In our latest series of Technical Zone articles, Greg Commins looks at the four possible threats the defending team needs to cover when defending from the scrum:
  1. The pick and go by attacking #8
  2. Cut back inside by attacking back line
  3. Attack out wide
  4. Tactical kicking by opposition

To defend the pick and go the defending scrumhalf needs to be very alert. As soon as the opposition has hands on the ball he needs to call ‘BREAK’ or whatever your team uses to communicate the ball is out.  Reaction speed is vital, it is a race to the advantage line for both teams.
Because the ball is fed into the scrum on the left hand side by the attacking team it is more than likely the #8 or #9 will pick and go right, as the defending scrumhalf will not be in the way. The defending scrumhalf should try to do three things:


  1. Irritate the opposite #8 and #9; apply pressure by getting into their space. A good defending #9 is like a terrier that never gives up and keeps snapping at the ankles.
  2. Slow the ball down by getting ‘hands in’ once the #8 has ‘played the ball’ by grabbing an arm; hand or even better the ball.
  3. Tackle the #8 with the ball if in a position to do so.

If the #8 gets away and breaks the first person to tackle should be the flanker on that side of the scrum.  The next defender to come into the line should be the defending #8 followed by backline defense, which would usually be the flyhalf.

It is quite common to have a big burly #8 charge into a vulnerable flyhalf channel to create forward momentum, this is why the open side and #8 need to eliminate this threat by working together (see below).

It is very important to teach a defending scrumhalf that if they cannot make an impact at the back, don’t follow the ball around the scrum as they will be running behind the attacking backline, to be more effective they should back track and run back behind their own backline as a sweeper and extra defender (see below)

Sometimes a team will attack the left hand side, it is key for the defending #9 to ‘sweep the ankles’ as this stops the #8 and forward movement dead in its tracks.
The pack also has a big job and they should always aim to block the opposing forward pack from getting their attacking shoulder, which is the wheel in the direction of the pick up, usually the right shoulder. If the scrum is wheeled the defending flanker and #8 get pushed further away from the advantage line making it harder to defend the pick and go (see below).
The defending #8 will get blocked from effectively defending and the open side flanker will have further to track to make the tackle, not an ideal situation to be in. 

by Greg Commins | Technical Zone

Defense from a Scrum – Part 1 (Pick and Go)

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