Three lessons from Gallagher Premiership strike moves

Recently, I watched one strike move from every Gallagher Premiership team and it has taught me something about rugby moves at all levels. There is an accurate stereotype that in training sessions the forwards and the backs will split. The forwards will go off and practice lineouts and scrums, and the backs will practice moves that will never see the light of day in a match.

Personally, I am not a fan of practicing moves at a very low level. They over-complicate a sport which, at that level, is actually very simple. As the level improves you can guarantee more consistency with your lineout ball and strike moves become worthwhile to practice. Although I don’t think practicing strike moves is particularly beneficial at a low level I do think that many of the principles discussed here are useful at any level.

What have I learnt from the strike moves of the Premiership teams?



One of the things I think about when I’m coaching attack is; what would I least like to defend against. That will differ from person-to-person but I think we can agree that we want to know who we are tackling as far in advance as possible. The less time we have the harder it becomes to make any tackle, let alone a positive one.

Look at the Harlequins (Quins) strike move here. They present a wall of possible options for Bristol to defend. Each Bristol player has to be aware of the player running at him and the option out the back. Quins wait until the very last moment before making the pass. That gives the defenders as little time as possible to make a decision on who to tackle.

One simple way to add an extra option in your moves is with your blindside winger. They can be deployed to add an extra option to any attacking move. If you are running a switch you can have the blindside winger run inside of the switching player or outside as a pop option for example. Even if they do not receive the ball, they will draw the attention of at least one defender.

One thing I like to look at is the number of active players involved in a play. By active, I mean ball carriers and possible receivers. The more of those you have the more likely you are to have a successful attack.

Questions for your players:

  1. Who are the options?
  2. Why are they are option – what danger do they represent?



Attacking moves don’t need to be complex to be effective. They can be a great opportunity to get your game changing players involved. If you have a powerful winger who you would like to see go up against a smaller opposition fly-half, then the strike move is the perfect opportunity. There is nothing wrong with something as simple as a midfield crash, as long as you can run it effectively. Notice how even though this is a simple attacking move, Leicester still add flourishes with multiple options to change the point of attack.

In the heat of a match, anything too complex will quickly unravel. A simple move well executed will always beat a complex move poorly executed. That also takes us back to the joys of using your blindside winger. Using your blindside winger as a floating element will allow you to add some complexity but with only one additional moving part it is far less likely to break under pressure.

If we can break down a move into its component parts and execute each one of those very well, with the best players in the right places, then we can make our moves simple, not simpler.

Questions for your players:

  1. What moves of ours are simple, and which are complex?
  2. How can we make our simple moves more powerful? How can we reduce the complexity of our other moves?



This doesn’t to apply to all attacks, it’s perfectly acceptable to run successful tight crash balls or blindside attacks, however, if you are going to go wide make sure you do truly go wide. The wider you can attack the better your chances of finding a soft shoulder (where the tackler overcommits and you step inside) or a wide space to attack.

Any attack that is wide should result in contact being made well the side the posts. What does that mean?

You can classify your attacks as tight; between the sideline and 10m from the posts, midfield; 10m either side of the posts, wide; wider than 10m on the far side of the posts. When you practice, use that as a guide to see whether you are getting the ball into the right areas.

If you want to make these players, your backs will need to practise long accurate passing so they are able to really challenge the wide defence of your opposition. Imagine how much harder it would be to defend if you had to cover the entire width of the pitch rather than just the half closest to the lineout.

Questions for your players:

  1. Which moves takes us really wide? And what do we, as a team, mean by wide?
  2. Do we have the skills at the moment to execute these moves? What do we need to do to improve these skills?

With the season upon us we are all trying to find an edge. Improving your backs moves is a great way to gain that edge because you are able to attack on your terms. Although it isn’t necessary to copy the moves of the elite teams, you can still learn plenty from them. If you follow these three keys then you can gain a competitive edge.

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