Rugby coaching tips to get backs finding space and avoiding contact

Much of attacking rugby is about finding space and avoiding contact, in an effort to go forward and get over the gain line.

In back play, attacking space forces the opposition to make weaker side-on tackles, and opens up opportunities for offload passes. There are two ways players can create space to attack.

1. Individual fast footwork

All your players should work on their rugby footwork skills throughout the season, but your backs need to spend extra time improving their technique.

Fast footwork allows players to fix defenders and accelerate into the space beside them.

  • Work on sidestepping skills with all your backs aiming to be able to step off both feet.
  • Use evasion games played in small areas to develop footwork, spatial awareness and vision, which are all essential to attacking space.

Space Invaders

“Space Invaders” is an excellent competitive game to develop evasion skills. Set up a small square (the size will depend on the number of players you have) and get an equal number of players along each side.

On the whistle, all the players race to complete four widths of the square while avoiding any sort of contact. For every player they bump into, they have to do a press up at the far end.

Angles of running

It is important that backs develop an understanding of how they can create space for runners to attack.

Using subtle changes of angle and pace allows attacking players to manipulate the defenders and create space. Once the space has been created, strike runners must attack it at pace.

Angles to create space

In the picture below, the ball carrier makes a slight change of angle to pull his marker out of position, creating space for the strike runner.

The outside attacking runner runs straight at his defender, to force him to hold his position.

The strike runner has to make the right run to exploit the space created. If he runs the line A, he is too wide and the far defender can step in to cover him. So he has to run the line B, close to the ball carrier’s shoulder and into the space created by moving the defender.

The pass to the strike runner should not be further than two metres. If the pass is well timed and the strike runner arrives at pace, the defender will not have time to react and cover across.

At worst, the defender will only be able to make a weak tackle allowing the strike runner the opportunity to offload the ball.

Ball carrier changes angle of run

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