Tuesday, 22 January 2008

The Total Flanker Guide to playing: Fly Half

The position of fly half (or outside half, out half, stand-off, five-eighth, first five-eighth, first five, fly, pivot - take your pick) is one I have no direct experience of at all - unless you count the fact that I've knocked quite a few of them over in my time (most of them being somewhat smaller than me of course).

Nevertheless, I plan to give you chapter and verse on what it takes to be a successful fly-half, based purely on observation and unadulterated envy.

Why envy? Well, simply because I would love to be a good enough footballer to be able to stamp my authority on a game in the way that a good number 10 can do - to be able to make key tactical decisions during a game, to be able to execute kicks off either foot to gain a tactical advantage for my team, to set my backline moving and to create and score try after try.

This is what a good fly half can do. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if the rest of us mere mortals are to retain our sanity), you don't come across too many fly halves with these qualities - but the important thing to note is that in order to play this position you do need to BELIEVE that you can do all of the above, regardless of your actual ability.

It's called arrogance - and all fly halves have it by the bucketload. It is pure arrogance that allows young England hopeful Danny Cipriani to boss the likes of Lawrence Dallaglio about, and it is the same arrogance that allows a short, balding middle-aged man with no pace to speak of to convince the rest of his team that he knows what he's doing and that he can lead them to victory against palpably superior opponents.

I'm not sure how or why it works, but if you truly believe that you can kick goals from 60 metres, can rake huge kicks down the touchline, can side-step off either foot through the massed ranks of the opposition defence, or can thread a pass through the eye of a needle to send your centres racing away to the tryline, then the rest of your team will believe it too, despite the evidence of their own eyes.

The fact that you need to be directly in front of the posts and no more than 15 metres out for a successful kick at goal, that your clearance kicks hardly ever reach touch and when they do they go out on the full, that any attempt to side-step risks serious ligament damage or that your passes generally come with an ambulance following closely behind, is entirely irrelevant. And the fact that tackling is an utter anathema to you is also conveniently lost on your team mates as they remain mesmerised by a fug of collective hysteria.

I've often sat in the bar after a game and thought "Why on earth did we try and run it from our own line - what was he thinking?" or "What on earth was he doing trying a drop goal with a 13-man overlap?" But come the next game it's all forgotten as the madness descends again and we are all hypnotised by the fly half's utterly misplaced air of authority.

There - hope that helps :)


sesenta y cuatro said...

Nice post.

But don't you think nowadays the tactical abilities of a first five eighths are given less relevance than in the past and what is required is more accurate kicking every time?

sesenta y cuatro said...

I have just read the rest of your Total Flanker Guide to playing posts and I must say they are awesome!!!

I couldn't stop laughing for a good while.

I loved your comment on props trying to kick the ball.

I reckon there is only the hooker left to talk about?

Total Flanker said...

Thanks for the comments.

Hooker and full back still to do - watch this space :)

sesenta y cuatro said...

Sure, fullback as well. I'll come often, I like your blog!

Pablo said...

Only recently discovered your blog, but absolutely love it.

Just one question: why the hell is the superhero fly half wearing a Stevenage Town RFC strip???!?!?!