Scan the spoiler

At the breakdown, many defensive teams concentrate a great deal of effort on scanning then spoiling the tackle area before the attacking half-back gets his hands on the ball.

Top-tier New Zealand sides use a simple but very effective method of sealing the tackle ball and giving their 9 a line of defence from the would-be spoilers.

Attack the spoilers beyond the ball

  • Get over and beyond the ball if the spoiler is late
  • If the spoiler is early, get him off his feet and away from the ball

The first two players responsible for cleanout ignore the tackler, attack defenders well beyond the ball and put them on the ground. If a player is off his feet, his ability to spoil is neutralised.

Establish the “gate” well beyond the ball

  • Clearing well beyond the ball means a longer gate

The further beyond the ball your cleanout players can advance, the better. It changes the referee’s perception of the offside line and the position of the ‘gate’ for the defensive team, to the advantage of the team in possession.

Designate a ‘scanner’

  • Put a good “scanner” over the ball in a strong body profile. Props and hookers are ideal “scanners”

Once the immediate threats have been knocked down, always try to get a third player sitting directly above the ball.

  1. Removes the tackler, especially if he is delaying release of the ball.
  2. Scans for late counter-rucks by the defence.

Physical characteristics of the scanner

Typically this third player is powerful with a low centre of gravity, such as a prop or hooker. The lower and more powerful they are, the more difficult to uproot from their strong position astride the tackled player.

Sealing legally

Referees want to see players “positive” over the ball. That means they are on their feet and capable of supporting their own body weight without resting on their hands. Some contact with the tackled player is probably okay, but the player cannot lean on him.

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