Break or not: What next?

Premiership – Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins – Newcastle Falcons’ Adam Radwan in action with Harlequins’ Danny Care and Tommy Allan

Too often we try to practise backs moves until they are perfect forgetting to consider what happens next. Mix up training so you spend time on both supporting a break or realigning to play if a tackle is made.

In Backs Blast, Sean Holley tells us how he improves players’ decision-making after the completion of a backs move. The key point is that players don’t always crack the opposition line with a move, so they need to realign and play what happens next.

Beware: If you are running in an unopposed session, the backs can easily just step back into another shape and play.

That’s why you need to get a defence in front of moves in training. And also change who’s available to be in the next play. Instead of players thinking ahead too far to where they have to be, they are suddenly faced with new information. It might be that the fly half isn’t in play or both wingers end up as centres.

Here’s how I’ve worked this session:

  • First, I recognise that you need 12 players ideally, but you can get away with 10 and one of the coaches as the feeder.
  • Then, I give the attack 15 seconds to discuss which move they want to use. I don’t want them changing too many elements. It has to be one they’ve practised.
  • We work from a “scrum”, so the defending back line must be 7m back at least. The spare 9 acts like the defending flanker.
  • Then we play. Use full contact if you can, but it should be at least a grab-tackle so you know if the move has been successful first time. Quite often it’s not though. Then you are into the second part of the activity, which is a 5 v 3.


1. Pressure
I really emphasise the need to break the line first time. I want the players to execute the move at game pace.

So, I tell the players that the defence will “win” three press-ups if they stop the first effort, two more for stopping the second and one for the last effort stopped.

That might lead to six press-ups in total for all the attackers. That’s enough of an incentive to make both sides work hard to win each element, while not making it into a fitness situation.

2. Fatigue
Keep rotating through the players and resetting the game quickly. Even after two goes I’ve found all the players beginning to puff and pant. That’s even more game realistic.

Also, the quick turnaround means the players have less chance to spend “chatting” about which move to use next. Someone has to make a decision and the rest of the group has to go with it.

It will be interesting to see how many times they revert to a “tried-and-tested” play when they are tired. It might make them think twice about when to use this play in the real game.

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