EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

How formations, not moves, will create more opportunities for attack

We often need a collective movement in attack to break down a defence, because one player can’t do it on their own. Leicester Tigers Junior Academy coach, Tom Brocklebank, discusses why you should think formations, not moves.

Teams can become obsessed with very specific moves requiring numerous formations or specific players for them to work.

This can give players an enormous number of different things to remember: where they need to start, whether they’re the right player for that position, where they subsequently move, who’s getting the ball, and who’s dummying.

Even for more experienced players, this can be overwhelming. It relies on numerous coincidences falling into place, for example, where the gaps are in the opposition defence, field position and width available.

It can also encourage bad habits, the most common being a dummy runner, rather than being a genuine option to take a pass.

CHANGE MOVES INTO FORMATIONS

Let’s simplify these various moves and their formations into one or two formations that provide many more options.

A good starting point could be the diamond formation, four positions in a simple layout that all your players can remember and play in. This allows teams to prepare earlier. Having multiple moves off one formation enables any player to be in any position in that formation so that the players will be ready quicker.

It also makes the team less readable by the opposition: constantly showing the opposition the same picture with multiple outcomes makes your attacking play more unpredictable. Players become more skilful as they’re expected to be able to fit in any or specific positions in the formation. Training becomes more accessible as one or two formations are easier for the whole team to remember.

NO NEED TO START FROM THE BEGINNING

There’s no need to throw your playbook in the bin. Choose a formation that you already use for a versatile move.

For me, versatile means it has flat, wide and deep potential options. You need a default move for your formation(s). This is one that, if the players haven’t managed to decide early enough or there’s an opportunity to play quickly, everyone knows what to do, and it offers a variety of options.

This move includes simple flat, wide and deep movements, so your attack has three outlets.

ASKING THE BEST QUESTIONS

Now you can start to build moves or adapt your current ones for this formation depending on pictures from the opposition. These are the questions the players need to answer:

Where do your players need to move if the space is wide? Where do they need to move if they are blitzing? If their defence didn’t set quickly? If their fly-half is a weak tackler?

It’s a simple idea, easy for all your players to remember, it’s more likely to withstand the chaotic nature of the game, and it’ll encourage you and your players to work towards a broader, more balanced skillset.

Your team will be more difficult to read and defend against, yet it will be easier for your players to understand and play in your attacking structure.


DIAMOND FORMATION

The diamond formation showing a default move with flat, wide and deep options, as well as a short option that could also offer the option for a switch.

The diamond formation to run a common DSP (dummy scissors, pop) move.

DOUBLE LINE FORMATION

A double line formation which also has flat, wide and deep options, as well as an inside option.

The double line formation to run a common miss-behind move.

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