Now a seasoned 5.5, England forward Courtney Lawes has revealed one of the ‘eye-opening’ differences between playing second row and the back row – perception.
Lawes career started in the second row, and if you asked most rugby fans, chances are that’s where they’d still pigeon hole to the 6’7, 115kg Northampton Saint, despite multiple starting caps for England at six.
There’s no doubt there’s a mini-trend of picking more athletic second rows at six. The practice may well stem from South Africa, where Springbok Pieter Steph du Toit has become an exponent par excellence. The motivations for this fashionable selection seem rather obvious: you can add size and height to your pack and lineout respectively, provided said 5.5 is has the prerequisite physical tools to cover the more dynamic position.
Yet Lawes has a word of warning for locks heads thinking departing the comfort of their prop’s back sides for the wide-open spaces of the troixume lignes.
In conversation with fellow international second row Jim Hamilton on RugbyPass Lockdown interview, Lawes was asked about his preference for playing in the back row or the second row, and initially, Lawes said he didn’t have one.
He did, however, give a fascinating insight into which position was harder to play; or at least how each position is perceived.
“I find it quite interesting… quite eye-opening.
“So I could play an identical game at back row and second row and it could be considered a good game at second row and a very average or poor game at back row.
“There’s a very stark difference between people’s expectations of a second row and a number six, especially when you’re seen as a second row and play six. You’re certainly under more scrutiny when you play six.
“Having said that, especially when I’m in good form, I prefer playing six.”
So sixes have more fun, even if the position comes with higher expectations.
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