Giant ladder game

Thinking outside the box is currently the order of the day with Covid! So, I have used giant ladders to teach attacking shape and scanning with my players.

The focus of this game is attack, but there is some defensive lessons that can be taken from this game too.


If you have the space use a full pitch to play this game, however for this session I used 60m by 70m pitch.

This game is attack focussed – so it is always overloaded. However, to make this more difficult (and numbers dependant) you can keep the overload to one or two. For example, 8v6 or 8v7.

To start attackers lined up on the 22m line.  Placed two waves of defenders on the halfway line and the opposite 22m line (these become the try lines).


  1. The aim of the game is for the attackers to score as many continuous tries as possible within a set period of time (for example 5 minutes).
  2. The attack has two “touch” tackles allowed in each section of the “ladder” before they score a try. If they are touched a third time, then reset the try count to zero.
  3. The defenders on the first 22m line kick the ball to the attacking team.
  4. The attackers attack the first try line (halfway). If successful, they attack the next 22m against a fresh set of defenders.
  5. If they score a try on the 22m, they run through to the end normal try line they turn and attack the 22m again (“turn and burn”). The defenders who just defended turn and defend from the 22m line again. If they score again, they attack the halfway line against the original defenders. In the unlikely event they score again, they “turn and burn” on the far 22m line and repeat.
  6. No rucks or mauls are allowed in this game (due to Covid) and I am looking for either a quick offload or the touched player puts the ball on the ground and passes it, as a scrum-half would.
  7. Dependant on what I am looking to develop, I will set defensive constraints. For example, if the defenders touch the designated fly-half then it is an instant back to the beginning.
  8. Once the time runs out the attacking team swaps with a defending team and the game starts again.


Dependant on the constraints, the players may start to keep the ball tight and not exploit the space. In this game, there is value in using the full width of the pitch.

If keeping the ball “tight” starts to happen, I add a constraint to the game: if a try is scored in one of the 5m channels at the side of the pitch then they are worth more.

I might also encourage the players to use cross kicks and grubber kicks to exploit the spaces to edge and behind the defence.

I try to guide the players to this and if I don’t see peer-to-peer chatter, I will jump in and have a debrief. I encourage the outgoing team to receive feedback from the incoming defending team as they pass each other. This is a great way to deliver feedback and it’s a quick review on the fly.

Some of the constraints I have previously used are:

  1. Time, the attacking team only had a set amount of time to score.
  2. Time, the defending team had to roll out the clock by being disruptive.
  3. Lives, the attacking team had a set amount of lives (agree at the beginning of the session).
  4. Phases, the attacking team had a set number of phases to score or complete the game.
  5. Secret missions, each defending team had a very specific target for example, play a drift defence, whilst calling a blitz.

This game comes with a warning, it can become stressful for players when you are working under pressure and have a consequence for choices. However, this does reflect playing teams sports in general.

Players may start to point fingers at each other and this is when I would intervene and talk about being comfortable with uncomfortable. In my experience, it is best to warn the players before that this will challenge them.

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