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The No. 8 is a central decision-maker in spine of the team and should possess proficient running, handling and tackling skills. Completing the back row with the flankers, they are crucial in the continuity of forward play, retaining, recycling and winning possession.
In open play they should support play as often as possible; ready to receive a pass, compete at the breakdown and tackle ferociously. As the first to rise from a scrum, they should be in position to tackle if their backs or flankers are beaten on the inside.
Due to their size and strength, No. 8s play an important role in driving the scrum. As the hindmost player, the No. 8 controls possession for his scrum half to collect and can decide to pick up the ball and start a back row move. At lineouts they play a flexible role, lifting or receiving the ball when required.
Practices should include:
Scrummaging – individual and collective practice on flat-backed, dynamic driving position, with power from legs
Scrummaging – awareness of back row ploys and moves, and opposition movements
Scrummaging – controlling ball at feet when static and moving forwards or backwards
Scrummaging – timing of pick and drive or pass from base of scrum, decision-making in these areas
Lineout – jumping, lifting and protecting, and awareness of backline movements
Open Play – running moves with backs and number 8 to learn timing and alignment, support play and decisions at the contact area
Open Play – playing the ball before, during and after contact, and playing the ball off the floor