Cross training players – problems, responsibilities & challenges they bring

Hey guys!

So its been a LONG year. Though we’re right in the middle of December it doesn’t feel like Christmas.

What a year it has been in the rugby world though! The All Blacks go undefeated. The British & Irish Lions go rampaging across Australia and Leicester destroy the Aviva Premiership once again.

Add to the fact that thanks to a lot of wonderful people at #RugbyUnited I got sponsored to play in a double World Record match and break the Longest Game of Rugby Union & Most Points Scored in a game records – 24 hours & 50 mins + 2570 points respectively.

The other day I came across a debate about playing professional players in completely different positions. The conversation of this topic was about Richie Veron of Glasgow Warriors, a great back rower in my opinion, playing at outside centre.

Having played both positions for a period of time in the last 3/4 years I know the differences and similarities between flanking and being a tank in midfield, both needing to be running 95% of the game and both impact the team, both attacking and defending. If you were managing a team such as Glasgow, and had injury problems or just problems at a certain position such as 13. Would you move a back rower, such as Veron, to 13 or would you allow a young talent, who had been in the shadows, play there until the injured player returns/ a better quality replacement is brought into the club.

Now in rugby league a back row or loose forward (11,12,13) can play in the centres (3&4) I have seen players that play loose forward also play in the half backs positions (6&7). You do also have the Hooker, which is like a scrum-half in attack, but defensively like any other forward, who can switch into the half back roles also. In a lot of other team sports players including football, basketball and Hockey occasionally have to switch positions due to what the coach/manager has asked whether it be due to injury or a tactful play. So can rugby union players make the switch to a different position without to much hassle?

Would there be any other positions that you could see as interchange able? Such as a back rower to Centre and visa versa.

Would it help a club to cross-train a player across a couple of positions in case injury doubts do arise? Could it help to build a player’s skill set and talents?

People may argue that playing as a 6/7/8 and then switching to 12/13 for example, can leave you to defensive minded and your weak then running offensive moves.

Can a change like this cause problems to players or do you think they should bode well to change and learn the position properly even though it may be for a game, two or for a period of time?

Although it ain’t as big a switch as the Veron case, over at the Blues in the Super 15 you’ve got Benji Marshall, a great runner with the ball on the wing normally, having had to play at fly-half occasionally, when an injury crisis crops up.

Personally I think it works we’ll for both club and player if they’re willing to learn a new position, though it helps if the position was near the mould that they currently play in.

If you were an international manager and had a cross-trained player, like Veron or Marshall or even Sonny-Bill Williams (when he’s playing union in the back row) would you pick an extra forward (in Veron/SBW case) or back in Marshall or SBW’s case (SBW tends to play at 12/13 but has played back row previously) if you know that you can switch one of the fore mentioned or the player in your squad that can switch into a different position?

What are your thoughts on this?
If you could pick players from across the globe to play in different positions, who would they be and why?


Daniel O’Rourke




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