EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

Coach like a top class defence coach

Unless you have a large coaching team, either you or one of your coaches has to double up as the defence coach. Here are the key areas to focus on to make sure you have a firm grasp of the role.

England coaches Steve Northwick (lineout) and Paul Gustard (defence)

Follow these important factors to make sure you cover the key areas of defence, even if you don’t have the resources to have a specialist defence coach.

01 START SPECIALISING

Like the set piece or kicking, defence is a specialist area which needs detailed attention. It cannot be something that is done as a reaction to a bad defensive performance.

You decide what systems to run and what core skills to work on, then you communicate and implement it. It’s even more powerful if you can this with your team’s involvement.

When your team steps onto the pitch, it has to have a clear plan for when not in possession. You have to know the roles, systems and procedures yourself before you can hope to convince the team.

02 PUT DEFENCE INTO CONTEXT 

Tackling, like passing and rucking, is a core skill. It needs to be practised in the same way, with individual players learning and improving their technical expertise.

The defence coach will contextualise this to make the players understand the sorts of tackle they will be using and when. In a drift defence, it might be more side-on, near to the ruck it will be low and in a rush defence, front-on. A defence coach will be creating defensive scenarios for players to practise their tackling.

03 DESIGN A SYSTEM

A good defensive coach recognises the style of game that is played at his team’s level and designs a system that matches that style. You might need to work on lots of set piece and second phase defence because the games you play in don’t have many rucks. Or, close up defence because the teams you play against tend to use only a few passes.

In multi-phase games you will work on resetting the defence quickly at each ruck.

04 PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTH 

Like any unit system, you have to play to your strengths. Even the top defence coaches say they will not impose a system on a team they have just joined. They will develop a system based on what the players are capable of.

You might prefer a “blitz” defence but your players may not have the requisite skills at this stage. Only over time can you direct your players to your preferred style.

05 PICK THE BEST LEADERS

The defence coach speaks to the whole team in training, but when the action starts, it will be the defensive leaders who direct the system.

You have to work with the defence captains, clearly communicating with and through them the style and system of defence. You will work with them to develop the defence. They will call the system on the pitch.

Perhaps from a scrum, the full back will dictate the defensive positions of the open side wing and the movement of the midfield, while the number 8 will check with 10 on his positioning and tell the blindside winger where he will stand. The flankers will then know their roles.

06 BE YOUR BEST SELF

Whatever system or methods you choose, remember to be a better version of yourself, rather than try to act like a defensive coach you’ve seen. In other words, be authentic.

PLAY TO THE PRINCIPLES OF DEFENCE

Understand the principles of defence before you concentrate on the detail. That ensures every training and tactical decision is connected to a strong theme.

  • Go forward. The defence, if it can, should close down the space first, through line speed.
  • Support. Stay connected so that a defender is not isolated. Awareness and communication are key factors here.
  • Contest possession. Make the tackle, complete the tackle and attack the ball if possible. A defender’s role is not over once they have brought the ball carrier to the ground. What happens next can apply pressure and, as an ultimate goal, regain possession.
Share this
Follow us