Vince has a learning moment

Mason looks at Vince.

He thinks:  “It’s simple, stupid.”

Of course, that’s not what he says to Vince. Instead, with a paternalistic smile, he begins…

“Actually, wait, just because that’s the pro-teams’ approach, doesn’t mean that would be ideal for our group of players? 

We need to know where we should start… the game.

You can’t have clear tactical solutions without first understanding the problems we’re collectively trying to solve.

It’s simple: Teams play rugby union to achieve the ultimate goal ‘to outscore their opponent’. The rules of the game then create a number of problems that we must collectively overcome.”

This is Mason’s simple problem model to solve.


ONE: Penetrate the defensive line and score.

TWO: Advance the ball up the field.

But we must also account for the contest for possession.

THREE: Recycle and continue with possession of the ball.


A solution would be a tactic. A tactic is a collective decision to make something happen. It is a coordinated action towards meeting a goal.

For example, the team might use a kick which they will contest to advance the ball up the field.

There is always more than one way to overcome the problems. However, we should focus on no more than two or three, with a menu of preferred methods.

For example, from a scrum in your 22m area, you might have three options on your menu: a long kick to touch, a kick to contest or pass the ball wide. The best solution depends on your team’s own strengths, as well as the opportunities presented by the opposition team.

Good teams collectively identify the best tactical solution and combine effectively to execute the play. The team ALL recognise the same cues (for example, positioning of the back three), and once recognised would ALL know how to execute the appropriate play.

The performance problem here is one of territory. It’s risky to play and make mistakes in your own 22, so you may want to gain a better field position. Often the easiest (and lowest risk) play here is a kick to gain territory, but depending on how the other team is positioned, this may just give the ball away and exacerbate the pressure.

There is an “IF”. Your team may have a solution which works well if the other team don’t have many players in the backfield, but IF they do, then running a wide play could be better.

That leads to tactical understanding.

The tactical understanding here is that the team needs to create a favourable position to kick from, one that allows the ball to hit the grass, or to be contested.

So, if the opposition is able to cover these options, they have likely left space elsewhere which we need to exploit.

This is the if-then rule. If the backfield is covered, then there is likely space out wide. If the backfield and wide channels are covered, then the defence is likely to thinly spread, play up the middle.

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