Running rugby

Running rugby is a skillful style of play. By supporting the ball carrier you keep the ball moving from player to player in preference to rucking, mauling and kicking for position.

It`s a skillful, adventurous style of rugby

It`s a style of rugby played only by teams of fit and skillful players. You enjoy your rugby by committing to keeping possession of the ball and keeping it moving, searching for or creating weaknesses in the defence.

I write from personal experience of many elements of this style and with the benefit of having read
Running RUGBY by Mark Ella 1995 (ISBN 0 7333 0359 5), a book I heartily recommend for in-depth information.

In his chapter on "The Philosophy of Attack" Mark Ella explains how attacking plays are used to create uncertainty and cause defenders to hesitate.

The simplest way of creating uncertainty is by deception. You have to make the defending team believe, or at least suspect, that you are going to do one thing, when your intention is to do another.
Running RUGBY, Mark Ella, 1995.

Mark is referring to "attacking plays" involving a number of players. He could just as easily have been referring to individual evasion techniques like EvtecHs.

This style is rarely seen in the professional era and as a result is not there to be seen and copied by other less experienced rugby players.

Skills you need for running rugby

Passing and catching are of the utmost importance, especially under pressure. The ability to run straight rather than across the field is essential. This may sound simple but when opposition players are rushing forward, to put you on the floor it makes it more difficult!

Support skills are also essential. The ability to put yourself in the place you can be most useful at exactly the right moment, running at the correct angle and the correct speed requires a great deal of practice

Alignment (positioning) for running rugby

Diagram shows rugby backline in shallow, close alignment Shallow, close alignment

One essential element is a relatively shallow alignment of the backs, fairly closely spaced as opposed to the deeper alignment with much wider spacing generally seen in modern professional rugby.

This alignment together with straight running and short, flat passes ensures the ball carrier gets over the gain line as soon as possible. When you have passed the ball you are in play again almost immediately because the ball carrier is soon ahead of you.

This makes it easy for you to follow the ball carrier and give support. either on the inside or by looping around behind the ball carrier and coming into the line to act as a decoy runner or take a pop pass and go through a gap in the defence.

You can aslo add to the confusion for the defence if you

  • use cut out passes (missing out one player by passing the ball across in front of them to a player wider out)
  • use planned moves like the fullback chiming into the line and going through a gap

  • use individual evasion skills (EvtecHs or sidesteps) to sharply change running lines
  • use a dummy pass - make to pass one direction then either keep hold of the ball or pass to a different player

Fit mobile forwards use the ball

A fit, mobile and motivated pack of forwards is also required. You must want to play the running rugby style because it is harder for you than other styles of play. There are fewer breaks in play for "breathers" and you will be expected to have good rugby handling and running skills.

Another essential element is you allow the ball to work for you.

This means you pass the ball often and wisely.

Make some ground then get rid of it.

Opponents can't move as fast as the ball so send it speeding around the field - until it finds an unmarked player!.

There is less kicking for touch, less kicking for position and less kicking just because it`s the safest option. Instead of standing, having a rest as the ball sails back and forth you run back and forth supporting the ball carrier.

Keep involved in play, provide options

It`s the same for all players in a team devoted to running rugby. As soon as you`ve got rid of the ball, look for a good way to get involved again. Look for ways to support the ball carrier. Combine with other players to give the ball carrier a number of widely differing otions so you can keep the defence quessing about where the ball is going next.

Let the ball seek out weaknesses in defence. When a weakness is found make sure you are there to take advantage and turn it into points.