Ruck through the phases with patterns of play

What you tell your players the drill session is about

  • Developing simple patterns of play which can be used in games.
  • Learning to communicate and re-organise during phases of play.

What you tell your players to do

  • Work as a team to execute set phases of play.
  • Get into your positions quickly and accurately, ready for the next phase of play.
  • Squeeze the game by attacking close to the breakdown.
  • Stretch the game by attacking far from the breakdown.

What you get your players to do in the drill

  • Players work in groups of five or six for three or four phases at a time.
  • Start on one touchline and attack a line on the pitch (either the halfway or 22 metre lines).
  • The players start in the formation of your choosing. You then give them the pattern of attack you want them to follow, depending on the type of game plan you are trying to develop with your team. For example, squeeze-squeeze-stretch. This means the players hit the ball up tight for two phases and then pass it wide.
  • At the end of each phase, place the ball back on the line the players are attacking. The players then have to realign for the next phase.
  • One player acts as scrum half to start the next phase.

Rugby drills to get players trying patterns of attack

Session development

  • Introduce the "switch" to the players, that is moves to change the direction of the attack.
  • Introduce imaginary rucks. Every time the ball is put down, the nearest player must step over it as if clearing a ruck.

What to call out

  • "Attack the line."
  • "Get the ball through the hands."
  • "Pass then move into position."

What to look for

  • Players not sure where they need to be for the next phase.
  • Players holding the ball for too long before passing.
  • Players who don't understand the patterns of play or who struggle to communicate them effectively.

What to think about

  • When in a game would you want your team to use these set patterns of play?
  • What other simple patterns of play could your players use?

Testing the skills in a game situation

  • Set up two equal teams.
  • The attacking team starts on a 22 metre line near one of the touchlines and attacks the closest try line.
  • Set a scoring zone (marked with cones) and challenge the attacking team to score there in a set number of phases. The players need to work out the pattern of attack they are going to use.
  • The scoring player must run straight to get to the scoring zone – they can't run sideways into the zone.
  • The defending team can only have one defender directly in front of the scoring zone.
  • Start with touch tackling. When a tackle is made, the ball must be placed on the ground and the defenders must get on side.


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