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2017 CORE Legacy



The 2nd Most Important Position in Rugby

Date: April 17, 2014

From an article by 'Diggercane' in The

The opening scenes of the film The Blind Side describe how, in an American football team, the offensive linesman is second only to the quarterback in terms of importance.

This had me pondering over the same theory in rugby terms. If your most important position is #10, then what is second?

After analyzing all of the Super teams and paying particular attention to the title-winning teams, the one position which stood out to me in terms of quality were the locks.

All of the championship teams boasted a high quality #10 and one top-notch lock.

Consider the following combinations –
• Robin Brooke/Carlos Spencer
• Norm Maxwell/Andrew Mehrtens
• Justin Harrison/Stephen Larkham
• Chris Jack/Andrew Mehrtens
• Ali Williams/Carlos Spencer
• Mark Chisolm/Stephen Larkham
• Victor Matfield/Dereck Hougaard
• Brad Thorn/Daniel Carter
• Victor Matfield/Morne Steyn
• James Horwill/Quade Cooper
• Brodie Retallick/Aaron Cruden

Not only Super Rugby winners, all of the above were at one point or other incumbents in their respective national teams, with many considered to be the best in the world (with the exception perhaps of Hougaard who only managed eight Springbok caps but then there is an exception to every rule).

Of course there were quality players across all positions in those winning teams, but not in my view with the same consistency at lock and #10.

Why would lock be second-most important? The set piece is the short answer. Locks provide the power in your scrum, win your lineout ball and secure the kick-offs. They provide the impetus which everyone else feeds off and dominating the set piece allows your first five to dictate terms.

Look at the same positions with the world cup winners –
• Gary Whetton/Grant Fox
• John Eales/Michael Lynagh
• Mark Andrews/Joel Stransky
• John Eales/Stephen Larkham
• Martin Johnson/Johnny Wilkinson
• Victor Matfield/Morne Steyn
• Sam Whitelock/Daniel Carter, Colin Slade, Aaron Cruden, Stephen Donald (again, the exception to the rule)

An impressive list. An argument could be mounted for many to be the best in the world at the time.

Consider your own Super teams and in particular those that have not won a title. I’m betting all of them were unable to boast a high quality 10 and lock, certainly not playing at the same time. I think the Canes are a perfect example of this, a team chock full of quality everywhere else over the years, but not where it mattered most.

It is fair to say that if I was starting my own Super franchise, the first player I would focus on would be my first five – followed by a quality lock. I would build my team from there.

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