Rugby coaching tips for playing with and against big players

Your own big player – work on his technical ability

The great danger with a player who has a great physical presence is that they don’t feel they have to work on their basic technical ability.

Any break they make may not be exploited, therefore, because the player cannot offload or pass before contact. And when the opposition matches an equal to defend against your big player, your player may not possess the skills to beat them in a one-on-one situation.

You must create good technical ability. This means concentrating first on the collision area where the big player is likely to be able to best exploit his size. Key factors would be footwork, passing and offloading in contact.

Don’t forget the roles of the support players. Reacting to the offload and the half break requires timing and choosing the right angles. Are you practising these roles with specific players in your sessions?

Building a game around the big player

To make the most of your big players, don’t run them off the back of scrums or against organised defences. Put them into positions where they can score tries, away from concentrated defences.

Your role as coach is to guide your team to create situations where the big player is running against weaker defenders, essentially one v none, or one v one.

Two types of big player

There are two types of big player which dictates how near to the action you want the player to receive the ball.

  • Slower players: Then attack through the middle (around the centres), or at least two passes away from the breakdown. The objective is create “go-forward” from which the big player can offload to centres or wingers, or create a fast ruck behind the defence.
  • Faster players: Then attack beyond the opposition centres. The big player must then take the ball into areas where they are fewer defenders, and where those defenders are likely to be smaller.

Use “sequence plays”

A sequence play is where you plan a couple of phases of play from a set piece situation. For instance, from a shortened lineout, you might attack through the inside centre channel. From the subsequent ruck, a pod of forwards then takes the ball into the blindside.

From a sequence play you might launch the big player into a space left by the disorganised defence. Because you have organised and preplanned the attack, the big player can be in position and not tied up winning the collision area ball.

Defending against big players

I have four priorities when my team are faced by a couple of big players who are likely to make holes in the defence.

  • Slow down the second phase ball. Try to stop their momentum by slowing down second phase ball. This means putting extra resource into the contact area – three or four players into the ruck, and not just two.
  • Put forwards against their big players. Try to avoid situations where your backs are lined up against the big players. We practise getting big-tackling forwards out into the second phase backline defence to mark these bigger players.
  • Attack at an angle. We make sure defenders attack the big players at an angle, not straight on, otherwise they are likely to be knocked backwards and fail to complete the tackle.
  • Tackle the legs. We always attack the legs, because it is weakest and narrowest part of the body.

This article is from International Rugby Coaching.

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