Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The Total Flanker Guide to playing: Fullback

Back in the middle ages, when I was first asked/told to play rugby, my initial thought was that I would make a great fullback.

The star fullback of that era was the Welsh legend JPR Williams and I was deluded enough to believe that I was capable of emulating him - after all, I thought I could catch a high kick, was reasonably quick (ah, those were the days!) was happy to tackle all day and preferred my socks rolled down around my ankles. Sadly, I was handed the number 4 shirt (metaphorically speaking, of course, as we didn't actually have numbers on our shirts) and was never able to realise that particular dream.

Nevertheless, I do feel uniquely qualified to talk about the fullback position with some authority on the basis that I just might have been fantastic there. Don't mock, anything's possible, and my delusion is supported by the fact that, aside from a few notable exceptions like Blanco, Hastings, Cullen and Latham, no player in the world game has really nailed the position down since the days of JPR. The English, in particular, have over the years inflicted upon us the likes of Bob Hiller, Dusty Hare, Marcus Rose, Jonathan Webb and (heaven help us) Iain Balshaw - all with their own qualities I'm sure but none of whom have exactly inspired confidence. So, on that very tenuous basis, I'm very secure in my own little fantasy world, thank you very much.

All of which begs the question - what makes a good fullback?

The simple answer is that the fullback must be an absolutely solid last line of defence, must have a complete disregard for his own safety, must tackle like a dervish, must have faultless positional sense, must confidently catch all "Garryowens" launched by the opposition, must have a siege-gun boot for returning kicks, must have fantastic spatial awareness and an eye for the counterattack and must be blessed with great pace and split-second timing when joining the three-quarter line. Not much to ask really, is it?

The reality of course is that if you have any one of these skills then you have a great shout at being picked at fullback. Without any of these skills you are likely to be a forward.

Alternatively, you might just get picked at fullback in the following scenario:

Chairman of Selectors: "OK chaps, we've picked the pack, now let's look at the backline. We've a short aggressive little Welshman at scrum-half, a deluded ego-maniac at fly-half, two impeccably well-dressed centres, a speedster who can't catch on one wing and a big lump of a bloke on the other wing. That's it I think."

4th XV captain: "What about Dave?"

Chairman of Selectors: "Oh bugger, Dave, yes, hmmmm, well he can't catch, pass or run very quickly and he's a hopeless tackler. Sod it, stick him at fullback and hope no one notices. That's all gentlemen, mine's a gin and tonic..."
Hope that helps :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cripes...Played fullback for 10 mins once, on tour, they didn't get passed me to score, but I insisted on taking the conversion when we scored - I missed. Returned to anonimty of the blindside. Great blog, have played in a number of positions as a 'utility' player and recognise your take on each postion.