Archive for March, 2011

The following is an assignment I’ve given to the decision makers on my team…

By looking at the following screen captures from the recent England v Scotland match, take the opportunity to assess what England’s options are and what their best course of action could be.  The ideal situation would see them make a clean break with support on either side, but in analysing options in attack one must also consider the likelihood of the defence shutting it down.  Assuming a team will at least try, if not successfully, to defend well, then you must think ahead one or two phases to use them to manipulate the defence how you wish.

The teams you face play defence ‘reasonably well’ to ‘very good’, presenting a challenge to our attack beyond the first phase.  If you make a clean break, then the rest should be easy if support is there and communication is early and specific.  If we’re forced to play the ball from contact (offload, latch+drive and rip, etc.) or set up a tackle contest (ruck, maul), thus setting up a new phase of attack, then we have to work toward a loose pattern of play which will see us keep the defending team disorganised and under pressure.  A quick scan for opportunities and a snappy call might be the best way to exploit these weaknesses / opportunities, but this relies on great vision and experience from both the decision maker(s) and supporting players.  We will continue to work on this, but the simple and effective way is to have at least a few phases planned out based upon two key questions:  What are we likely to achieve from this attack with the defenders in front of us?  AND What can we do next, considering our support, our strengths, and how the defensive team (likely) reacted to the last attack?   (In doing so, never forget the Five Principles of keeping possession, going forward with support, and maintaining continuity and pressure.)

The Big Questions:

  1. Clean Break: What is the ideal, yet reasonable, “clean break” situation considering who we have in position and how the opposition is currently set up to defend?
  2. Pass From Contact: How will individual defenders react to this move BEFORE we reach the tackle line?  What’s our pre-contact option (if available and logical) and can we keep the attack going by playing the ball from contact?
  3. Into a Tackle Contest: If a tackle contest occurs, where is our support?  How will the defenders adjust to the tackle contest and our developing second phase (assuming we can win the ball efficiently)?  What is the best option for the next phase, with sufficient attackers ready, if we have:

a)      Quick Ball, or…

b)      Slow Ball

  1. Things to consider as opportunities:  Lack of Defenders Present, Defender not square, Defensive Line not flat, Defenders on the back foot, Over-commitment of defenders to an individual, Space behind Defenders.
  2. Things to consider as threats:  Defenders in abundance and ready to rush forward, Defensive patience and ability, Lack of personnel on our part to challenge the defence.

Challenge: For each of the following images, provide an Ideal Clean Break move, a Logical Continuous Option from Contact, and an option (or two) for the Next Phase Move from a Tackle Contest


The purpose of this exercise to to get players thinking about how they would use their abilities, the abilities of their team mates, and the things we are good at to successfully attack a variety of defensive arrangements.  We often do this at training for those more kinaesthetically inclined, but for those who are more visual / analytical, this is the sort of exercise that will get them thinking about attacking opportunities before they step on the pitch.  The hope is that at least some will become accustomed to defensive sets – both good and poor – and use logic and self-knowledge to speed decision making when faced with them in games.

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