Lee Smith's Coaching Corner: The Development of Attacking Play (Part 5) Underline 09 June, 2011 PLAY UNDERWAY – GETTING OVER THE GAIN LINE FROM SCRUMS AND LINE-OUTS 

Common Key Factors 

Now that the attack line is in position play can get underway. Ideally we have to assume that the ball is delivered cleanly so that all the options are retained. As they move forward to get over the gain line it is the role of the backs to perform the following key factors to achieve the objective: 

• Be moving forward so that they are a threat to the opposition
• Get as far forward as possible without going into contact,
• Perform the move so that they commit the opposition but have sufficient time to execute the move and
• Run towards a defender preventing the defender from moving away. The defence will be keen to encourage the attack to drift out taking away the space around the attackers further along the line. 

There is a subtle balance between committing the defence and having enough time to perform the move. By running at a defender the ball carrier ensures s/he doesn’t go elsewhere however, as the defence moves forward together, if the ball is passed to the next player this player will catch a flat pass at the same time as the tackle is being made. The solution is for the receiver to be running forward a little deeper and for the passer to pull the pass back. The pass should still be made in front of the receiver so that the player is running forward while at the same time has space and time to react and evade. 

Now that the attack line is underway it is their role is to get over the gain line. Currently the most common method is to run hard often at the defender and using speed and strength barge over the line. This gets the ball over the gain line but creates few options to continue play as the contact that is made makes passing unlikely and a ruck will be formed. Quick re-cycling can maintain momentum but there are opportunities that create more immediate options. 


In a one-on-one(one attacker versus one defender) if the ball carrier has been able to hold the tackler by running straight the tackler will be flat footed. The ball carrier will have created the opportunity to step left or right and play past the tackle. The ball carrier may penetrate. Equally the ball carrier, by stepping, will be tackled around the legs freeing the hands to make an off-load pass to a player coming from behind continuing play. 

Using Decoys 

Another most common option is to operate as a unit and for #’s 12 and 13 to act as decoys cutting back against the movement of the ball and #10, having taken the ball to the gain line passing either to #12 or #13 if the defence does not move with them or pass to the remaining three backs playing further across the width of the field if the defence does follow the decoys. If the defence drifts out the decoys will receive the ball and if the defence stays on the decoys the back three will get the ball. 

Creating Space for the Penetrator 

What is missing in the current game is the ability to put a single player coming from behind the attacking line, into the space between two defenders. This involves deception with the players working together as a unit of three. Initially the player who is to enter the space, the penetrator, stands behind, in the shadow of one of the front line players. Upon receiving the pass the ball carrier/play maker straightens or even drifts in to hold the defender. The next player in the line drifts out hopefully taking the next defender wide. This increases the size of the gap between the two. 

The trailing player/penetrator comes into the space on the outside shoulder of the play maker as late as possible, so the defence is committed, and as far from the next defender as possible. Should either defender move to tackle the penetrator the playmaker or the next player will be left unmarked and can penetrate. The penetrator’s role has now changed to the role of a decoy. This can happen at any place along the line. 

Cues for Beating an Opponent 

When there is a genuine mismatch cues by the defender allowing the attacker to beat the defender may not matter however such a situation results in the defence having to assist the poor defender. The effectiveness of the superior attacker is in not just beating the defender but in using support unless a try is scored. 

In doing this the ball carrier should apply the principle that the space that is created for support is the space the ball carrier is moving away from not the space that is being moved into. So if the ball carrier evades to the right the defence is drawn to the right and the space that is created is to the left. It is this space the support player should run into expecting a pass. If the evasion is to the left the opposite is true. In most circumstances the receiver’s line of running is a straight line. 

The key in making the pass is in the passer’s ability to straighten once the initial defender has been beaten. It is easier to pass if the hips are square. It is difficult to pass in the opposite direction from that being run and frequently the pass is forward. 

In situations in which abilities are about the same the ball carrier should read the positioning of the defender and exploit any weaknesses. These defender weaknesses could be: 

• Standing too deep. This frequently happens if the attack runs onto the pass from depth and, because they are in motion, they threaten the defence. Out of uncertainty the defence doesn’t move forward or moves forward slowly. Equally the defence may be deliberately holding back so that they can drift onto the outside attackers if the ball carrier passes too soon. Both offer the same option of taking the ball to the line and either attempting to penetrate or holding the defender and passing to where the move is to be centred.

