Why Front Rows and Wings are the same player … or why I think your position number doesn’t matter in a game.

I’m back from vacation. Back to the grind. Back to the computer. *sigh*

Big T and I had a great time. The weather was gorgeous all four days. My friend KJ’s wedding was also gorgeous with great food, beautiful setting and of course, a beautiful bride. 🙂 And I even turned my rugby tan into a “I’ve been camping and kayaking” tan.

I’ll post some pictures later maybe.

Thanks to everyone who posted some lively comments while I was away. One in particular put my mind in motion to our Touch Rugby post from two weeks ago. Anonymous said “I HATE touch. It may be great for backs but as for front rows, what’s the point?”

And to this I say … what a crock. What’s the point of physical fitness? What’s the point of working on some of the big basics of the game – ball-handling, passing, decision-making and change of speed? What’s the point of working on all of these in your off-season?

And since when did being a Front Row disqualify you from needing to work on these basic elements of the game? Because in my humble rugby playing opinion, last time I checked, your position is only important in the set plays, not the overall game. A prop or hooker should be just as fit and mobile as any other player on the field, including your wings and centers. And if you are sitting there shaking your head in disagreement, then you are hurting yourself and hurting your rugby team.

I firmly believe that outside of our set pieces – scrums and lineouts, possibly some penalty plays if your team has them – all 15 players on the field should all be able to run the ball, pass the ball, kick the ball, tackle, catch a kick, etc.

Granted, our various body types make us more suitable for certain positions versus others. And yes, specific positions are better suited to passing the ball, kicking, etc.

But anybody who thinks that a prop can’t sprint up the field to score a try or a wing shouldn’t be in the rucks and mauls is deluding themselves. If anything, a large forward who’s capable of running with the backs or a lithe back who can get in the rucks and win ball for your team is a dangerous addition to your team.

Perhaps this bugs me even more because I played in a co-ed Whorefest tournament recently. Two women and 7-8 men per team. And when I am clearly one of the smaller players on the field, but I find myself having to ruck my own ball as the scrumhalf because I’ve got a team of a bunch of male backs in their waiting for the ball to magically appear, I get a little pissed off.

So … yes, Anonymous, there is a point to playing touch rugby all summer. Just like there is a point to practicing, working out on your own, improving your own game and workrate.

But that’s just my opinion … what does everyone else think?

Via the Comments:
J – Please quit leaving comments if all you want to do is antagonize. I know it’s you now. I’m tired of it. You feel the need to keep nitpicking your little fights for god knows what reason. You have always done this the entire time I’ve known you, and I always tried to listen and converse with you after practice or on the phone over the past few years, but earlier this year, your anger towards me and C was uncalled for. And I didn’t need to take it then and I don’t need to deal with your attitude now. I don’t have the patience or the time.

Em & everyone – I let my former teammate J’s comment get under my skin today. I am the “utility player” who supposedly thinks she’s “not committed to fitness”. Something I have never said nor actually even thought, but she’s out to pick a fight over something that she clearly can’t let go of, which has nothing to do with her fitness. She quit our team due to a disagreement, one she is still holding grudges for, and I guess now she likes to come on here and antagonize me in the comments. Her grudge has carried over into a friend’s soccer team, so I guess I’m not too surprised that she’s on the blog needling me. I am sorry that you still feel the need to pick fights with me J, but let it go. Seriously. Don’t you have anything better to do?

Em – You have a very good point. I shouldn’t have latched on to Touch Rugby to discuss my opinions on my beliefs about positions. They are better served as two different issues. Touch rugby is by no means the best or only way to learn the basics. And yes, since I knew the commenter, and she left a number of various anonymous comments on here this week with attitude, I gave it to much weight. That said, my opinion on positions still stands.

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10 responses to “Why Front Rows and Wings are the same player … or why I think your position number doesn’t matter in a game.

  1. Anonymous

    I think there is a difference between props and wings. I can hit the gym everyday, running two miles and lifting, but I’ll still be one of the slowest people on the field. It’s frustrating, especially when utility players think I’m just not committed to fitness.

