The Blindside vs. Openside: Deciphering Rugby’s Tactical Duality
The Blindside vs. Openside: Deciphering Rugby’s Tactical Duality

The Blindside vs. Openside: Deciphering Rugby’s Tactical Duality


In the thrilling world of rugby, where strategy and teamwork reign supreme, the roles of the blindside and openside flankers are pivotal. These positions, often referred to simply as “blindside” and “openside,” represent two sides of the same coin, each with its unique responsibilities and challenges. Whether you’re a dedicated rugby enthusiast or just starting to explore the intricacies of the game, understanding the dynamics of the blindside vs. openside is essential. This article delves deep into these roles, unraveling their mysteries, and shedding light on the tactical brilliance that defines rugby’s battlefield.

Defining the Flanker Positions

Before we dive into the nuances of blindside and openside play, it’s crucial to understand the basics of the flanker positions in rugby. Flankers, typically wearing jersey numbers 6 (blindside) and 7 (openside), are part of the forward pack. They play a pivotal role in both attack and defense, bridging the gap between the agile backline players and the powerful forwards.

The Blindside Flanker (Number 6)

The blindside flanker, often referred to simply as the “blindside,” wears jersey number 6 and lines up on the side of the scrum opposite the open side. This position requires a blend of power, speed, and tactical awareness. The blindside’s primary role is to provide a physical presence in the pack, acting as a bruiser who can disrupt the opposing team’s set pieces and gain possession of the ball.

The Openside Flanker (Number 7)

On the other side of the scrum, we find the openside flanker, adorned with the number 7 jersey. The openside is known for their agility, speed, and exceptional skills at the breakdown. Their primary responsibility is to be a menace at the ruck and breakdown, pilfering the ball from the opposition and securing quick, clean possession for their team.

Origins of the Terms “Blindside” and “Openside”

The terms “blindside” and “openside” have their origins in the scrum’s positioning. In a rugby scrum, the blindside is the side with fewer players, while the openside is the side with more space and freedom. The blindside is considered “blind” because it is the side where the scrum-half feeds the ball into the scrum, and the opposition has a limited view of the proceedings. This makes it a prime location for sneak attacks and tactical maneuvers.

Blindside: The Tactical Enforcer

The blindside flanker, wearing the number 6 jersey, is often regarded as the enforcer of the forward pack. Their role is multi-faceted, combining physicality with strategic thinking to create opportunities for their team. Let’s explore the key responsibilities of the blindside in more detail:

1. Scrum Dominance

At scrum time, the blindside’s primary objective is to exert dominance. They work in tandem with the tighthead prop and hooker to destabilize the opposing scrum, often driving it backward. This disruption not only puts pressure on the opposing team but also creates opportunities for quick ball retrieval.

2. Lineout Jumper

The blindside flanker is frequently used as a lineout jumper, thanks to their height and athleticism. They are tasked with contesting and securing lineout throws from both teams. Winning lineouts provides valuable possession and territory, enabling the team to launch attacks or relieve defensive pressure.

3. Tackle Machine

In defense, the blindside is a relentless tackler. They target the opposition’s ball-carriers, using their physicality to halt progress and potentially force turnovers. This tenacity in tackling disrupts the opponent’s attacking rhythm and can lead to crucial turnovers.

4. Support Play

Blindside flankers are also essential in supporting attacking phases. They position themselves strategically to offer quick support to ball-carriers, ensuring continuity in play. This support can lead to offloads, creating opportunities for line breaks and tries.

Openside: The Breakdown Specialist

While the blindside brings power and muscle to the forward pack, the openside flanker, sporting the number 7 jersey, offers finesse and precision. Their role is centered around the breakdown, where the game’s most intense battles for possession take place. Let’s delve into the critical responsibilities of the openside:

1. Breakdown Dominance

The openside’s primary focus is the breakdown. They are experts at arriving quickly after a tackle and contesting the ball. By stealing possession or slowing down the opposition’s ball, opensides disrupt the flow of the game and create opportunities for their team.

2. Mobility and Speed

Unlike their blindside counterpart, openside flankers are often smaller and more agile. This mobility allows them to cover ground rapidly, making them the first to arrive at the breakdown. Their speed also makes them effective in open play, where they can act as support runners or chase down opponents.

3. Linking the Play

Opensides are skilled at linking play between the forwards and backs. They can pass and handle the ball proficiently, which is crucial in maintaining fluidity during attacking phases. This ability to link play ensures that possession is retained and distributed effectively.

4. Defensive Prowess

In defense, openside flankers are tenacious tacklers. They target the opposition’s playmakers and ball-carriers, aiming to disrupt their rhythm and force turnovers. Their ability to read the game and anticipate the opponent’s moves is a hallmark of their defensive prowess.

The Tactical Chess Game

Rugby is often likened to a chess match, and the battle between the blindside and openside flankers exemplifies this analogy. Each position brings its unique strengths to the table, and their interactions on the field are akin to strategic maneuvers on a chessboard.

Scrum Dynamics

In the scrum, the blindside aims to overpower their opponent, while the openside seeks to exert pressure through speed and technique. The battle between these two forces can determine the quality of possession for both teams. If the blindside dominates, they can disrupt the opposing team’s scrum and potentially win penalties or turnovers. Conversely, if the openside gets the upper hand, they can disrupt the stability of the scrum and create opportunities for their team.

Lineout Tactics

During lineouts, the blindside’s role as a jumper and disruptor contrasts with the openside’s focus on mobility and support. The blindside aims to secure clean lineout ball, while the openside may position themselves for quick support play after the throw. These different approaches demonstrate how the flankers work in tandem to secure possession and launch attacks.

