Be a line break guru

Know the detail behind how teams consistently break the tackle line so your team can dent the opposition defence more often. Here’s Jason Gilmore’s analysis of how it happens at the top level.

The main focal points for an attack to have an effective shot at the defensive line are:

  1. How quickly attacking players scan the defensive line before delivery of the ball.Working hard off the ball to be in a positive position to manipulate the defence.
  2. Without these two, line breaking at the top level would be more accidental and reliant on individual brilliance.

The critical aspect in coaching players to create and preserve space is their ability through running angle and footspeed to
manipulate the shoulder position of selected defenders.

Space will not simply open up at higher-levels, created through the attack being able to disrupt or bend the defensive line out of shape. I think there is an order of events that leads to a line break. With this in mind, you can create skill-based activities to develop players to make more line breaks.


The following is a suggested model of order of events to put players into positions to potentially break the line.

1 Align/realign off the ball well ahead of the catch

  • To be in an effective position to take the catch.
  • Have greater time to scan the defensive line and make a decision.
  • Provide options for support players
  • Place this before scanning because if the player is in a poor position to begin with, scanning and option taking performance will be decreased.

2 Scan the defensive line

  • Make sure the chin is forward and off your chest.
  • Identify areas of space or weak defenders.

3 Decision making

  • By scanning early as the players are aligning, it will provide greater time to make a decision.
  • Be aware of defenders and where your support players are positioned.

4 Go forward

  • The first option should be to go forward to cross the gain line as a ball carrier unless a support player is in a better position to promote the ball to the gain line.
  • Foot speed/angle of run need to be effective in manipulating shoulders of the defenders.
  • Use in-to-out or out-to-in running to make defenders turn shoulders the wrong way to tackle.

5 Support players

  • Need to scan and align off the ball carrier into a position to go forward.
  • Should alter their running line depending on the running line of the ball carrier.

6 Passing

  • Pass if the support player is in a better position than the ball carrier.
  • Use the right pass: Draw and give, spiral or offload for instance.

7 Dominant ball carry

  • If the ball carrier enters contact.


  1. Break through the tackle;
  2. Stay on their feet – generate an offload;
  3. Quick ground ball recycle.

8 Support players

  • Constantly work off the ball to realign” “in an effective position off the ball carrier.

Based on detailed research of a Super 15 rugby season for an ARU L3 paper, Jason Gilmore, Head coach, Toowoomba Grammar School

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