Attack from a standing start

Sometimes your players will receive the ball standing still. It’s not ideal, but it happens and perhaps for a good reason too. Prepare your players to come up with ways to create go forward from a standing start when faced with an organised defence.

You don’t want your players to take the ball standing still. However, sometimes it makes some sense. A flat pass, a pass which is parallel to the opposition try line, loses you little ground. A player who merely has to move forward one or two steps to take this pass has more chance to adjust their body angle and do this under control. If the pass is quick and the ball carrier can adjust their angle effectively and then use some evasive skill, they can dent the defensive line, thus creating go-forward for the next phase.

Let’s be clear that you are not expecting to break the line. It’s a safety play. Training for it is a contingency for times when players mistime their runs and end up close to the line and static.

The session called Flat Speed works on what on this concept. That’s creating as much speed as possible in very short distance. It also refers to the speed of adjustment of the body height, angle and ball position to ensure the ball carrier doesn’t lose the contact battle.

This session is mainly aimed at forwards. In the modern game, a static forward receiving the ball might make a short pass to another player, called a tip-on pass. This can slightly wrong foot the opposition defenders.

Alternatively, and I see this more and more, the player generates some speed by running across the pitch first, before angling towards the opposition try line. The ball is moved to the outside arm (that’s away from the opposition) before they then drive to the outside shoulder of a defender.

Interesting, some coaches suggest that the attacker shouldn’t go for a gap between defenders. If they do, they are likely to be double teamed. The first defender brings them down, the second goes to steal the ball. The alternative is to attack just one defender and win that battle.

Using this session, players can explore all these technique, tactics and others. In summary, they might try:

  • Running across the pitch a little before turning up the pitch, thus gathering some speed.
  • Attacking just one defender.
  • Using a twist before contact – see the session on page 8 for ways to practise this.
  • Finding the right body height to attack.


  • This will turn into a very physical session. In fact, the players really enjoy the challenges, especially the front rowers it seems! So, build it up gradually before reaching the highest intensity.
  • Don’t be afraid to overload the defence to make the attackers work even harder.
  • Keep the distances between attack and defence short. Don’t allow run ups.
  • Explore the use of “latches”, where a second attack binds onto the ball carrier to help drive them through contact.
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