By Eamonn Hogan, experienced rugby coach working with representative teams in the UK and the US
Quade Cooper, Dan Parks and even Toby Flood are all 10s who have been shifted to the wing or full back in defence at international level. Why do teams hide their 10s in defence?
Most coaches feel the easiest place to penetrate a defending backline is down the 10 channel. There is a feeling that 10s are not the best tacklers due to their stature and so are easy prey for the hardrunning player.
Although Dan Carter and Jonny Wilkinson have been notable exceptions to this rule and while understanding that 10s have become more robust over the years, it is still generally true that 10s continue to be a focus of first phase attack because of their size.
You pick a 10 for his decision making and ability to execute patterns of play. Their role is one of constant re-evaluation and re-adjustment to changing patterns of play in attack.
Although we always talk about having thinking players in every position, many coaches still believe the 10 is the person who needs to be leader of the team’s attacking ambitions. Therefore, in training sessions, we don’t generally spend a lot of time working the 10 into a breakdown competitor or designated ball carrier.
His role is different and, therefore, opposition coaches see him as a softer option to attack.
Your 10 is a precious commodity and few teams possess talented back-up in that position. Opposition teams will constantly run at him, especially if he is small, in a bid to wear him down.
You cannot send bodyguards out but can limit the risks by placing 10s away from first and second phase contact points where impacts are most frequent.
Why put your best decision maker into areas where he is not best suited? Opponents will seek to run down his channel and often he is smaller than those running at him. Reduce the impact and push him out to the wing or to full back.
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