Defensive line speed for an under 9s team

Line speed, that is the defensive coming forward quickly and in an organised state, certainly puts pressure on the attack. However, it’s notoriously tough to coach, even at the senior level. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t start putting in place some organisation. Here are some ideas to work with.


  1. Pair off your defenders, giving them labels A, B, C and D.
  2. Your best defenders are A, next Bs. D is the fifth-best defender in the “full back” role, and your weakest defenders (C) are on the wings (if you play six-a-side, then one “winger”, one full back). On every restart,
  3. As start opposite the ball carriers, Bs either side and so on.
  4. When you sub a player, you make sure the players know their letters.
  5. This gives you some semblance of organisation. But this might take some time to get the gist of the method, so don’t expect to practise it one week and run it well the next.

  1. From a restart near the touchline, put the A defenders opposite the restart ball player.
  2. It then goes a pair of Bs and then a pair of Cs.
  3. Leave space on the outside. If they run to that space, it’s easier to defend a player who’s running sideways.
  4. You can try the trap…by putting a very good tackler on the end in place of a C. The attacker will run out to the space on the edge and meet this tackler coming back towards them. But this is quite a step up for most teams.


Games are a great way to introduce principles of line speed without spending time on laborious drills which are removed from the real game.

Play touch rugby. The attack has three touches, then there is a “restart”. The teams restart 7m apart. There’s an immediate turnover if the ball carrier is touched before they make 3m (remember the restart needs a pass).

Play touch rugby, where if two players touch the ball carrier before they have made it less than 1m past the last tackle, it is a turnover. This rewards team tactics. Get the players to think about how they might do this. The attacking team can have an endless number of touches.


Have two defensive captains on the pitch. They can help call the line up and make sure the players are in position.

This is better than you shouting this on from the side line.


Finally, don’t sweat this part of the game. Pure line speed is not really something I would concentrate on until I reach U14s, if not above. I might work on it with a representative team at U15 myself.

More important is to work on tackle confidence and decision making. The time you might spend on defensive line speed pays far less dividend than time spent on playing attacking rugby. It takes many weeks for a team of senior players to improve their line speed, so I would suggest that any line speed is good.

Aim for communication and confidence amongst the players as your priority.

Share this
Follow us