Lining up behind the entire back line, the full back is the closest thing that rugby has to a sweeper in defence. But they also receive deep kicks from the opposition, so they must be comfortable catching high balls and launching attacks from the resulting possession.
As such, the full back must have enough tactical awareness to recognise when to counter-kick, and when to run with the ball, often from deep within his or her half. Having started life as a wing, ex-England, Sale and British Lions player Jason Robinson was an excellent example of a running full back who also had the ability to kick his way out of trouble – the perfect combination for a number 15.
Robinson’s first England manager, Clive Woodward, summed up what made him such an effective full back: “Jason is a fantastic kicker of the ball. He can kick it a mile. He just often feels he can also beat the first line [of defence with the ball in hand].”
This high-pressure position is not for the faint-hearted, but those who can combine tackling, kicking, catching and running with a cool head, such as England and Harlequins full back Mike Brown, can excel here.
Composure, pace, tactical awareness, kicking, tackling.
Famous full backs
Percy Montgomery (South Africa), Serge Blanco (France), Don Clarke (New Zealand), Gavin Hastings (Scotland and Lions), Tom Kiernan (Ireland and Lions) and JPR Williams (Wales and Lions).