The blindside flanker, an often unsung hero on the rugby pitch, is a position that demands a unique blend of strength, agility, and tactical acumen. As a coach or player, your mission is to focus on the 7 key qualities we outline below. This comprehensive guide will explore how to be an effective blindside flanker, celebrate some of the game's best, and provide a specialized exercise routine to enhance performance

The Role of the Blindside Flanker

The blindside flanker is a versatile and pivotal player in the forward pack. Tasked with both defensive and offensive duties, they must be vigilant and robust, ready to steal possession, support the scrum, and be a relentless force at the breakdown. Their position on the field allows them to act as a bridge between the forwards and the backs, often being involved in the nitty-gritty of forward play while also possessing the skills to contribute to the backline.

Titans of the Blindside

Several players have epitomized the role of the blindside flanker with their exceptional play. Jerry Collins of the All Blacks was known for his ferocious tackling and work rate. Richard Hill of England was a tactical genius, often controlling the tempo of the game with his play. Another notable name is Juan Smith of the Springboks, whose all-around abilities in defense, at the breakdown, and with ball in hand made him a formidable opponent.

Key Qualities of an Elite Blindside Flanker

  1. Physicality: A blindside must be strong and resilient, able to deliver and absorb punishing hits.
  2. Tactical Awareness: Understanding where to be and when is crucial for effective ruck support and lineout options.
  3. Breakdown Prowess: The ability to contest and secure possession at the breakdown is a must.
  4. Work Rate: A relentless engine to maintain intensity throughout the game is essential.
  5. Defensive Skills: Excellent tackling technique and the ability to read the opposition's attack are key.
  6. Handling Skills: Competent ball-handling skills to support backline movements.
  7. Agility and Speed: To cover ground quickly in both attack and defense.

Exercise Routine for Aspiring Blindside Flankers

A blindside flanker's exercise routine must be diverse to develop the range of skills and physical attributes required. Here's a week-long training plan:

Monday: Strength and Power

  • Warm-Up: 10-minute rowing, dynamic stretching.
  • Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps at 80% 1RM.
  • Bench Press: 5 sets of 5 reps at 75% 1RM.
  • Deadlifts: 4 sets of 6 reps at 75% 1RM.
  • Weighted Pull-Ups: 3 sets of 8 reps.
  • Cool Down: Stretching and foam rolling.

Tuesday: Tactical Training and Skills

  • Warm-Up: 10-minute jog, agility ladder drills.
  • Ruck Drills: Practicing ruck entry and ball securing.
  • Lineout Jumps: Timing and coordination exercises with lifters.
  • Tackling Technique: Focusing on form and safe, effective execution.
  • Handling Drills: Passing and catching under pressure.
  • Decision-Making: Simulated game scenarios.

Wednesday: Speed and Agility

  • Warm-Up: 10-minute bike, dynamic stretching.
  • Shuttle Runs: 6 sets with varied distances, focusing on quick turns.
  • Plyometric Drills: Box jumps, broad jumps, and burpee box jumps – 3 sets of 10 reps each.
  • Ladder Drills: For footwork and agility.
  • Cool Down: Stretching and foam rolling.

Thursday: Rest and Recovery

  • Active Recovery: Light swim or yoga session.
  • Mental Preparation: Review of game footage and visualization techniques.
  • Nutrition: Focus on high-quality proteins and carbohydrates for muscle repair.

Friday: Endurance and Conditioning

  • Warm-Up: 10-minute jog, dynamic stretching.
  • Circuit Training: A mix of bodyweight exercises, kettlebell workouts, and battle ropes.
  • Hill Sprints: 6 x 30-second sprints with a walk-down recovery.
  • Cool Down: Stretching and foam rolling.

Saturday: Match Intensity Training

  • Team Drills: Full-contact practice with an emphasis on ruck support and defensive alignment.
  • Scrimmage: Full or half-field with live play to simulate match conditions.
  • Position-Specific Work: Focus on the unique responsibilities of the blindside flanker.

Sunday: Rest

  • Complete Rest: Allow the body to fully recover.
  • Nutrition: Ensure hydration and nutrient-rich foods to prepare for the coming week.


    The blindside flanker is a role that requires a warrior's spirit and a tactician's mind. By instilling the qualities of physicality, tactical awareness, and work rate, and by adhering to a rigorous training regimen, coaches can develop players capable of excelling in this challenging position.

    Remember, the journey to becoming an exceptional blindside flanker is a blend of physical preparation, skill development, and mental fortitude. Embrace the physicality of the role, hone your skills with precision, and understand the game's tactical elements to make impactful decisions on the field.

    Peter Breen