International flankers - how big do you need to be?

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Post by TJ on Mon 7 Nov - 8:35

I think this is an interesting question. Hamish Watson is often said to be too small for a modern back row at 6'1" and 16 stone but McCaw is perhaps the best of the modern era at 6'2" and 17 stone? Is that inch and extra stone really that much difference? Would McCaw get into NH sides nowadays or would he be considered too small? Warburton is the same size as Watson more or less

Is it more about perceptions of size than the actual size of the guys? Watson does look small compared to many of the giants on the field nowadays. Many backs are now bigger than he is.

Thoughts?


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Post by No 7&1/2 on Mon 7 Nov - 8:39

Probably much more in relation to the people's thoughts on the rest of the team make up as well. Within reason a flanker can be any size as long as his skill set compliment the rest of the team. Similar to every position really. There was a perception that Ford was too small. There is now the perception that Wade's defence is bad (which has actually improved out of sight from where it was) but is it more to do with the fact he's a little fella.

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Post by TJ on Mon 7 Nov - 8:46

Thing is Scotland are no longer undersized in the forwards the way they were 10 years ago.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Mon 7 Nov - 8:48

Just a way for some to rationalise that they they don't think he's good enough?

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Post by TJ on Mon 7 Nov - 8:50

Could be. Hardie who is the incumbent is the same size player!

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Post by Sgt_Pooly on Mon 7 Nov - 9:11

No 7&1/2 wrote:Probably much more in relation to the people's thoughts on the rest of the team make up as well. Within reason a flanker can be any size as long as his skill set compliment the rest of the team. Similar to every position really. There was a perception that Ford was too small. There is now the perception that Wade's defence is bad (which has actually improved out of sight from where it was) but is it more to do with the fact he's a little fella.

Wade's defence is still bad, but I guess that's another thread.

I don't think height has that much to do with it, more about weight and what you actually do with that weight. Pocock and Hooper are both 6ft or less, yet are rarely physically outmatched, with the former a removable force on the deck. Heinrich Brussow is less than 6ft yet was arguably the best backrower on the planet on one point.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Mon 7 Nov - 9:15

He makes his tackles and isn't caught out of position anymore, so it's goood enough for me for a winger.

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Post by beshocked on Mon 7 Nov - 9:21

A stone and an inch can make a big difference IMO.

Look at someone like T.Youngs - according to wiki (not sure how accurate it is) he's 16 and half stone but he's a stone lighter than Hartley. Hartley is obviously known as a better scrummager.

Scotland haven't exactly been doing that well vs other sides in the backrow so yes I think there's a problem.

Size and power could be a factor.

I do think someone like Moriarty is too small, could be his lack of power.

To be honest it's probably the perception that if you are heavier you are more powerful and are more physical.

Australia physically overpowered Wales, especially in the first half. I think it's partly down to what no 7 & 1/2 says that the Welsh backrow didn't compliment each other.

Faletau missing really hurt their balance.

As for Scotland I think they are missing a top class no 8 which obviously affects the overall balance of the backrow.


A full strength England pack is very heavy which I guess fuels the desire to have heavy players rightly or wrongly.

Compare the pack power/weight of England in the RWC compared to the 6 nations AIs.

Scotland need to compete with teams who are looking for more power.

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Post by Sgt_Pooly on Mon 7 Nov - 9:32

No 7&1/2 wrote:He makes his tackles and isn't caught out of position anymore, so it's goood enough for me for a winger.

He gets caught out too much for my liking, certainly for an international anyway.

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Post by TJ on Mon 7 Nov - 9:33

We ain't short of size and power in our front 5 anymore. One of the heaviest packs in the 6nations IIRC

Good point on Pocock and Hooper. Watson is bigger than both

As an aside - has the "one tonne" pack been reached yet?

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Mon 7 Nov - 9:36

Sgt_Pooly wrote:
No 7&1/2 wrote:He makes his tackles and isn't caught out of position anymore, so it's goood enough for me for a winger.

He gets caught out too much for my liking, certainly for an international anyway.
Again he used to but I haven't seen much evidence for that in the last season or 2. He remains our most dangerous wing ball in hand though.

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Post by Sgt_Pooly on Mon 7 Nov - 9:39

Happy to agree to disagree on Wade.

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Post by Notch on Mon 7 Nov - 10:04

If you're the South African coach who told CJ Stander he was too small to be a Springbok, pretty big. If you're CJ Stander, whatever size you want! Smile
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Post by TJ on Mon 7 Nov - 10:08

Neil Back wouldn't get a game nowadays would he - even at SH! 5'10" and 14.5 stone!

Stander is 6'2" and 18 stone!

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Post by Poorfour on Mon 7 Nov - 12:03

Flankers for most teams now seem to be about 17 stone, and that creates a bias towards a height of about 6'2" for opensides.

Much taller and it's difficult to get over the ball (so you have to just blast through like Haskell), much shorter and it's hard to carry that much weight and still be mobile.

