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Rugby restart strategies to reclaim the ball
The kick off for too many teams seems to simply involve a shout of "LONG" or "SHORT", followed by the kick with the forwards haring after the ball. There are three possible outcomes you want from a good kick off:
- To give yourself a chance to win the ball straight from the restart.
- To put your opponents under pressure and try to force them to make a mistake.
- To make your opponents play the ball to your strengths. For example, to kick the ball away for your lineout.
- A high hanging kick from the kicker
This gives your chasers the best chance of closing down the receiver. To do this, the kicker needs to generate elevation. The best tip here is to have the player cup their foot upwards to get under the ball (like a pitching wedge in golf), but then to follow through like a normal kick.
This drop kick needs to be performed on a hard surface, to allow the ball to bounce up from the drop. You cannot expect this to happen on a wet day or when the grass is long. The half way line whitewash is a good place to drop the ball.
This is the point where the kicker can feel they can land the ball most of the time. Usually it will be near to the 10 metre line. Kickers need to practice this to give chasers a good chance to win the ball.
Two waves of chasers
Different coaches have different names for this tactic. The principle is the same. The first wave challenges for the ball. This wave will contain the best leapers, probably the locks and the number 8.
The second wave is there to clear up the knock downs. These players spread themselves around the landing area, some ahead of the ball and some behind it. In this way, a knock down by the opposition might be picked up by the second wave.
The players' roles
The wingers can play an important part in the first wave, trying their best to meet the receiver as he catches the ball. A couple of other players could also be designated in this role.
The second wave must come up in a line, so as to reduce the opposition's options to break out. A centre or the centres should charge up the middle. Their target is to close down the opposition fly half to prevent the counter attack.
Other than the chasers, two players should hang back to collect a miss hit touch finder or an up and under from the opposition. These players would normally be the scrum half and the team's best forward runner.
Angles of running
The first wave should start wide and come in, towards the landing area. This way they can "eyeball" the opposition and follow the trajectory of the ball.
The second wave should spread out evenly between the touchline and the kicker, and then follow the kick towards the landing area.
Kick right to give your team a greater advantage
Some coaches say that it is better to kick right from the kick off, even if the kicker is right footed. Since most players are right handed, the theory is that it makes it easier for chasers to challenge for the ball with their stronger hand.
It means that the team receiving the ball are more likely to kick for touch from this side. They'll also find it more difficult to use long passes to move the ball away from this part of the field.
Control the actions of the opposition
A low kick: A low kick should arrive with the receiver at a greater velocity than a long or high kick. It therefore gives the receiver less time to make decisions before catching the ball and may isolate them. However, the receiver will have more time once they have received it. Especially on a windy day, a low kick is likely to make some distance if not caught.
A long kick: A common strategy is to kick the ball long and force the opposition into kicking for a lineout. Consequently, most teams line up with the majority of their forwards between their 22 metre and 10 metre lines.
Why not try a long kick into the "soft area" in your opponent's 22 metre area?
That is, the area behind the line where their number 8 and scrum half normally stand. Their receiver is likely to be more isolated than for a shorter kick, with expected supporters having to come in from the wrong side.
A pre-determined lineout strategy: If the plan is to force the opposition to kick to touch, you should have a pre-determined lineout strategy and call in place before the restart. Your players should then get to the lineout and get set as quickly as possible.
Ideally, you want your kicker to vary the length, height and type of kicks, and your chasers to always be able pressurise your opponents regardless of the strategies you adopt.