Effectiveness rules

While clever plays, fast defences and sheer guts will feature highly in the up-coming bruising Six Nations tournament, effectiveness in the tackle area and handling will make a massive difference, a difference you can replicate with your teams.


Effectiveness around the tackle area means either a ball carrier can pass out of the tackle, and thus keep the players going forward, or it means that the ball is recycled quickly enough to not let the defence reset.

A pass which draws an attacker onto the ball is effective.

The more you can replicate effectiveness in highly pressurised game situations, the more likely the players will transfer this into matches. In essence, if you need to put down cones on the pitch to help players, you aren’t creating enough chaos or unpredictability.


Unless you are smashing up against the opposition try line, you don’t get much from lots of phases of possession. Ignore commentators and experts when they say “building the phases”. It’s meaningless.

There are three ways a team breaks a line, without chip or cross kicks.

  1. Create a space
  2. Size mismatch
  3. Speed mismatch

The ball carrier either gets through the gap or is able to pass out of the tackle to another player. That rarely happens unless the defence makes a bigger error or they are stressed.

You stress defences by speed. In other words, the defenders are not in position quickly enough. Three quick phases of possession could do that. But any time one of those phases slows up, the defence resets.

The overriding impression from previous Six Nations is that teams don’t score tries from multiple phase rugby outside the 22m area. Instead most tries came from first phase attacks, catch and drive from the lineout or counter attack.

Put that into your own team’s context.

First, your side won’t be facing a super fit, highly trained defensive system. Second, your side might be fit, but they aren’t as fit as you would like. Third, you don’t have much time with them and so need to priortise your training.

It would be better to work on creating quick “ruck” ball than on multiple phases of rugby. You might then say that if the players don’t know where to run, then the support won’t be there. Yet the crucial part is that you should only need three players to win and distribute this sort of ball. In training, encourage your players to make something happen at the breakdown, not just rumble over the ball. Passing accuracy

It’s very simple in one sense. You need to pass so that the receiver doesn’t need to break their stride. But, too many teams practise this using lines of players. Stop doing this. Instead, mix up the running lines, distances, obstacles to passing and speeds. Then a player has to truly pass accurately under the chaotic circumstances they are likely to face.


Beat the defender

The ball carrier should always aim to beat the defender in front of them. Players that accept contact reduce the chance of quick ball. That means footwork, good body angles and accelerating through the contact.

Win the low yards

Fight to the ground in front of you. Use the whole body, not just the legs to scrap for that space, before placing the ball back.

Clear the ball or clear threats

If there are no defenders going for the ball, the next player passes or picks up the ball. If there is a threat to the ball, clear it. Otherwise pass or pick it up. Too many players at all levels “get over” the ball when there’s no threat. You don’t need to be the 9 to pass the ball.


“Be accurate in chaos”

  • Create chaos in training.
  • Look for effective execution of skills at the crucial moments.
  • Ball carriers aim to beat their defender, not accept contact.
  • Support players at the breakdown judge threats. No threat, clear the ball. Otherwise clear the threat.
  • Practise passing in chaos not lines, and against defenders, not unopposed.

Sessions to help support these ideas:

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