Develop support players understanding around pods

The support player has several roles in the game, all of which go back to the main attacking principles of rugby: go forward and continuity. We need our players to decide what role and actions are best in each situation.

Here are three progressive rugby drills to help develop their understanding.

Rugby drill to work on decision making skills of support players

The snake drill

  • Place one defender in a narrow channel, no more than five metres wide.
  • Put a ball carrier five metres away just outside the channel and a receiver in the channel.
  • The ball carrier passes the ball to the receiver, then supports.
  • As soon as the pass is made, the defender comes forward to tackle the ball carrier.
  • The support player (the original ball carrier) has to read the movements of the receiver to support him.

Seconds-in drill

  • Using the same basic drill set up as the “snake,” add a defender five metres beside the first and an attacker three metres to the side of the ball carrier outside the channel.
  • Start the drill as the “snake”.
  • This challenges the first and second support players to receive a pass, drive through the contact, or beat the second defender.

Phases pods

  • Set up eight attackers, containing a scrum half, first receiver and two pods of three.
  • Put the attackers at the corner of 30 metre square, with the first receiver five metres inside the box.
  • Spread out six defenders five metres in front of them.
  • The scrum half feeds the first receiver and the first pod supports him.
  • The second pod has to decide where to support.
  • Play up the square until the ball is lost, a try is scored, or the ball becomes trapped for more than six seconds.

Increasing the levels of support play game intelligence

There are three levels of game intelligence: basic, intermediate and advanced. You can judge how well your players are progressing through observation, questioning and feedback after drills.

The awareness of the levels enhances the players’ understanding of their roles.

Basic level of decision in support

  • The support player reads the ball carrier’s and defenders’ body movements to work out where to run.
  • He judges how far he should be from the ball carrier to allow himself enough time to reach a pass or contact and see where the tackle is going to happen.

Intermediate level of decision in support

  • What players are carrying the ball and tackling? A prop versus a winger leads to a different sort of outcome if the winger is trying to beat a prop. This changes the distance away the support player should be and where he might support from.
  • Is the support player looking for an offload, a pop pass or to drive in on the ball carrier? What makes the best sense in the situation?

Advanced level of decision in support

  • What happens immediately after the support decision? If the support player receives a pass, is he looking to offload or run forward to pass away?
  • What sort of decision suits the game plan and the team tactics?

You can now differentiate the players in the same drills. For some, the challenge will be to achieve the basic skill levels. At the same time, you can see if the best players can become more aware, thinking more deeply about their roles as support players.

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