GLT21: Coaching thoughts on 50:22

How will you react to the Global Law Trials. Some of our contributors give their view on how it will impact on the teams you might coach.


The trial

If the team in possession kicks the ball from inside their own half indirectly into touch inside their opponents’ 22, they will throw into the resultant lineout. The ball cannot be passed or carried back into the defensive half for the 50:22 to be played. The phase must originate inside the defensive half.

Primary intention

To encourage the defensive team to put more players in the backfield, thereby creating more attacking space and reducing defensive line speed.

Russell Bolton Backs coach, Tring RFC, rugby professional, Magdalen College School, Oxford



George Ross Lead DPP coach Harlequins, head coach for Surrey Women



Phil Llewellyn Host of RCW’s Roundup Rodeo, head coach, Oxford University Ladies, Scholarship Manager at Birmingham City University and former RFU and IRFU player development officer


Tom Bowen-Hall Director of rugby, MadDog Academy, Academy centre manager, Bristol Bears




RB: How do you set your team up defensively? Putting two players in the backfield is not uncommon in the pro game but if you combine that with a sweeping 9 for example you have less players in the defensive line which may reduce your ability to apply pressure consistently.

I suspect in the “amateur” game we will have more fluent backfield defences that can adapt what they do based on the area of the field or the threats that the opposition pose.

PL: Balancing good back field coverage with enough numbers in the front line is now crucial. Leave the back field too empty and you could be in for a long day of opposition line outs in your 22. Leave the front line light on numbers and you could be facing the threat of multiple breaks.

So what is the solution? Well, the introduction of the 13/2 defensive system has gained a lot of traction over the last few years and the new 50:22 law may accelerate its implementation even further at all levels of the game.

Put simply, the 13/2 sees the defence run with two semi permanent full backs and 13 players in the front line. The benefits of this are two fold firstly, you have enough players to apply pressure in the front line as long as you aren’t over committing to the breakdown. Secondly, you have appropriate cover in the backfield to deal with the long territorial or contested kicks.

This system tends to be run anywhere outside your own 22, at which point you would probably revert to the standard process of using 15 as the sweeper.


RB: We need to develop players’ skills so that multiple players within the team (forwards too) can take on these opportunities.

PL: The 50:22 may see an increase in kicks but perhaps not the type everyone is expecting. The weakness of the 13/2 system is (depending on the personnel and their skills) the potential hole it leaves behind the front line which is prime space for the chip kick or grubber.

Quality practise of scanning and kicking on the run will be key to exploiting this. However, if the defence are running the 13/2 and then have their 9 sweeping behind the front line I’d suggest you get that ball moved to space quickly and benefit from the fact they only have 12 in the line.

Challenge your players to recognise scenarios in training is going to be crucial if you want to develop players skills before they get to match day. Conditioning the defence as a team or individual players to do specific actions will give you a good starting point for the attack to then start to recognise what they are doing and when. This can be applied in small sided games as much as it can bigger 15 on 15 type run throughs.

TBH: Accuracy of kicking, type of kick and deception of kick will all be vital skills to work on to make the most of this law variation. I will look at implementing plenty of unopposed skill work, building in to pressured and eventually match situations.

I am a fan of force-back style kicking games anyway, but I will start to use these significantly more, especially during skills sessions. I will focus on how we can force defenders to drop to cover the 50:22 or space behind and then what we can do as an attack with more space in the front field.

A simple game is rewarding one point for a kick that either hits the backfield or goes into touch in a designated zone (e.g. 22m – try line), offering five points for a try scored and doubling the points if done on a counter attack.

This should remind players that whilst we are trying to manipulate and move defenders in attack, the ultimate aim of doing so is to score trys whilst the aim of defending is to get the ball back and score points.


RB: Teams will need to consider if they want to encourage the opposition to take on a 50:22 or deter them.

If teams are not skilled enough and attempt them then you may get a sloppy kick which you can counter from. Or they may hit the ball out on the full giving you possession further up the field.

If you want to deter them then building an excellent lineout defence may make it less appealing.

GR: Taking inspiration from NFL zonal coverages, in defence, teams can manipulate the picture they display attacks, disguising coverage responsibilities bringing a higher risk/reward to kicking teams.

PL: If the defence stick with the age old pendulum system (where the wingers alternate who drops back depending on where on the field the ball is) then there a likely some opportunities to be creative in playing the ball to space which will draw the winger up on that side up and then kicking on the run to the space behind them to gain the line out in their 22. Even if the ball doesn’t make touch indirectly then you will have still challenged the defence to deal with a kick on the floor, inside the 15m channel, inside their own 22.

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