Blindside is a little different as you can still have a big fella there if the balance is right elsewhere, and you get freaks like Pocock (who weighs a lot for a guy his height) or Itoje (who's tall but great over the ball - not that I think he should play 7 except in emergencies), but basically I think the mechanics of the game dictate a certain basic build.
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Post by TJ on Mon 7 Nov - 13:26

pocock is 6' and 16 1/4 stone. Not heavy for his height really

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Post by TJ on Mon 7 Nov - 13:28

My feeling is in the NH was too often sacrifice mobility for weight - its no good having the weight and power to win rucks if you are too slow to get there

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Mon 7 Nov - 13:30

A lot depends on go forward. Aus are probably the quickest around and England deemed the slowest. It's popular to bring out the WC game as proof that speed wins, except of course when it hasn't and England have gained the upper hand. I don't think there's a one size fits all with any style of play.

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Post by lostinwales on Mon 7 Nov - 13:47

No 7&1/2 wrote:A lot depends on go forward. Aus are probably the quickest around and England deemed the slowest. It's popular to bring out the WC game as proof that speed wins, except of course when it hasn't and England have gained the upper hand. I don't think there's a one size fits all with any style of play.

Speed of mind is often as important as speed of foot. And if you can impose your game plan on the opposition who cares? Variety of playing styles (and player shapes) is one of the things that make this game so interesting.

(Also thinking Dean Richards. last game or two did look horribly slow and out of place, but previously built a stellar career on being at exactly the right place and time to make a difference. )

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Post by TJ on Mon 7 Nov - 14:16

Indeed lost in wales. I call it speed between the ears and across the ground. ONe of the thngs with the slower players is its hard to see what they don't do because they are too slow - so you see them making plays and think "great player" - but its much harder to see the occasions that they couldn't contribute because they were too slow.

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Post by tigertattie on Mon 7 Nov - 14:29

Power is more important than height or weight! The sheer physics of the human body mean that if you are bigger or heavier then you are more likely to be more "powerful" but it isn't a given!

Look at Gilchrist and Toolis! Gilchrist is the heavier of the two but in terms of power I know which one of them I'd rather try to tackle!

Backrow is a bit of a coin toss these days. Do you want a big, heavy tackling flanker or a smaller, faster flanker to get to rucks and disrupt things?
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Post by TJ on Mon 7 Nov - 14:48

I would say because we have flankers at prop and Ickle jonny in the second row we need a fast guy to disrupt things in the back row.

Personally I'd play both Hardie and Watson

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Post by thebandwagonsociety on Mon 7 Nov - 16:12

When I see forwards being described as too small, it tends to be when they are losing the collision when running within the ball and also being blown off the ball at the breakdown.

If you've the correct jackal technique, you can give away a couple of stone and still be worth your place.
When running with the ball, if you look for the weak shoulder and run at the space rather than the player then you can also give away weight but remain effective.

The ultimate drawback though is supposedly longevity though the game hasn't really been professional for long enough to prove things out one way or another.

Ideal size is an interesting question. Another position would be scrumhalf, the fad of going for an extra defensive body has come (and almost gone). I'd still contend that Stringer is as good a sweep tackler as you can find.

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Post by ChequeredJersey on Mon 7 Nov - 16:57

There is no minimum size, but obviously the quality of your other stuff needs to be less the bigger you are, and if you were 5 foot 10 and 90 kg you'd have to be an incredible player to play flanker internationally
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Post by tigertattie on Mon 7 Nov - 17:04

Size has always been a discussion in rugby. To me it's the reason I love the game. Watching a small speedy dude run around some big lumbering brute is just as great to watch as seeing the lumbering brute run over the top of the wee fella.

It's swings and roundabouts!

I always recall Jonah Lomu stating that the winger he had most difficulty facing in international rugby was Cammy Murray who gave away 6 inches in height and quite a few stones. He said that he couldn't get around Murray and he never ran through Murray as Murray wasn't daft enough to take Lomu by the legs or to try and hit him high.  Murray didn't try to put Lomu on his backsides (as he probably couldn't) so Murray just clung onto Lomu and basically slowed him down till help arrived!
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Post by EWT Spoons on Mon 7 Nov - 17:16

tigertattie wrote:Size has always been a discussion in rugby. To me it's the reason I love the game. Watching a small speedy dude run around some big lumbering brute is just as great to watch as seeing the lumbering brute run over the top of the wee fella.

It's swings and roundabouts!

I always recall Jonah Lomu stating that the winger he had most difficulty facing in international rugby was Cammy Murray who gave away 6 inches in height and quite a few stones. He said that he couldn't get around Murray and he never ran through Murray as Murray wasn't daft enough to take Lomu by the legs or to try and hit him high.  Murray didn't try to put Lomu on his backsides (as he probably couldn't) so Murray just clung onto Lomu and basically slowed him down till help arrived!

https://youtu.be/_26kQzOLqRA

Still got destroyed in this game overall

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Post by whocares on Mon 7 Nov - 18:26

In this one he didn't fare much better :
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=b1tPSkdXLX8d

Smaller flankers like Steffon Armitage (or Bastareaud!) also tend to have the advantage of having a lower centre of gravity which is useful for a fetcher.

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