Rugby set plays using gates to add match pressure

The aim is to produce a drill session to finish off training, where we can run through our plays, without players running too far and recycling the ball too quickly, since this is unrealistic.

Setting up the pitch

I set up the pitch with a number of gates on the major lines of the pitch (see the diagram), and divide the pitch into six zones. The attacking team may only enter and exit a zone through the gates.

You can use the whole team, or a backline with two or three back row forwards. Start the ball from a circle, simulating either a scrum or line out. Play out set moves or let the players use any move they want.

The ball can be set and mauled, popped up (on or off the ground), or rucked at any stage. Or the ball can simply be passed player to player to penetrate a gate. Tell the team to avoid drifting with the ball and encourage good communication and rhythm in attack. 

drill session to practise match situation with gates to get players passing the ball.

The principle move callers (usually the fly half, 10, inside centre, 12, and scrum half, 9) should direct play. They should use the forwards to set up positions where set plays from rucks or mauls can be called and then actioned without the need to stop play and discuss what to do.

This should help the team call and perform set moves, from general play and not just from static set pieces.

Developing the drill

  • Add defenders who can tackle, pose problems to the attack and contest for the ball.
  • Defenders may not contest in the shaded zones in front of the gates or three metres after the red gate.
  • Defenders may change the positions of the gates during the drill, but only when the attacking team have not yet entered that zone. For instance, change the zone 5 gate when the attack is in zone 2.

Building the drill towards a game

  • Play 15 v 6, then 15 v 8, up to 15 v 12. Keep the zones in place but stipulate how many phases as a minimum are allowed in each zone, but only as each zone is reached. Then remove the attack gates.
  • In a one phase zone, the attacking team will have to keep the ball alive and offload lots. In the multi phase zones they will have to ruck and maul, and draw defenders in to create space.

What should the players be thinking about?

  • Are they putting pace on to the ball?
  • Are they aware where the attack channel is and where the end of zone is?
  • Are they reading the play? Sometimes players will have to set up contact areas, like rucks, so they can attack the gates from the next phase, if they cannot easily and realistically attack the gate from the initial phase.
  • Are they supporting appropriately? Make sure the back row knows what the moves are and where they go – zone the pitch width ways if necessary.
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