Rugby defence

Rugby defence - when they have the ball it`s not just about stopping them - you must get the ball back! Know the basics of defence.

When you defend

You`re defending when they have the ball

One of the most basic things about rugby defence is knowing that without the ball you can`t score points.

When the other team has the ball they may have opportunites to score and you must stop them - but that`s not enough!

  • Stop them from scoring - that`s good but with the ball they can have another go.

  • Get the ball back - you stop them from scoring AND you get the ball and the chances to score.

You get what you focus on

- focus on "GET THE BALL AND KEEP IT"!

Getting the ball back

Tackle - you must tackle only the ball carrier.

Be aware of different methods of tackling. Around the legs to quickly stop progress of the player. Higher up, "ball and all" to stop situations where stopping a pass is important.

You must use your arms in the tackle. Shoulder charges are not allowed. You can go for the ball. Take it, pull it free if you can!

You must be on your feet. You may grapple with the ball carrier and/or pull or knock the ball from their control. One on one you have no problems, although it would be best if you avoid a "knock on".

If you are not the player attempting the tackle, you would be wise to know about the rugby maul and mauling

If the ball's on the floor it may be a simple matter of picking it up. In other cases it may be best to fall on the ball to control it. Be confident you know what to do. Look at the rugby ruck and rugby rucking.

Occupy and defend the ground appropriate to your position.

Find out about the player positions you may play in rugby defence - where you are expected to be on the field and what duties you are expected to perform.

Due to the rough and tumble nature of rugby you may often find you are out of position. This may happen after a tackle, say.

If necessary, someone will cover your position for you.

If this happens you may have to cover other player positions - in the area you find yourself on the field. It`s good if you know what is required for playing those positions.

Tips for defenders

Constantly examine your team defence and prepare to cover weaknesses or alert team-mates to weaknesses.

Make sure there are no tempting gaps between yourself and other players. Attackers will be looking to run the ball at the weakest looking area of your defensive line.

Be aware of other problems. For a fast attacker, ending up with a slow moving forward in your backline is just as inviting as a gap!

A smallish back caught up defending against forwards would also be a target.

Resist the urge to tackle the opposition ball carrier when you have a team mate closer to the action who is doing an adequate job.

This prevents two defenders being drawn to the same attacker, leaving an attacking player unmarked and available to receive a pass.

If you find yourself outnumbered by the opposition - slow them down, backpeddle. Fake to tackle, but keep your distance. Avoid committing to a tackle and wait for support.

Support is on the way - concentrate on the opposition players furthest from your support.This means your support players don`t have to run as far before they become effective defenders.

You have more problems when near your own goal line.

Back-peddling is not really an option. You just have to do your best. Going for an intercept may even be the best option. Make quick decisions, Act fast. Give them as little time as possible.

Go for them! Even if you know you can`t get there. If you look menacing it could be enough to take their eye off the ball and fumble.

Stay on your toes - the smaller the difference in speed between you and your opponent the easier the tackle. Do your best to avoid being stationary when tackling a player travelling at speed. It hurts!

Look for ways to match your opponent as closely as possible - backpeddling at speed can be more useful than standing and waiting. Practice running backwards and sideways, it comes in really useful!

Rush up or hang back?

Find a happy medium. Make sure you make an active, concerted effort. Go to them rather than let them come to you.

You must advance quickly enough, so you

  • reduce the time they have for making decisions
  • prevent them from gaining ground

  • avoid tackling them when you are flat footed
  • prevent them getting up speed and bowling you over
  • reduce the ground they have to perform planned moves

Yet you must advance slowly enough, so you avoid

  • being wrong-footed and missing tackles
  • defenders being left behind, creating weak points in defence
  • unguarded areas behind you, targets for chips and grubbers

Eye on the ball

ALWAYS FACE up to the opposition - even if it means walking or running backwards - stay alert!

Quick tap penalties can be taken to take advantage of your players who have turned their backs. Call out "FACE UP!, FACE UP!"

ALWAYS KEEP AN EYE ON THE BALL - many points are scored by taking advantage of opposition players who relax.

Notice I say "an" eye. Keep your other eye on everything else! It`s essential you scan rapidly and repeatedly. The faster you cycle through, the scene, the more informed you are...the more you are powerful.

Always be reading the game so you can work out what is likely to happen next.

Defence against sidesteppers

From time to time I`m asked how a rugby defence can deal with a sidestepper. My answer is - it`s very hard!

When you are a good sidestepper you know only milliseconds ahead of time what will happen next. Your best chance of defending against one is to be one!

That way you may know instictively what options they have and have more chance reducing them and/or coping with what they do.