    I did spend one summer attending as many touch practices as I could but I was never going to be the one running in a try from 50 yds. It was a good workout and I got my hands on a rugby ball twice a week but I was still slow and frustrated. I played 7s tournaments that summer too and I wouldn’t do it again.

    So, there are differences. It’s part of the beauty of the women’s game.


  2. Anonymous

    I think that 7s and touch build valuable skills for all rugby players, regardless of position. The best teams I’ve played with an against are ones where the forwards can seamlessly loop into the backline and the backs can effectively ruck and maul when needed.

    Differences in natural speed can be frustrating, but I do beleive that touch and 7s are great ways to improve passing, spacing, and field vision.


  3. Em

    I reserve my right to dislike touch. I dislike tennis too, for that matter. And golf. Did I mention golf?

    I think your rant missed some of the very salient points made by those who chimed in as not liking touch. Touch games in my experience tend to be dominated by poor, hasty decision-making (and lack of correction, instruction or discussion that might improve those decisions), arguments about rules, and used mainly as a way to kill time/condition. I would rather practice 15s. I would rather run Fartleks. I would rather do many, many other things other than touch, and I do not see touch as a panacea for developing skills that could not be accessed and practiced in some other way. Bottom line for me: it doesn’t offer unique help, and I personally don’t find it fun. I therefore have no good reasons to play it. I avoid it as much as possible.

    I wish you hadn’t used touch as a ranting segue into philosophizing on positional play, b/c I would rather enjoy discussing that. Saying that touch helps everyone regardless of position wasn’t the best way to do, it, IMO. Touch can be helpful or not to individuals regardless of position, and I think you took a throwaway comment and gave it more weight than it was worth. If you were writing a piece on positional theory and weren’t teed off by that comment, what would you have said?

  4. Brooke

    Just wanted agree with you, Blondie. I’m a 15s prop and I do play both touch and sevens over the summer.

    I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not particularly good at either of them, but its a great way to stay fit, improve my quickness and agility, and work on skills that I don’t get to use all that often in 15s (openfield tackling, passing ~before~ contact, seeing holes, reading the field).

    I think of it a bit like cross-training – sevens and touch make me use different rugby “muscles” and skills, and that makes me a more athletic and more balanced player overall. Plus, summer rugby teaches me to ~think~ with ball in hand… Instead of just automatically crashing the ball, I have to look up, see the defense, and react to it.

    Sure, not all of the skills and tactics translate directly. But sevens/touch has certainly improved my 15s, at least the 60 minutes or more I spend ~not~ in a setpiece every game. I’m more agile, I see the field better, I’m better in openfield, and I can insert in the backline without anyone (including me) worrying that I’ll bobble the ball. After all, you never know where you’re going to end up in the 5th or 6th phase.

    Also, on a side note, the best teams in the world are the ones where the tight fivers can handle the ball and the wings can ruck. Look at New Zealand! And the best womens (and mens) teams in the country … Berkeley, New York, the Belmont Shore men, all of em have forwards that can run with the ball and backs that can handle themselves in contact. It makes the game much faster, more fluid, and more dynamic. That is definitely where the modern game is heading.

  5. Em

    Well, I apologize for my small part in the drama, Blondie. I thought your point was a good one, but I disliked the way you made it. I tend to agree with you, and with Brooke’s last paragraph. Positional players moving out of position is either a mark of very new teams who don’t have the discipline to know who generally rucks and who generally takes the pass, or a sign of a very good one who understands the roles so well that they’ve expanded them and moved beyond the limitations of sticking to them.

  6. K-Train

    I don’t think Blondie should have backed away from her original point. Touch rugby can be beneficial for lots of reasons and contribute to lots of individual and team goals.

    But dorothy, there is good touch and there is bad touch. Poorly managed touch is like any other rugby exercise/drill/practice tool poorly managed, neither fun or instructive. Well run touch can be used to work on a large number of rugby situations, not just individual handling and decision making but all sorts of team scheme issues.

