Rugby World Cup Player Watch: Loose Forwards
Let’s look at the the loose forwards. These men are the life blood of the team and without and effective set of loosies, teams struggle to secure ball on the deck. An effective loose forward unit can give forward momentum ball and effect turnovers in the rucks.
I’ll first go over the flank positions, and depending on what team you look at, the numbers 6 & 7 may differ. There is a difference between the open side and blind side flanker, but both are meant to be strong runners and fetchers on the ground, but more so the open side flanker, while the blind side is a bigger, more robust player.
Of course the number one player to look out for is All Blacks legend and arguably the best athlete on the planet, Richie McCaw. He is the captain of the New Zealand side and holds records that might never be broken, in any kind of sport. He wears the number 7 on his back and is a master at what he does.
The Australians also boast a world-class and highly rated flanker in David Pocock. He has missed the last two seasons with a double knee reconstruction but is back this season and is at his best form. He generally plays with number 7 on his back but has been shifted to number 8 in the past. His compatriot and the vice captain of Australia, is Michael Hooper. He is one of the men that Australia base a lot of plays around and has pace to find some gaps and exploit lazy defense.
The Argentinians have their master on the floor in Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe. He has earned himself 64 caps for the Pumas and is known for his jackal abilities over the ball and puts in some big runs when given the ball in close quarters. Alongside him in the Argentinian side is Juan Leguizamon, another big unit that can get over the ball and puts in barnstorming runs with the ability to offload and free up space.
England’s captain, Chris Robshaw may not be considered the best in the world, but his work rate and leadership is valuable to the English cause. He isn’t the most effective fetcher on the deck, but he is a big unit that is difficult to bring down.
Namibia might not be a big hitter in the rugby world, but they do boast one of the best flankers in the world in the form of Jacques Burger. It’s a shame that he plays for a tier 2 team but his club commitment in England proves that he puts his body on the line every game. Another Namibian who can pack a punch is Renaldo Bothma. He played Super Rugby for the Sharks this last season and is a huge runner in space and enjoys knocking people over.
South Africa have a few good flankers to watch but the ones that might stand out are Schalk Burger and Willem Alberts. Schalk is a veteran of the game who was voted as Laureus Comeback of the year last year. Burger suffered some serious health issues that confined him to a death bed, but he came back, strong as ever and is harder than ever. Alberts has the nickname of Bone Collector and lives up to the name with massive hits, storming runs and a frame that is comparable to a semi-trailer.
The French have always had a sense of flair and some of it can be contributed to captain Thierry Dusautoir. This man is one of the best flankers and captains out there and plays with more heart and soul than most. He is one to look out for in the French jersey.
Wales have had a mediocre run so far but it doesn’t mean that the players are out of form, in fact one of their form players and captain, Sam Warburton always stands strong in the face adversity and is one of the biggest tacklers in the Northern Hemisphere.
Italy haven’t been the heavy hitting team that they potentially can be, but they have talent across the field. One of their long time veterans will feature in his 5th consecutive World Cups, so watch for Mauro Bergamasco. He has been a round since he was 19 and looks to forge his own page in the history of rugby records.
There are a lot of top flankers in the rugby world, but these are just some to look out for during the World Cup.
The number 8 is a key link to the back line in the set pieces and can act as extra bulk in the back line. Legends are worn the number and this generation of players is no different.
New Zealand’s Kieran Read has been considered the best for a long time and even won the award for best player in 2013. He is the stand in captain when McCaw isn’t available and is able to work well in the back line as an extra runner.
Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip as been around for a long time. He is generally a clean player except for a brainsnap a few seasons back, where he kneed an opposition player in the head. Besides that one in discrepancy, he is a solid runner and is able to get over the ball in the rucks at speed and cause head aches for the opposition.
Italy have always struggled to get over the big teams but they have a passion and spirit that is embodied in captain, Sergio Parrise. He is captain of his country and club, Stade Francais and is the designated runner of the team and is considered one of the best players on the planet.
When fit, Springbok big man, Duane Vermeulen is difficult to contain and has earned himself the nickname of Thor. He is as hard as nails, as the saying goes, but I bet he eats nails for breakfast. He is a big runner and bashes up field with ease.
There are a number of good number eights and flankers out there, but these handful of players are ones to look for at the Rugby World Cup. Again, these are not always the best in the world, but they may feature on the highlight reels with their ability and also keep in mind that they might change numbers as the coach sees fit on the day.