Breakdown Battles

The breakdown is where the blindside and openside truly shine. The blindside’s physicality allows them to clear out rucks effectively, ensuring quick, clean ball for their team. Meanwhile, the openside’s ability to contest possession and steal the ball can turn the tide in their favor. The battle for dominance at the breakdown is a constant ebb and flow, with each flanker striving to outmaneuver the other.

Defensive Strategies

In defense, the blindside and openside have distinct roles. The blindside typically focuses on making big tackles and disrupting the opposition’s forward momentum. Meanwhile, the openside excels at poaching the ball and disrupting the opponent’s attacking patterns. Together, they form a formidable defensive unit, with their complementary skills ensuring that the team’s defensive line remains intact.

The Impact of Modern Rugby

As rugby has evolved, so too have the roles of the blindside and openside flankers. The modern game places a premium on versatility and adaptability, and flankers are no exception to this trend.

Modern Blindside

In contemporary rugby, the blindside flanker is expected to be more than just a physical enforcer. They must also possess ball-handling skills and the ability to make intelligent decisions in open play. This evolution reflects the game’s shift toward a more expansive and fluid style of play.

Modern Openside

The openside flanker’s role has also evolved to encompass a wider skill set. While their expertise at the breakdown remains paramount, opensides are now expected to contribute more to the attacking phases of the game. They are often seen as additional playmakers, capable of distributing the ball and linking with the backline.

The Great Flankers of Rugby

Throughout rugby’s history, there have been iconic flankers who have left an indelible mark on the sport. These players have epitomized the qualities and skills associated with the blindside and openside positions

The Blindside vs. Openside Rivalry

The rivalry between blindside and openside flankers is a fascinating subplot within the broader tapestry of rugby. While both positions work together for the collective good of the team, there is often a friendly competition between them. This rivalry is fueled by the desire to outperform one’s counterpart on the opposing team and make a decisive impact on the game.

Personal Battles

Within a rugby match, you’ll often witness personal battles between the blindside and openside flankers. These duels can take the form of fierce tackles, breakdown contests, or even moments of one-upmanship in open play. The outcome of these individual skirmishes can have a profound impact on the game’s outcome.

Mutual Respect

Despite the rivalry, there is a deep sense of mutual respect between blindside and openside flankers. They understand the challenges and demands of each other’s roles and appreciate the skill and dedication required to excel in their respective positions. This respect extends beyond the field and is a testament to rugby’s strong sense of camaraderie.

Coaches’ Perspective

From a coaching standpoint, understanding the roles of blindside and openside flankers is essential for creating effective game plans. Coaches must harness the strengths of these players while mitigating their weaknesses. Here’s how coaches view these pivotal positions:

Blindside Strategy

Coaches often look for blindside flankers who can provide physicality and stability in the scrum. These players must excel in set-piece play, particularly in the lineout. Additionally, coaches value blindside flankers who can carry the ball effectively and make impactful tackles in defense.

Openside Strategy

For openside flankers, coaches seek players with exceptional speed and breakdown skills. These players are the team’s primary scavengers at the breakdown, so their ability to win turnovers is crucial. Coaches also value opensides who can contribute to the attack, either through support play or as a secondary playmaker.

The Impact on Team Dynamics

The performances of the blindside and openside flankers have a profound impact on the dynamics of the entire rugby team. Their ability to secure possession, disrupt the opposition, and contribute to both attack and defense can be the difference between victory and defeat.

Attacking Potential

When the blindside and openside flankers work in harmony, the team’s attacking potential is maximized. The blindside’s ability to win clean lineout ball and provide a physical presence in the scrum creates a solid platform for the backs to launch attacks. Meanwhile, the openside’s proficiency at the breakdown ensures quick, quality ball for the backs to exploit.

Defensive Resilience

In defense, the flankers are the first line of resistance. The blindside’s tackles and lineout steals, combined with the openside’s turnovers and disruptive play at the breakdown, create a formidable defensive unit. When the two flankers are firing on all cylinders, it becomes exceedingly difficult for the opposition to breach the defensive line.

Game-Changing Moments

Blindside and openside flankers are often involved in game-changing moments. A crucial turnover by the openside can swing momentum in favor of their team, while a powerful run or a lineout steal by the blindside can set the stage for a match-winning play. These moments of brilliance elevate the flankers to hero status in the eyes of fans and teammates alike.

Adapting to Changing Strategies

Rugby is a sport that constantly evolves, and teams must adapt their strategies to stay competitive. The roles of blindside and openside flankers are no exception. As teams adopt different playing styles and tactics, the responsibilities of these positions may shift.

The Impact of Fast-Paced Rugby

The trend towards a faster, more fluid style of rugby has influenced the roles of flankers. In such a game, openside flankers who can cover ground quickly and link play are highly prized. Additionally, blindside flankers who possess good ball-handling skills and can play an expansive game are becoming increasingly valuable.

Defensive Evolution

Defensively, teams are employing different strategies to counter the opposition’s attacking threats. This has led to openside flankers developing new techniques for contesting possession at the breakdown and slowing down the opposition’s ball. The blindside’s role in defense has also expanded, with an increased emphasis on making dominant tackles and turnovers.


In the world of rugby, the blindside vs. openside rivalry is a captivating subplot that adds depth and excitement to the game. These two positions, each with its unique set of skills and responsibilities, are the embodiment of rugby’s tactical duality. Whether it’s the blindside’s power and physicality or the openside’s speed and finesse, both flankers play crucial roles in their teams’ successes.

As rugby continues to evolve and adapt, so too will the roles of the blindside and openside flankers. Coaches and players will seek new ways to maximize the potential of these positions, ensuring that they remain at the heart of the action. The ongoing battle between blindside and openside will continue to be a source of fascination for rugby enthusiasts worldwide, as they witness the tactical brilliance and physicality that define these iconic positions.