Using scenarios to focus on ‘go forward’

In my previous article I introduced the idea of scenarios, why you may use them and how to use them. Here, I will be looking at a specific scenario that focuses on the principle of play ‘go forward’.

The scenario I will be using for this example is from the third test of the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa. 

To create the scenario you need to have an idea of where this fits into your planning for your team, whether you want to start with an imbalanced scoreline or a balanced one, and which principles of play or skills are your focus.

This scenario creates a great game for go forward due to the way both teams play. Focus on authenticity, because if you are going to use scenarios, be as true to the scenario as possible.


We are 65 minutes into the game and there’s a penalty awarded to South Africa. The score currently 13-13. The game restarts on the 67th minute, after a decision is made.

I have rewatched the match so I know exactly where the penalty is: in the Lions half, on the right hand side of the pitch for South Africa (the Springboks or Boks), in the centre of the square created by the 5m and 15m, and the 10m and 22m lines. 

In the scenario, the team representing the Boks will have the same choices as the Boks at that specific moment. They can take the kick at goal, kick for touch, kick high, take a scrum or tap and run. This is the first opportunity that the players will get to challenge their game management and decision making.


Since the aim of scenarios is to expose your players to real game situations, you can play the scenario out, refereeing the game as if it were a real game. 

Keep track of the time. In this example we have 13 minutes remaining, stop and start the clock as you normally would in a game. You need to be ready to tell the players how long is left. Also have yellow and red cards ready.


If your team is comfortable with scenarios, use team rules to challenge them further.

Both the Lions and the Boks have a massive focus on go forward, so this is the most obvious principle of play to link to the scenario. However, you can link it to any principle of play as all teams use all of them to differing degrees. 

Rules can be adapted depending on your teams abilities and their needs. For example, change the duration requirements of the rule, change the player count requirements of the rule, change the distance requirements of the rule. To begin with, you can apply the same rule to both teams, you can extend this by applying a separate rule for either team.

This example will be focusing on ‘go forward’ due to this being the massive focus of both teams, remember to only use one per team unless you feel it appropriate to use more.

Go forward – both rules aim to encourage go forward in contact, focusing on contact skills like body position and leg drive.


As my example begins at the 67th minute, I will only be using players who were on the field at this point. I’ve also rewatched the match to see which players were most influential in those remaining 13 minutes.

The player rules don’t necessarily need to focus on the principle of play that the team rules focus on, they can provide a nice balance to them. You can use one for each team to begin with. Or, you can advance to two per team if you’re confident your players (and you!) won’t forget, get confused (you as the referee will now have the normal rules of the game, as well as team rules and now player rules to remember). Finally, too many rules might detract too much from the potential outcomes you’re aiming for.


Go forward: makes a great break in the 74th minute, dancing past a few players as if they weren’t there, making lots of ground and therefore a perfect example of go forward at an individual level.

In this case,  I would apply a player rule to a specific player on the Lions team to encourage them to go forward, for example they can freeze one player per carry or if they make a dominant carry (move forward after contact) they are awarded with a free kick. 

This can also encourage a player who may lack confidence in their carrying to carry as they know they can’t be tackled by the first tackler.


Continuity: organises the team and provides players the opportunities to attack, dangerous with ball in hand.

Therefore I could apply a player rule to encourage a specific player to organise their team by giving them 3 seconds to pause the game when their team has the ball at a ruck, giving them time to quickly organise themselves.

You could also motivate that player to pass the ball by allowing any player who receives a pass from them the chance to not be touched for three seconds.

You can apply an extra challenge by adding that, if that player is tackled, it’s a turnover. This encourages the team to use the 3 seconds they get but they must also be wary and offer support so that they always have an option to pass to so that they aren’t caught in contact. This supports a player who may lack the confidence or communication skills to organise their team. They now get a bit more time to settle themselves and look around before continuing.


Go forward: beat a total of 4 defenders over the course of the game.

Similar to the Robbie Henshaw rule above you could allow this player the ability to freeze. 


Support: offers a lot of protection when his players carry the ball into contact.

I would give this player the ability to keep the ball at any ruck they are in. This can also encourage players who don’t have the confidence to go into rucks as they know they will still get the ball.

NOTE: Player rules are applied to an individual. Team rules are applied to the whole team. They can be in favour of or against the team and can also be related to scoring. With all the rules, you are best to start with just one or two, and then add more as the teams become more familiar with the scenario.

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