You can still play when your set piece is under pressure

 Sometimes you are going to find your scrum and lineout under pressure. Have your tactics in place to ensure you retain the best possible possession and still be able to go forward in attack.

In my time at the Ospreys I was lucky to have forwards like British and Irish Lions’ Adam Jones and Alun Wyn Jones. We would dominate in the set pieces.

But sometimes they weren’t available and we played opposition who were renowned for their scrum and lineout play. Here are the attacking tactics I employed then and still use now.


With the new laws, a quick heel is essential and that means striking the ball through “channel one”. This channel is through the loose-head prop’s legs, and then left hand lock to the left foot of the number 8.

With the hooker under enormous pressure and more so against dominant scrums, this requires good timing. He will have to strike and scrummage quickly.

It will be tough for the 9 to pick up the ball because he’ll have to reach into a scrum that is going backwards or sideways. An 8 can pick up a quick strike before the scrum starts to really shift out of position, either running or passing.

Therefore, in most cases, the number 8 will have to handle the ball. There are three possible options:

  1. The 8 can pick up and go forward.
  2. The 8 can pick up, spin into or out of the contact which is either into their 9 or their flanker. That flanker will be quick off the back of a scrum that’s going in his favour. Your 8 can then feed to the nearest flanker if he has to.
  3. The 8 can flick the ball up to the 9 from his right foot, with 9 running right. If they’re quick enough they can still launch a strike move before they’re disrupted.

The centres also have a part to play in this. They’ll need to be close to the scrummage, able to come forward to support a pass or a contact. They can now deal with any eventuality.


You may come against a team who can drive you back in the lineout maul. In which case, I would use the following:

  1. Vary the catcher’s delivery to the 9. Don’t just take it off the top every time. Their back row will be quickly into your back line. Sometimes, bring it down, looking like you might try to maul and then pass it away.
  2. Use a shift drive, where you look as if you are going to drive on the catcher, but you then shift the ball over and drive through another point.
  3. Use front and back peels. Because they will want to drive you back, you can work to the edges of their defence at the lineout, with forwards running and popping passes to the back or the front of the lineout.

In all three cases, you keep their lineout defenders “honest”, and retain their forwards in the 15m area for longer.

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