Top 5: Underrated Premiership Fullbacks

We've glossed over some cracking wingers, some electrifying centres and some powerhouse number eights thus far in this series, but now it's time to look at those hidden folks that sit behind that defensive line, the full backs. In comparison to the southern hemisphere, the northern hemisphere use full backs very differently. Sure, we love a hot stepper and a pair of absolute wheels as much as the next Rugby fan, but we put a particular emphasis on that kicking game, as well as adding stability to sloppy moments; less broken field manipulators, more broken field mopper-uppers. It might seem a little more boring from the outset, but having a full back that can cope under immense pressure and recycle the ball cleanly when looking so very isolated is a gift. The same rules still apply in this one e.g. the player cannot have had more than 10 international appearances if tier one, or 20 international appearances if tier two. So, who are our picks?





5. Mark Van Gisbergen (Wasps)


'Gizzy' deserves far more respect for his sheer all round ability. Not only was he phenomenal with ball in hand and a great leader from the back, but his kicking game was perhaps the best in England for the few years he was at the top level. Before Priestland broke it this year, he had the record for most consecutive kicks and had a lethal peg on him. His tactical kicking with ball in hand was always very impressive, able to pin opposition back with deft outside-the-boot nudges. However, what made him the perfect crux for Wasps, was how he complimented the rest of the team's abilities. Voyce was great in the air and difficult to bring down, but didn't have the gas of other wingers, Sackey was a lethal ball carrier and had all the gas you could need, but was a little clumsy from time to time, King was a general in the middle of the park but a bit of an erratic goal kicker and Dawson/Richards were elite snipers around the fringes, but their box kicking was hardly notorious. 'Giz' on the other hand was a safe pair of hands in the air and on land, kicked perfectly from the deck, could deploy himself as a double pivot to King in attack and had enough pace to cover Voyce's flank if needed.


Premiership Appearances: 171

International Appearances: 1

Points Scored: 903


Photo Copyright @ BBC Sport



4. Olly Morgan (Gloucester)


A really difficult one to write about as Morgan's career is kind of summed up with 'what ifs' and 'could haves'. Despite injury curtailing his career, Morgan was an exceptional Premiership player who became a real 'nearly' man for England. Another all rounder, Morgan didn't necessarily have awe-inspiring speed or skill, he just made the correct decisions when most required. He never had a mistake in him and always beat the first man; a bit like a prototype Mike Brown without the aggression. He wasn't a particularly prolific try scorer, even though his ratio of games to tries says otherwise, but he'd cut fantastic lines in attack and often drew that extra man to allow folks such as Simpson-Daniel and Garvey straight through. He also tackled really bravely and often hit well above his weight.


Premiership Appearances: 89

International Appearances: 2

Points Scored: 110





3. Scott Hamilton (Leicester Tigers)


As a Wasps fan, boy did I hate seeing this guy on that Tigers team sheet. When Murphy retired, I finally felt as if that Leicester backline was weakening and falling away, Hamilton put a stop on that right away. Equally capable on either wing, Hamilton was a spectacularly silky player. He conjured up strike moves out of nothing, often was on the end of fantastic Tiger's set plays and also had a huge boot on him. That All Black influence he brought to the league broke the barriers on what was expected of a Full Back. He became the most lethal component of that backline; a special feat considering he played with the likes of Tuilagi, Goneva, Allen, Lloyd and Rabeni.


Premiership Appearances: 98

International Appearances: 2

Points Scored: 90

Photo Copyright @ BBC Sport





2. Alex Tait (Newcastle Falcons)


Now we all know about Matthew Tait, the player who got folded by Henson in his first game but went on to reach the World Cup final with an unusual England outfit, but do we give enough respect to his brother Alex? To me, absolute not, because Alex Tait is a Premiership veteran. Full Back is such a luxury position to play and due to spending half their time in the air, they often have a shorter shelf life than other positions. So much is expected of a Full Back across the pitch that you can't possibly expect them to have this long and illustrious career; Alex Tait works against that philosophy. Again, he's not a prolific try scorer and perhaps not a real difference maker like others on this list, but he's absolutely solid. Solid in the air, solid with ball in hand, a fantastic tackler, a great leader and one of the best parts of some terrible Newcastle teams. Although there are many others ahead of him in the pecking order, the last we heard he was still contracted to that Falcon's set up as of 2020. Longevity is a huge part of being a great Premiership player, being able to play week in and week out is what separates you from those flash in a pan-types who disappear after one good season. Also at 94kgs, the guy is an absolute bison of a bloke!


Premiership Appearances: 161

International Appearances: 0

Points Scored: 75





1. Bruce Reihana (Northampton Saints)


When creating this list, there was only ever going to be one name at the top of it. Reihana became somewhat of a lucky charm for the midlands-based club, becoming a talisman during their successes, and their one bright light during their low points. The man with the biggest hoofs in Rugby, looked solid enough with ball in hand and tackled really week, but it was his boot that he became famous for. He could knock them over from anywhere and you knew as a supporter if your club conceded a penalty within 60m of your posts, he was going to knock it over. When Cohen left, the Saints were not blessed with particularly exciting backs and Reihana took up the mantel later in his career as this fierce ball carrier, constantly working the outside channels and finding space that had no right being there. Possibly the easiest pick for this top mark so far.


Premiership Appearances: 147

International Appearances: 3

Points Scored: 538


Photo Copyright @ BBC Sport




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