Thursday, February 08, 2007

I Was A Rugby Player

In the not so distant past, I once played rugby. I started off as loose head prop before shifting to blind side flanker during my leaner and fitter days. The last position I played was a hooker.

Below are BBC's take on the demands of each position I once played. Just wondering what the hell I was doing on the field then, hahahahaha...

Loose head Prop

A prop's main role is to scrummage, support in the line-out, tackle and hit the rucks and mauls.

No matter how fast and powerful the game becomes, a prop will always be a prop. The difference nowadays is that props also have to be able to catch, time a pass to put team-mates into space and run.

Many top props are now very powerful runners and you may even see the odd sidestep. The tight-head prop is very much the fulcrum. He anchors the whole scrum and is destructive in a negative sense. He will be trying to put the opposition loose-head under pressure.

The primary role of the loose-head, on the other hand, is to look after the hooker so he can get a clean strike at the ball, but these days loose-heads have to be destructive too. The tight-head plays on the right of the front-row and mainly uses the right-hand side of his body, whereas the loose-head's left side dominates. Because of this it is fairly rare to find someone who can excel at both. To be a good prop, you've really got to enjoy the position - it's not everyone's cup of tea, putting your head where it hurts.

It's possibly the only true position on the field where you actually have a one-on-one with your opposite number and I relished that aspect of it. You need to love that confrontational challenge to get the most out of it.

England's Phil Vickery is my idea of a perfect modern prop. He's a fantastic scrummager, great in the line-out because he is quite tall, he has good hands, contributes all around the park and regularly tops the tackle count.

[My take : I was picked then because of my size and nothing else. At 58 kg and the height I had , I practically towered over 3/4 of the population then. It was torture having to carry that weight with the amount of running we had to do. But I managed fairly well.

As a prop, my job was only during the scrum. Apart form that, I as ar as I remember, I have little else to do except charging for the ball and tackling. ]

Blind Side Flanker

The number six is the guy who cleans out the rucks and is primarily a defensive player on the blind-side, shutting down the opposition number eight or number nine.

He needs to be someone who likes that confrontation and physically robust approach, and of the three back-row positions he needs to be the absolute bedrock.

The role hasn't changed much over the years, a blind-side flanker still has to make sure that the opposition doesn't get over the advantage line - it's his job to smash them back. If it has changed at all it's in the ball-carrying, not necessarily the off-load, but you have to be able to carry the ball to defensive lines and through defensive lines.

The All Blacks, for example, play a high-risk level of rugby these days, punching holes and then using short interplay to get in behind the opposition. For this, the blindside and the rest of the back-row are often used more as three-quarters to punch holes because they're bigger and can draw two defensive players, and if you can do that you've created a hole somewhere else.

My idea of world-class number sixes would be New Zealand's Jerry Collins or the old All Blacks legend Michael Jones.

[ My take : I believe I did fairly well in this position. Started at this position in Form 4 when I slimmed down considerably and was fast (or so I thought). Played for the school's first XV. Scored the first try of the tournament we played in 1994. Played in this position against Vaji as well.]

Hooker

The key elements to the hooker's game are line-outs and scrummaging, and because of the way the game has gone, he has to be like a loose forward in open play. He's likely to be the last up at every second breakdown, so he'll need to be around for support and ball carrying.

Having a really big, heavy guy who can't get across the pitch is a waste of a position in modern rugby. Like all rugby players these days, the hooker has to be able to handle a ball, but scrummaging technique is going to become even more important with the change of rules.

Before, you could get away with a little bit of a charge, but now the charge is more controlled from a short range, so guys with good technique will do a lot of damage - good damage.

When packed down, a good hooker will try to get a lot of pressure through his right shoulder, and will do an awful lot of standing on his left leg as he goes for a sweeping strike down one of the channels. Striking for your own ball is important and though you rarely strike for the opposition ball, it depends on the scrum.

It's considered the height of arrogance to strike against the head but I always tried to have a go at one or two.

[I first played as a hooker against Vaji in 1993. I was the second choice. Abon, the first choice could not play because Abdullah Azizi, the father, didn't allow it. I think mainly because of his studies. When I joined MCOBA rugby team, I tried to reclaim the flanker position but did not get it because I was no longer fit to play as one. Alternatively, I played as hooker based on the occassional experience. During these time, the position was alternated between Abon & me. Admittedly, Abon was a better player so he was the 1st choice. But I still can outrun him anytime, hahahaha.]

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