Rugby is a game for big men. There is no getting away from this. Those who know me, will know that I always subscribe to bigger is better on the rugby field. Obviously selection decision are never quite so straight-forward because there are skillsets, heart, BMT and a few other ingredients to consider which sometimes suggest that the smaller player is the better option than the big guy. But certainly the pro international rugby world over, we are seeing bigger players generally getting the nod and getting the job done in most positions. Even for post-school recruitment, you’d be surprised how much emphasis is placed on dimension statistics. Players like Kwagga Smith, Cheslin Kolbe and Ox Nche seemingly had no right getting as far as they have because they definitely didn’t fit the physical dimension profile of players who could make it in their respective positions.
Anyways watching international test rugby it’s always great to see players who don’t necessarily meet the height and/or weight norms doing well.
Here’s my picks of a few who have impressed in recent times.
|1||Alex Hepburn||Eng||Exeter||185||106||A bit of a fairytale story here. Hepburn was only about 6th on Eddie Jones list but injuries have pushed him all the way up the pecking order to earning 2 caps 6N caps in 2018. Nothing out of the norm about Hepburn’s height but certainly his lightweight 106kg frame is eye-catching and noticeable on the field.|
|2||Rory Best||Ire||Ulster||180||110||There is a much of a muchness here. Another top hooker is French captain Guilhem Guirado. I can’t say that either man is particularly small but I couldn’t think of a small hooker who is turning heads right now.|
|3||Rabah Slimani||Fra||Clermont||178||110||It’s not that unusual to come across a prop less that 1.80m in height but Slimani has the added benefit of being a extremely highly rated tighthead scrummager at the moment. Those are not words you come across often to describe SA tighthead props.|
|4||Marcos Kremer||Arg||Jaguares||196||115||Kremer is a hot property player on the rise. He’ll only turn 21 this year. Definitely a player worth tracking. He plays at bit at blindside as well but as far as locks go, he’s regarded on the short side.|
|5||Maro Itoje||Eng||Saracens||195||116||This guy is a superstar all-rounder. One of the best in the workd. Even at just 1.95m he’s athletism makes him a great lineout exponent. Like Kremer also possess the mobility to play flank.|
|6||Michael Hooper||Aus||Waratahs||182||101||If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you know the Aussie opensider very well. He a livewire who gives 110% to the cause for 80min. He’s definitely not a big player by modern standards.|
|7||John Barclay||Sco||Scarlets||190||102||Barclay has the height for the blindside but nowhere near the weight associated with the position but it hasn’t stopped him from being a fantastic international player for the past couple of years.|
|8||Sam Simmonds||Eng||Exeter||184||102||Like his Exeter teammate Hepburn, he’s another rags to riches test rugby story. Injuries to England’s two first choice no.8’s who both happen to be very big boys has afforded Simmonds the chance to start and he’s grabbed it with both hands. At 1.84m he’s statistically almost 3 inches too short for the position and at 102kg possibly 10kg too light but what he may not have in big ball carrying he more than makes up for with speed off the mark and workrate around the park.|
|Pack – avg H, total W||186||862|
|9||Aaron Smith||NZ||Highlanders||169||83||Scrumhalves are generally small players but one of the smallest of the lot happens to be the as good as they come . You might have a case for saying TJ Perenara of the Canes has been the best SR 9 over the past couple of seasons, but you can’t deny that when it comes to test rugby Smith’s pass, presence and decision-making have made him numero uno (along with Murray of Ireland).|
|10||Richie Mo’unga||NZ||Crusaders||176||83||Flyhalf is another possie where modern day rugby can hide a small physique player and there are few short guys around like George Ford, Lima Sopoaga and new kid on the block Anthony Belleau. I went with uncapped Mo’unga because place-kicking aside he is just such a splendid ball player to watch and he looks like a featherweight. He has a real chance of stepping up and onto the AB bench this year.|
|11||Jack Nowell||Eng||Exeter||180||96||In SA a wing of 1.80m isn’t regarded small but in other top rugby nations it’s developed into a position where speed is still a prerequisite but where taller players are being backed particularly if they have the power game and aerial skills. So Jack Nowell is one of the shorter wing in the 6N setup but wow has he got some great strength on his feet and the necessary footwork to back it up when required.|
|12||Ngani Laumape||NZ||Hurricanes||178||97||Arguable the breakthrough backline player of the 2017 Super Rugby was try-scoring inside centre Laumape who has the weight and power but bucks the trend for his position by being way shorter than 1.85m|
|13||Jonathan Joseph||Eng||Bath||183||91||Perhaps Joseph’s star is not shining as brightly as at did a season and more ago when he proved to be a lethal finisher but he remains a strong starting contender at top level and all this in spite of the obvious lack of size in height and weight.|
|14||Keith Earls||Ire||Munster||178||86||Past his prime and the days when he was regarded as a flashy player but still part of Joe Schmidt’s Irish rugby setup. Again not small by SA standards but definitely a little guy in the context of the type of players who more often than not get picked in out wide positions these days.|
|15||Damian McKenzie||NZ||Chiefs||175||81||Undoubtedly one of the highlight creative players of Southern Hemisphere rugby is the diminutive player who just never seems to be shown up in the highball defensive game like one would expect a 1.75m fullback to be.|