for the feedback - and for the advice. The gumshield I've got is ok to get me through pre-season I hope but you're right, I do need the real deal if I'm to play regularly.

Yes, not good news at all about Strettle but the way England appear to be setting out their stall it's unlikey he'd have seen much of the ball anyway!

Cheers, and keep reading...:)

Anonymous said...

Centre’s an unusual job, because it’s the one position in the backs that no kid dreams of playing. I, like most backs of my age grew up with dreams (delusions) of flying down the wing like Rory Underwood, bewildering opponents with twinkle-toed sidesteps and jinks like Jonathan Davies, kicking goals at long range like Dusty Hare or making heroic tackles like JPR. Nobody dreams of being a centre. It's just something that’s thrust upon you, maybe because you're too clumsy to be a fly half, too big and unwieldy to be a wing, and too crap at kicking to be a full back.

It comes to some early in life; the school coach saying “stick him in the centre; at least he'll pass it 'cos he's scared of getting his shirt dirty”. To others it comes later. “Mike, you're getting a bit long in the tooth and we do have a few younger wings who are a yard quicker these days; maybe your experience (read; bulk and lack of brains) would be useful in the centre”.

Recently after a game our back row praised me for being an easy centre to support. They said ‘it’s easy supporting Mike because he runs straight’. Only later did I realise that’s a tactful way of saying ‘you’re slow enough for us all to keep up and your sidestep doesn’t even fool your own team’.


Bradders said...


Just come across your blog by accident and have been enjoying reading it all. Very good indeed!

I think you should show this to Martin Johnson as most of the categories you have detailed above describe England's centres to a tee. Geraghty is the kicker, Noon and Tindall the brainless straight runners at the oppo... Perhaps Flutey is the only honourable exception - and he's a kiwi!

Anyway, will keep checking back in. I don't know whether you have a links page / blog roll but if you do perhaps you could link to my blog - and I will link to yours as well. Mine is a rugby and cricket focused sports blog.



Geoffrey said...

Bradders you may wish to rethink Flutey after his showing this 6 nations.
I have played outside centre using my previous speed as a winger and nouse learned in't back row. I have enjoyed some great high speed collisions and life threatening tackles. A lot of how you get the job done in the centre when on the attack depends on the out half and his awarness - if he kicks all day then you may as well give up hope.

Walter Tully said...

I think any sport requires a great amount of focus, determination, strength, stamina, and agility. Though some more than most, in rugby, you’re gonna be taking a lot of hits with a lot of raw power, even when not playing as a center. Not only do you have to be strong, you also have to be quick, clever, and light on your feet. But the most important thing that any athlete or team should have is teamwork and camaraderie.

Walter Tully