Defence from Scrums – a response to a query

I have been asked to explain my approach to defence from the scrum. What I have done provides a blueprint for scrum but is equally applicable to the line-out and defence from phase play. From phase play there tends to be more defenders in the defence line than there are attackers in the attack line. This can lead to confusion as to who is defending who. This can be solved by continuing to defend inside out but numbering outside in so any spare defenders are close to the source of possession where pick and go and one or two pass hit ups take place. But most importantly the defence must know who is defending who.

I think it is a matter of numbering the ball carriers as follows:

In each case if the defender can’t get to the ball carrier defending inside out they call to the other members of their team that they are able to drift onto the next ball carrier.

To do this effectively they don’t drift back but hold their position on the inside position of the next defender so they can tackle the ball carrier when they cut back in. So often they drop back and leave this space and the ball carrier is able to get over the gain line.

It is also important that the defender on the current ball carrier moves up fast inside out. If you can then get boys of this age to slow down about 3 metres away, step to be square on about a metre or two away and then move directly into the tackle. This defender is closest to the opposition and the defenders inside and outside him are aligned in a flat arrowhead so they can move into play. They should also align on the inside shoulder of their attacker. At all levels attackers tend to drift across the field and this helps the defence “shepherd” them into the space of the next attacker so they end up running out of room.

Note they don’t defend the number on the back but each successive pair of hands so that attackers entering the attack line between 2 defenders are taken care of. It is a matter of numbering out.

#1 Ball carrier/ #8 or #9 run with the ball – Defensive 6 and 7 watch the ball through the scrum from their pushing position, which is also a good tackling position. They watch the hands that pick up the ball and if the legs attached to the hands go to that side then the tackle is theirs. It may be too technical but if they step wide and leave the inside space they can tackle the #8 back into the scrum.

Your #8 can assist with the tackle or drive through the ball to counter ruck to regain the ball.

Defensive #9 – Defend #2 ball carrier – probably #10. If he is unsure if the attack is going left or right he can position behind #8 as this allows him to go to the side the attack goes and tackle the second ball carrier.

I think if the attacking #9 passes immediately, as they usually do, then the defensive #9 is in a good position to make the tackle with #6 or #7 inside him as back-up. He shouldn’t have to worry about #8 and #9 running if #’s 6,7 and 8 do their job.

Defensive #10 – Defend #3 ball carrier – probably #12 or the blind side wing entering the open side from the blind side.

Defensive #12 – Defend #4 ball carrier – probably #13

Defensive #13 – Defend #5 ball carrier – Lets say #15 entering the attack line.

Defensive #11 and #14 – Defend #6 ball carrier.

Few teams will have more than 6 ball carriers in the attacking line.

You will also find that ball carriers drift and pass before committing a defender allowing the defence to drift, as I have said above. They take up each others space and enable you to gang tackle and, with greater numbers to counter ruck, although refs don’t seem to allow this, I don’t know why.

Re practicing to get the tackle running line correct and make the tackle I have used stationary tackle bags. The flaw most teams make is that they all tackle at the same time, which is unrealistic, I usually put the tackle bags in an attacking formation on the tackle line and have the defenders coming up in order to make the tackle.

I then have them return to the offside line and move one player out adding another player inside to make the first tackle. When they have moved to the end of the defence line they run back to where the scrum would be. They just shuffle out one after each tackle.

You can then add in players and the tackles made are as strong as you think they can handle.

I have added a loose ball after each tackle that they recover.

Another addition is for the inside tackler, after he has made his tackle, to tackle with the tackler next in the line to make a double tackle.

I can get carried away sometimes.