The up and out defense was the classic defense used by rugby union for years until some teams started to learn from rugby league defense systems and started to play the out and in defense.

The ‘up and out’ defense was effective for tracking opposition and pushing them out wide while covering the cut back the only flaw was that if you got beaten out wide you were exposed with limited cover defense especially if you have a lack of pace in the mid. For this exact reason rugby union started to use a defense system used in rugby league the ‘out and in’ defense.

This system pushes the opposition backs and runners back inside, suffocating ball movement and also pushing the opposing runners towards a closer cover defense if there is a break. The ‘out and in’ is also less risky than the ‘rush defense’.

Out and In Defense


Up and Out Defense

Combination Defense

To determine which defense is best for your team here a few scenarios that may help you decide:

Your backs are fast and are strong tacklers
Use the up and out as they will be able to push the attack out wide and not be beaten easily and if they tackle effectively out wide they can isolate the attacker and aim for turn over ball as the attackers support will be ‘thin’ out wide.

Slow backs but big hitters
Use the out and in as they can stop the possibility of being beaten out wide and can also hammer the attackers back in towards your covering defense and fetchers.

Fast backs but not so good in the tackle
Stick to the up and out as this will give the defense the option of pushing defense into touch, use the touch line as assistance in defense. If your side does not have good tacklers the out and up can create issues as the attack can bust through the middle which is deadly because they will have support on the inside and outside, worst case scenario for a defending team, numbers all over the place.

Reading your oppositions strengths
If the opposition has a particular area that is their strength e.g. strong runners in the mid field then you can mix the two defense systems. Have your centers push out and in forcing the opposition attack to cut back then have your outside backs move up and out. This combination will create two positive scenarios

(1) the strong inside attackers can be forced to move back inside towards extra defense cover from your loosies

(2) the inside attacking backs can be forced to pass under pressure and there could be an interception opportunity by the outside backs getting in between the ball and player with the up and out defense.

Defense systems are picked like ‘horses for courses’ always see what your side's ability and strengths are before implementing a particular system. Remember to always play to your strengths especially in ‘D’.


by Greg Commins | Technical Zone


Up and Out Defense vs Out and In Defense

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