Karl Birch: Where has first phase attacking rugby gone?
Unless you’re an avid watcher of super rugby you won’t get to enjoy much first phase attacking rugby as it seems to have almost gone in its entirety from the northern hemisphere.
It’s true that more tries are being scored in the northern hemisphere and the rugby is still fantastic to watch, especially some of the epic clashes from the European Champions Cup this season.
However, the games, on the majority, are based purely on territory, pressure and possession and by trying to eke out a penalty from every set piece awarded.
Hey, if my team or nation win based on these tactics you are not going to hear me complaining but wouldn’t it be nice if we saw multiple running lines, dummy passes, multiple options off 10 and clean line breaks straight from a line-out or scrum?
Much more entertaining than a number 8 pick and carry, 12 on a hard line or a driving lineout right? Unless you’re a purest.
Modern day rugby focusses so much effort on a brick wall defence, a sound game plan, building pressure and maintaining possession and a solid set piece that the attacking instincts of backs seem to have dwindled.
I understand the reason for this; don’t get me wrong, with the money now involved in rugby and what rides on the outcome of each game, who can blame these tactics.
As I previously stated, if my team or nation win I’m happy. Conditions can also be a factor, but in today’s day and age of 4g pitches and full-time groundsmen, each week is like playing on a finely manicured carpet.
This lack of attacking rugby is thought provoking to me, even against these incredibly well-organised defences, couldn’t clever running lines, multiple options and utilising every player in the back line still create scoring opportunities off line-out or scrum first phase ball?
I believe so. This thought the first phase attacking rugby got the juices flowing and as a result, I came up with several attacking moves along with a detailed breakdown of the roles associated with each position and why.
Multiple running lines and several options results in a defensive nightmare, surely everyone’s ideal situation.
Attacking option playable off a scrum on the left side of the field, reason being we want the opposition 9 on the blindside of the scrum reducing the number of defenders in open field and allowing the attacking 8 to run in to space.
In this instance, the traditional set up has been disrupted. The 10 and 12 have switched positions to give the perception the 12 is going to carry hard down the opposition 10 channel and the blindside wing, 11, has left their position to stand directly behind the 10. By doing this we’re already putting the seed of doubt in the defence, why has 10 and 12 switched and why is 11 standing deep in the back line, should the defence bring their 14 in to the line and leave the whole right hand side of the field open or should they pick them up further in to the attack if needs be.
8 – Usual, back of the scrum
9 – Usual, close to the scrum
10 – Flat to the scrum 5m line in the traditional 12 slot positioned directly between opposing 12 and 13
11 – Directly behind the 10, 15/20 feet behind
12 – Slightly staggered to the 10 in the traditional 10 slot positioned between the opposing 10 and 12
13 – Usual, positioned slightly wider starting between the opposing 13 and 11
14 – Wide, hugging the 5m/touch line
15 – Wide, just creeping in to the 15m channel
Typical scrum, 8 picks and carries in field with the aim of holding the defence back row, particularly the opposition 7. The number 8 running line needs to target the outside shoulder of the opposing 7 keeping them tied up with the scrum and unable to push in to the defensive line. The aim isn’t for the 8 to make ground, their job is to purely commit the opposition 7 in to the tackle, once 8 has this commitment the ball is shipped on to the 9.
9 receives and carries the ball down the opposition 10 inside shoulder to prevent any defensive push and to get the opposition 10 to plant their feet. Again the aim of the 9 isn’t to make ground, it is to gain the defensive commitment of the opposing 10 to allow for opportunities and space out wide. Once 9 has the commitment of the opposing 10 they have two options, 12 on a hard line or 10 on a drift in front of 12. The option to hit 12 is secondary we’re wanting to use them as a dummy runner.
If 12 receives the ball from 9 their role is to carry hard and make as much ground as possible. The running line of the 12 is the same regardless of whether they receive the ball or not, the opposition 12 inside shoulder with the aim of preventing the opposition 12 from drifting and supporting their 13. As 9 has committed the opposing 10, the opposing 12 should have no options but to pick up his opposite man, plus who doesn’t want to smash their opposite man? If 12 receives the ball and breaks the line the rest of the backline need to flood the field with support to overwhelm any scramble defence.
If 10 receives the ball from 9 their aim is to not make ground but to attack the opposition 13 outside shoulder for two reasons, one is to stop the opposing 13 closing the space out wide and two is to start making the opposing 11 make a decision to either step in and help their 13 or to stay wide and isolate themselves. Once 10 has interested the opposing 13 they have three passing options, 13 on a hard line, 11 behind the back of 13 or 15 in front of the 13. The decision is up to 10 however, the defensive decision made by the opposing 11 should have an influence, if they decide to step in and assist their 13 the space out wide should be exploited and 15 should receive the ball, if they decide to stay out wide the isolation of the opposing 13 should be taken advantage of by hitting 13 or 11. The option to hit 13 is secondary we’re wanting to use them as a dummy runner.
If 13 receives the ball from 10 their job is to carry hard and make as much ground as possible. The running line is the same regardless of whether they receive the ball or not, the space between the opposing 13 and 11. The aim is to prevent the opposing 13 from drifting and supporting their wing and to force the opposing 11 in to making a decision. If 13 receives the ball and breaks the line the rest of the backline need to flood the field with support to overwhelm any scramble defence.
If 11 receives the ball from 10 their job is to straighten and to attack hard making the most of the 3 on 1. The 11 running line is to attack the opposing 11 inside shoulder to prevent any drift and to create space for their 15 and 14. Once the opposing 11 has made a defensive decision 11 has two options, one is to continue attacking hard and to break the line or two, to utilise the 3 on 1 and to ship the ball to the 15 creating a 2 on 1 with the opposing 15.
If 15 receives the ball from 10 their job is to attack hard and to put his supporting 14 in to the space created. The 15 running line is to attack the outside shoulder of the opposing 11, not to drift with the ball just to attack the outside shoulder hard, to prevent any push on to the supporting 14. Dependant on the actions of the opposing 11 the 15 is either going to be putting their supporting 14 in to the space creating a 1 on 1 with the opposing 15 or they are going to be attacking the opposing 15 inside shoulder creating space for the supporting 14 to score the try.