Rugby support play

Rugby support play involves helping the ball carrier advance the position of the ball. Know what to do in open play and what to do when play breaks down.

Support

In open rugby play

When your team has the ball you aim to move the ball forwards, get the ball into the opposition in-goal area and score a try.

As the ball carrier, you want options and support so the opposition will find it hard to know where the ball will go next.

You also want support so you can break through the opposition or at least keep possession of the ball.

If you're not the ball carrier imagine yourself in the ball carrier's place and do whatever you can to give them options and support.

Stay on your feet. Players off their cannot take part in play.

Provide options in the following ways...

Put yourself in a position to receive a pass...

  • the ball carrier must be able to get the ball to you without passing the ball forwards. It`s also best if the ball does not have to go around or over an opposition player - you risk losing it.

  • this needs good timing. Arrive early enough for the ball carrier to get a pass away before being tackled. Arrive late enough for the ball carrier to be ready to pass. Arrive slowly enough to be certain of taking the pass. Arrive fast enough to avoid being an easy target for the defence.

  • also bear in mind the circumstances and abilities of the ball carrier. If tacklers are close, a short pass may be all that is possible. Assess the action. Put yourself in a good position.

Be prepared to chase a kick...

  • weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of passes and kicks. Make sure you are behind the ball carrier so that if they do kick you will be onside and entitled to chase the kick and take possession.

  • the amount of space and the positioning of the opposition on the field will help you know what kind of kick to expect. For types of kick, see rugby kicking.

Bind to the ball carrier

  • this may help the ball carrier if they have been held but not taken to the ground.

  • when you approach the ball carrier to bind on to them, avoid obstructing the opposition players.

  • binding on adds your weight, bulk and momentum to that of the ball carrier and may help drive the ball forwards. It also gives you the opportunity to smuggle the ball away from the ball carrier and continue the forward movement

Simply show you are ready and able to receive the ball even though you may not actually believe you will. Give the opposition something to think about.

Emotional support is also very valuable. A bit of encouragement can lift a whole team. So can hearing the opposition arguing!

When play breaks down

Frequently during a rugby game play will break down.

You may not know which team has possession of the ball.

Players from both sides may be near or around the ball.

In the right circumstances you can support by taking part in the contest for possession of the ball.

How to join in play at "the break-down"

A tackle may have taken place and two players are on the ground near the ball (on the ground means at least one knee touching the ground).

If you are the tackler, once you release the tackled player and get up onto your feet you may go to the ball from any direction and attempt to get control of the ball (pick it up).

If you are involved in a tackle but you stay on your feet you are not a tackler and you must do as described below.

Another break-down in play may be an attempted tackle where the player is held but not taken to the ground and several players are around the ball.

Perhaps the ball is on the ground with several players clustered around.

You treat all these situations in a similar way. The diagrams below show you what to do.

Remember directions of play, get your bearings

Rugby support play directions of play Rugby support play directions of play

Remember which way you are playing.

The big arrows show the direction of play. There aren`t any actually painted on the pitch, so you have to do it on your own!

It`s not always easy until you have had some practice. You may have been swung around, turned upside-down and be crawling out from under a heap of other players.

The red/blue cross represents the players involved in a situation like those mentioned above.

There may be more than just two players involved.

Draw an imaginary box

around the players at the break-down.

Rugby support play draw an imaginary box Rugby support play, draw an imaginary box

The sides of the box are parallel to the touch lines. The ends are parallel to the goal lines.

The box goes around all parts of all players involved.

Off-side lines now come into play

Rugby support play offside lines Rugby support play offside lines

the off-side lines run through the end lines of the box.

If you are closely involved in the break-down situation (tackler, tackled player, holder, held player) you are OK where you are. (If you are on the ground, roll away)

Otherwise you must be behind your offside line or you must retreat until you are behind it, taking care to avoid being involved in or hindering play.

To become involved in play at the break-down

Rugby support play support lines Rugby support play support lines

you must enter the break-down area (the imaginary box) by crossing the part of your off-side line that forms your end of the box.

Going through this process to become involved at the break-down is commonly called entering "through the gate".

What you do when you get there is another matter.

It depends on what is happening at the break-down.

Generally speaking you may only join the other players by becoming bound alongside the hindmost of your players in that group.

This is covered in pages on rucking and mauling.

Good support reduces need for kicking

Kicking is important in rugby, but there tends to be too much of it.

You need the ball so you can score. Kicking gives away the ball.

Fear is one of the main reasons for kicking. Fear of being isolated from team mates, caught with the ball and so responsible for losing it.

In the moment, you rationalise that you are getting out of danger - the danger of turning over possession in your territory..

In reality the ball is usually back where it started a few moments later, but your team is no longer in control!

This is why rugby support play is so important.

Except in extreme circumstances the ball carrier should be able to absolutely depend on support from a number of players.

Perhaps before each game players should pledge to support the ball carrier. Instead of the idea that the ball carrier is at fault, take collective responsibilty for losing possession.

Your team will need to be fitter and more focussed on support but you should control the ball longer by removing the need for the ball carrier to play it safe by kicking.

When you make a break you want players there to help. Create a culture. Be there for them, encourage each other, take pride in your rugby support play.

You`ll be fitter, play a great style of rugby and win more games!