• Standing too flat. Defenders may rush up getting ahead of their team-mates arriving for the tackle before the attacker has received the ball. This allows the attacker to run past the defender and position to receive a pass. Equally the defender who gets ahead of the rest of the line creates a dog leg gap. The gap is left for the ball carrier one in from the designated attacker. The attacker once again runs past the defender as the player is without the ball and the inside ball carrier takes the gap and looks to pass to the unmarked player.

• If the defender is square on to the attacker left and right options are available. If the defender is trying to drift out, this often happens when there is an overlap and the player wants to help elsewhere.Tthe ball carrier should take the inside gap.

• The same occurs when the attack has drifted and is getting cramped near the far touch line. The ball carrier may cut back or the ball carrier can accept the drift towards the touchline and pass to a player cutting back into the inside gap. In this situation the ball carrier’s angle of running forces the defence to tackle with their inside shoulder. The angle is against their line of running and is often a weak tackle using the arms only. This assumes that teams shuffle with the ball and cover the inside channel. Attackers should be alert to teams who chase the ball grouping across the field. When the ball is reversed in this case there will be gaps to penetrate through.

• If the defender positions well inside the attacker the player will be betting on the ball carrier being slower and, by offering the gap, encouraging the ball carrier to take it only for superior speed to prevent progress being made. The defender may be bluffing and it could be worth a go.

• A mismatch #11 against #3, #8 against #10 – fast against slow and powerful against less powerful. 

Lee Smith is a senior rugby development officer with the International Rugby Board and travels widely around the Pacific region coaching, developing and promoting the game.

Part 1 - What is the problem?

Part 2 - What do we have to achieve in order to meet attack’s needs? 

Part 3 - Performance Goals: How are we going to address each of the outcomes?

Part 4 - The influence of field position
Other June 2011 News Underline
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Nadroga beat Suva 13-9 to claim the Digicel Cup 26 June, 2011 
Flying Fijians PNC squad named 24 June, 2011 
Digicel Cup Final team lists 24 June, 2011 
Fiji U20s humble Wales 34-20 23 June, 2011 
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Tikoisuva: Never any question of Fiji not competing at the RWC 21 June, 2011 
Tikoisuva appointed Fiji Rugby's acting CEO 20 June, 2011 
Fiji U20 beat Tonga and enter 5th place semi-final 19 June, 2011 
Fiji U20s need bonus point win against Tonga 18 June, 2011 
Suva defeat Naitasiri to make Digicel Cup final 18 June, 2011 
Fiji RWC 50 man training squad named 18 June, 2011 
Lee Smith's Coaching Corner: The Development of Attacking Play (Part 6) 16 June, 2011 
Digicel Cup Semi-Final Two team lists 16 June, 2011 
Dakuidreketi resigns as Fiji Rugby CEO 15 June, 2011 
Young Fijians test Australia 15 June, 2011 
Fiji U20 go down fighting against France 24-12 11 June, 2011 
England Survive Scare on Day One of IRB Junior World Championship 11 June, 2011 
Nadroga thrash Northland 42-10 in Digicel Cup semi 11 June, 2011 
Nacewa and Qovu out of RWC 10 June, 2011 
Lee Smith's Coaching Corner: The Development of Attacking Play (Part 5) 09 June, 2011 
Gabiriele's Gold, Caucau's silverware 09 June, 2011 
Digicel Cup Semi-Final One team lists 09 June, 2011 
Nakarawa on the radar 09 June, 2011 
BSP Farebrother-Sullivan Challenge order announced 06 June, 2011 
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Suva beats Naitasiri to claim home semi-final 05 June, 2011 
Domoni announces PNC squad 04 June, 2011 
Two more Fiji Rugby Kaji players head for the UK 03 June, 2011 
Fiji U20 squad named for JWC 03 June, 2011 
Fraser impressed by locals 02 June, 2011 
European Rugby Season - closing credits: part 1 02 June, 2011 
Reflective Practise in Physiotherapy 01 June, 2011 
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