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Not making progress in attack? Here are the four biggest mistakes Sean Holley sees in the way teams train and play. It prevents them from creating try-scoring opportunities he explains…
Because we often to split to train as forwards and backs, we play as forwards and backs. That can lead to a disconnect between the two units. They need to complement each other.
Therefore, even with limited time, you should run some unit sessions together. So, the lineout group might throw three lineouts and on the third, they pass out to the backs. In the meantime, the backs run two backs moves before the third lineout.
From that third lineout, the forwards run the right lines to be in position for an attack from the next expected breakdown. They can also run into positions should the breakdown happen elsewhere – like a line break or being caught behind the expected point of contact which leads to a slow ball.
It’s difficult to prescribe how many players will win a ruck. So much depends on the situation. However, too many to the ruck and we don’t have enough players on their feet for the next attack. Too few and we might lose that ruck.
We need to work on this in training. We want to avoid what I call “sleepers”. These are often players with single figures on their backs whose feel their task in the game is to simply “hit rucks”.
Players have to know when to go in or stay out. It’s easy to coach from a set piece and feeds on from the training you are doing connecting the forwards and backs.
Teams can try to play a high tempo offloading game because they know it can bust defensive lines. But too often it leads to mistakes and dropped balls. That’s because you have to practise it to play it.
Each player needs to know the players around them. It’s not wrong to try to offload, but too often the players try to force an offload when it’s not on. They need to hold onto the ball.
Support players can be the problem. They call for a ball they can’t get to or the ball carrier would have to be Sonny Bill Williams on drugs to offload. They are too far away or there are defenders in between them and the ball carrier.
Play an offload game if your players are training to play it and are aware of the risks.
The “Grey Zone” is an area of the pitch between the two 10m lines. Because there is so much space in behind the defence and possession is quite away from your own line, your team’s decision-makers will fancy their chances at attacking with ball in hand.
That’s fine for the first few phases from a set piece in this area. But if nothing’s happening, then a turnover becomes more likely. As each phase fails to break the line, the defence might find itself on the front foot. There’s a danger your side might find themselves isolated.
By all means attack in the Grey Zone, but keep control. If there’s not a line break after a couple of phases, then make a call, set up another ruck and kick to the corners.