Defensive organisation is a core unit skill. From second phase, players need to understand their defensive roles and, more importantly, work together to pressurise the attacking team. You can use this session and its elements throughout your season to achieve this.
Warm up time: 7-10 Session time: 10-15 Development time: 5-10 Game time: 10-15 Warm down time: 7-10
What to think about
I have one player who is always out of position in the defensive line. Is there anywhere I can “hide” him?
In junior rugby putting the weakest tackler on the wing is the best option. Many sides lack the passing skills to move the ball wide quickly.
Who should call the line up in defence?
From set piece play the best placed player is the inside centre (12). In open play try nominating two “defensive captains”, usually the inside centre (12) and the open side flanker (7). Their role if they are not involved in the breakdown is to organise the defensive line and call it up.
Constantly scan – focus on what is in front of you but look left and right as well.
Constantly communicate – talk to the defenders on the left and right of you.
Move up together at the pace of the slowest player.
What you get your players to do
Demonstrate what happens if a defender gets out of the defensive line by setting up the examples in the diagram (the dangers of a “dogleg”).
Set up four gates, 5 metres apart and 10 metres wide. Split your players into groups of four. They move forward together in a line pausing for a few seconds to realign at each gate.
Each time they realign the player at the end takes control and calls “SET, HOLD, UP” so the line can move together. You can touch a ball on the ground to help the trigger to move forward each time.
Any defender getting out of the line creates gaps for the opposition to attack.
Players get down and up at each gate as quickly as they can.
You stand in front of the players as they move through the gates and hold up different coloured cones. The players have to call out the colour.
Make the gates wider or narrower to challenge the players to “fill” the space.
Expand the groups to six players.
Players need a standard call so they all react at the same time.
Steady state race:
Split your players into groups of four. They run to each gate, as in the picture, then set up as if defending from a breakdown.
Set the players a target time of say 30 seconds to complete the course. They have to race through the course to beat this time, all while maintaining a good defensive line. Give them two runs each and then change the target. Reinforce that it is not a race to finish first but to stay together.
Players have to complete the circuit staying in their line and moving at the same pace throughout.
What to call out
“Heads up and scan left and right to check the line.”
Lots of defence drills get the players in position to tackle, but not enough spend time on setting and then, crucially tackling, especially under fatigue conditions. Play heads up, real-life situations in training.
Helps players match up to the circumstances in front of them and then complete the job. MORE
Players must work on their individual technique whilst cooperating with their team mates to reduce the options for the attack. This session develops this mindset.
A tackler is part of the whole defence. A defence is not always breached because a tackle has been missed, but because a space is not covered. MORE
Work on the roles and skills of the attackers and defenders closest to the tackle area in a tight space. This activity puts the players in game-like situations to look for solutions.
Though there are some principles to follow, this activity will give the players an opportunity to try out different ideas. Expect messy outcomes. MORE