    Informal touch sessions can still have time for reflection and discussion. Again this depends on a cadre of more experienced people trying to manage a little bit. But the reality is that managing informally is just a different type of learning of some level, trying to teach something well is at least as hard as trying to do that thing well.

    If you have cheater heads who can’t play by rules and what not, well that’s a different issue entirely. The ref in a real game doesn’t care if you’re too tired or actually trying to cheat if you’re offsides…so in either case why would it be ok to be off sides in touch? Same thing with not respecting tags and whatever other cheating is going on. Cheating in real games is a bad habit and will hurt teams and players with any high level ambitions. So if you can’t play touch because you have a bunch of cheater heads, that sounds like a larger issue that needs to be taken care of.

  7. KLK

    I love how touch and 7s reminds me to bring up the defensive line and close down the space as quickly as possible…bursting forward for five feet beats the crap out of chasing someone for 70m ’cause you gave them too much time to think. Meh, I do have my normal gripe about touch though. Backs need to cut forwards a little more slack, especially when it comes to rough “touches”. Backs have may have the speed to get next to the ballcarrier and give them a gentle tag but a lot of us forwards wouldn’t make the “tackle” if we weren’t flinging our arms out to catch someone.

  8. Blondie

    I need to apologize to everyone. I lost my cool yesterday about this. And now I’ve been told to “get over it”. Consider it over. I don’t have the time or energy to waste on someone else’s issue.

    I’ll admit that I was so frustrated yesterday afternoon – partly from some post-vacation letdown probably – that I seriously considered shutting down my blog. I have a zero bullshit tolerance. It’s not very fun sometimes. Or making it password-protected. Because in all honesty, I didn’t start this for the masses. I started it for me. And a very select few of my friends who also play rugby. It’s turned into it’s own beast. Most of the time I like it. Sometimes I don’t. But then I realized … UGH! Why am I even letting this bother me? In the big picture of the world, this is nothing. Absolutely nothing. And I let it go.

    So … yeah. The blog is staying for anyone out there fearing they won’t have something to read at work.

    And if you like touch, or don’t like, touch, that’s cool. Whatever. As long as you’re working on your fitness so can play beyond the number on your jersey.

  9. Total Flanker

    Hi Blondie

    A late contribution to this debate but here goes:

    1. The only guaranteed way to successfully counter the problems you get in touch rugby relating to arguments about the rules, whether a touch was made, whether the touch was too aggressive etc is to formalise the rules and appoint a referee to enforce them.
    2. Touch rugby definitey helps develop basic skills.
    3. You can’t do anything about a lack of pace (I should know) but you can still contribute to the team effort (as with 15s), especially if you balance out your team.
    4. Regarding the “number on your back” argument, while developing basic skills is important, equally forwards and backs need to be aware of what their primary roles are for a team to be successful.

    A far more verbose version of the above can be found at http://totalflanker.blogspot.com/2007/06/to-touch-or-not-to-touch.html


  10. OBG

    late to the conversation, but …

    I remember when I attended a practice of your city’s men’s side in the year they won the national championship. We were playing a friendly game of touch before things got going. I was used to touch as this way of warming up and always found the same problems as others had (but, still, fun). The coach at the time went ballistic! He shut the game down — not because we were playing touch but because we were doing it poorly. So, to re-iterate K-train’s comments, anything done poorly (rugby and beyond) is poor.

    I also want to say that during the summer, our club makes up games to play. We have no formal plan, no coach. We have a lot of fun. We play ultimate rugby, touch rugby, heck even touch football and rugby baseball. Sure, sometimes tempers flare (we’re rugby players after all), but mostly, everybody gets a heck of a lot of exercise and looks forward to the next session. You could argue that it’s not making us better rugby players, but I would say that’s not the point. I call them “reindeer games” or sometimes I think of George Costanza’s dad’s “feats of strength.” It’s just rugby (sometimes, barely) and fun and friends and sense of belonging to something bigger than your own self.

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