EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

Fixing the defender

It’s a fundamental skill yet even top players can forget how to properly hold a defender. Identify space, preserve the space and then pass to space – that’s the basic rule for handling in open play.

A ball carrier can “fix” his defender through his running angle. Fixing means holding a defender in place momentarily so he can’t move on to tackle the next receiver of the ball.

Although the concept of fixing a defender isn’t rocket science, it’s not always executed well. Even at the highest level, players can forget the simple principles behind holding an opposite number in place.

ONE: Run straight

The first of these is that the ball carrier should run straight. A defender can’t drift out to the next attacker, or be in a position to drift quickly, if the carrier is attacking the space in front of him. The carrier doesn’t even need to think he’s attacking the “inside shoulder” of the defender. He just needs to point his hips up the pitch and force a defender to put himself in front of the potential threat.

TWO: Look like you may run OR may pass

Second, the carrier must look both likely to run and likely to pass. This gives the defender two decisions to make, above and beyond the line he has to take to intercept the carrier. A player who looks like he’ll run with the ball is running quickly and probably has one hand on the ball. Both actions make it harder to pass, but previously in my core series we worked on moving the ball from one to two to one hand.

THREE: Two hands to manipulate the defender

Now, as the ball carrier approaches the defender, running straight, he can move the ball into two hands. With a little bit of ball manipulation, he can also manipulate the defender. He employs a sort of dummy pass which I call a “pump”. He pumps the ball towards the intended receiver. If the defender goes with the pump, the carrier steps inside and goes through the space. If the defender remains, he passes.

The process is “pump, scan, pass or go”. Use my activity to work on the pump pass.

Use this other activity to develop 3 v 2 decision making where the ball carriers need to fix the defenders.

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