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. Attack out wide
  2. Tactical kicking by opposition

 A team that communicates well with each other and closes down the space efficiently between themselves and the attackers can easily shut down an Attack Out Wide. The key is to close the space on the inside and use the touchline out wide as an extra defender.

When defending from the left hand side (see diagram below) the aim is to push the attackers out wide to the touchline using the up and out defensive pattern with the defending scrumhalf pushing out on the attacking 10 creating a one out situation for the defenders. What this does is free up the defending fullback so he can mark the space behind his teammates cutting off the tactical kicking option. Defenders must push up and out quickly and in a line to shut the inside space down and force the outside backs to try go for the wide break. If line speed is good and tracking the attackers is clean (this means following the attackers) the defense will force the attackers back inside as they will have no space out wide with the gap between the defense and touchline too tight. In doing so the attack will run into numbers of defense. The other option the attacking team has is to kick and this will be where the defending fullback will be standing to field the ball. 

Defending Left Hand Side: 




From the right hand side (see diagram below) the extra man in defense (the scrumhalf) falls away so it is man on man and a good time for attackers to have a go out wide. What this creates for the defending team is vulnerability behind the backline if there is a break because the fullback will be engaged in man-on-man, but this can effectively be covered in two simple ways: 

1. Blind side winger pushes across to cover the space for the defending #15.
2. Scrumhalf sweeps behind the backline as a cleaner for any breaks and to assist the blind side wing in covering the space at the back.

When defending from the right, defenders must communicate and work hard to shut the space down quickly so the attack does not have options out wide and are forced back inside to the covering backs and loose forwards.

Defending Right Hand Side:



Pic B – Incorrect defensive lines from the outside backs showing the inside shoulder exposed for a cut back.


Defending Right Hand Side:


If the scrum is on the right hand side for the defending team the ‘MAN ON MAN’ defense needs to be adopted not the ‘ONE OUT’ as the defending #9 is now blind side and unable to assist with channel defense. Players needs to mark up on their opposite number and the #15 needs to sweep behind watching for the kick or the opposite #15 insertion. 

To eliminate the cut back threat the defending open side flanker should work up and out similar to the #9’s defense line from the left and #8 should read the play, if it goes wide he should push out, but if it comes back inside he should be there to assist. Defending #9 must not follow the ball around the scrum as this will take him out of the game, #9 needs to back track and sweep across behind the backline covering the line break or kick.

Blind side wing should also be alert and also work to assist if there is a line break or a kick, the defense system should be:

1. Open side flanker and #8 engage the cut back channel or sweep inside 
2. Backline attempt to engage opposite number
3. Scrumhalf and blind side wing sweep behind

In closing, the key to making this work is communication every player needs to have their team mates talking inside and outside of them so everyone knows where their support is. If a player does not hear his support he will stall to check and this creates holes. Practice, practice, practice as this creates confidence and players can learn how to work with each other. 

by Greg Commins | Technical Zone

Defense from a Scrum – Part 3 (Attack out wide)

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