Attacking the seams

A defensive line at a scrum has two main seams – weaker areas where one section of the defence joins another. These sections provide chances for an attack to exploit uncertainty or confusion…

SEAM 1 – between the scrum and fly half

The tackling ability of 10s varies enormously. Jonny Wilkinson was one of the game’s best tacklers, whilst others rely on their open-side flankers to make good their deficiencies.

But one problem always remains for the defending 10 – the gap on his inside shoulder as he moves forward to tackle. The gap can appear for two reasons:

  1. The angle of defensive run from the 7 and 10 differ, so it requires good timing to join the defensive line without leaving a dog-leg.
  2. The 10 relies on the flanker to break from the scrum quickly. If the flanker moves sideways and up too quickly, that player can be off balance to tackle if there’s a change of direction.

Exploiting seam 1

  1. The 9 delivers a long pass, forcing the defending 10 to stand wide and the chasing 7 to go sideways more quickly.
  2. Then either the attacking 10 moves away with the direction of the pass, forcing the flanker even wider or the defensive 10 to step in to cover your 10. Or the attacking 10 moves towards the pass, to take the gap between the defending fly half and flanker, before the flanker has the chance to fill the space.
  3. There must be a decoy runner in the channel between the attacking 9 and 10 because it puts more stress on their 7. Moves can now be used to put the 10, or centres and wings, through the gap. Ex-Springbok Henry Honiball and, more recently, Toby Flood are examples of 10s who like to either dummy or use the decoy runner on the inside.

See Sean Holley’s play to attack the inside edge.

SEAM 2 – between the 13 and open-side wing

The defensive system between 13 (outside centre) and each wing can be the weakest link because:

  1. They work together for only half the time (the 15 has two wings to work with).
  2. Different teams/centres/wings either prefer the wing to take the “last man” – that is, the wing stays out and hopes 13 will tackle any inside runners. Or the wing steps in to take the ball carrier, leaving a gap on the outside.
  3. The wing might be staying deep for the kick and have to dash into the line to make a tackle.

Exploiting seam 2

There are three main ways to do this:

  1. A dummy move involving one of the centres, which has the effect of “holding” the outside centre momentarily.
  2. Bringing in the blind-side winger, even if only as a dummy move.
  3. Using the full back in a dummy move rather than passing him the ball.

Work on these wide plays with my “outside edge” activity.

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