Few players play with more heart than a 6 flank. They usually have a blatant disregard for their own safety and a good openside flank is worth his weight in gold. There are a couple of amazing openside flankers that have emerged over the past few years. Some that stand out are Kwagga Smith and Michael Hooper.
The biggest reason that they keep defying the odds is how successful they are despite their size. A 6 flank is the post child for “size doesn’t matter” when it comes to rugby players. The number one attribute they must possess however is a huge heart.
Key attributes of a 6 flank
There are always exceptions to the rule, but more often than not a 6 flank is the smaller of your flanks and often the smallest forward on the field.
Their smaller size allows them to focus on key parts of the game that bigger forwards just can’t perform as well. You might get taller openside flanks out there, but you will often see that the smaller players really stand out in their discipline
These are things to look for in a 6 flank:
- probably a smaller player
- relatively fast
- likes contact situations WAY too much to be a backline player
How a 6 flank gets used at different ages
When they are young they are often some of the smallest players on the field. You will often see them sporting oversized headgear in the hope that someone doesn’t knock their heads off.
These players love rugby more than anything and don’t allow their size to get in the way of playing hard. These players are a big asset on the field and can play a number of key roles on the field.
As they are lightweights, they are a great option to lift in the lineouts. They are also relatively quick and can move across the field with ease. You can use them to track backlines from the scrum or a ruck. Their number 1 food of choice must be a flyhalf, with inside centers for desert.
Their focus should never be on putting in big hits, but rather just getting someone to the ground and getting up lightning-fast to contest for the ball.
This focus doesn’t really change when openside flanks get to high school or beyond. The only thing that changes is that they should focus on doing a lot more strength and conditioning.
This is so that they can keep running like a long-distance athlete, but have the ability to be strong in contact situations and over the ball.
The biggest value that these players bring at a senior level is when they are good at getting over the ball quickly. This allows them to:
- slow down opposition ball to either allow their own defensive line to get back into position
- steal the ball
- force a penalty when the opposition player doesn’t want to let go
A good 6 flank is just one more crucial puzzle piece in making sure that your team runs like a well-tuned machine.