Pros and cons of runners playing off the 10

By Eamonn Hogan, experienced rugby coach working with representative teams in the UK and the US

Having runners playing off 10 is one of the simplest forms of patterned attack. Here are the pros and cons of using this system.

Pros and cons of runners playing off the 10

Pros

  • Gives forwards another option other than just running around the field, going into rucks. Forwards, unless properly instructed, can waste valuable energy simply running around the field looking for contact opportunities. Why waste all of that good handling work you put your forwards through in training? Allow them a chance to grow their skill set by utilising them in open play situations.
  • Always gives the 10 an “out”. Your fly half can make mistakes as his is a role that brings with it a degree of pressure than can sometimes lead to miscommunication and misreads. Having forwards near the 10 will allow a chance to recycle the ball and have a rethink.
  • Organises the attack. Linebreaks that lead to tries often start with a defender not being in a position to make an effective tackle. By having a runner off 10, he can create a 2v1 situation.

Cons

  • It is easier to defend patterned play. Defences look for ways to put pressure on attacks anyway they can. One of them is to look for “patterns” they can disrupt. If you continually have a forward running off a 10, a good defence will cover this by matching you.
  • It can narrow the field of attack. It is very tempting as a 10 to use the forward as a way of holding onto the ball until “something happens” to open up a defence. On the surface, this is fine but what if nothing happens? Defences are now so organised that teams have to pressurise the defence to open it up. Simply continuing to recycle the ball could put more of your players on the ground than the opposition ever could.