Bath and former Leicester back Sam Vesty begins a series of coaching blogs designed to help clubs who sit near the top of the amateur level ladder. We hope they can be of use to more than just those clubs though and may inspire any player or coach who plays the game. Sam has worked under the leadership of the likes of Pat Howard, Richard Cockerill and Sir Ian McGeechan, has won 3 Premiership titles and started the 2009 Heineken Cup final at fly-half.
There are only a handful of scrums in a game but they are all very important because there is lots of space about with eight forwards tied into one small area.
My mantra for attacking at scrums is: keep it simple.
If the opposition give you something, take it.
It's very hard to manufacture holes in modern-day defences, so, if they offer you easy yards, you must bite their hands off.
From a scrum, there are a couple of natural weak points.
Between the scrum and the first defender (5m back) is one, while outside the D13 is another - because the winger has to hang back and help out the full-back.
Another difficult area to defend is the backfield - but I'll come back to that in a future piece.
I am going to use the example of a left-sided scrum for the purposes of this blog.
Most teams will defend with a ‘flat four’ - meaning the open winger is in line with the A13 and leaving the blind-side winger and full-back to look after the back field.
The 10-12 Switch
A simple 10-to-12 switch can be very effective here.
The A10 starts a little wider from the scrum and this opens the hole that we want to attack. On the pass, the A10 attacks the D12’s inside shoulder.
The 10/12 Switch (pic 1): Attacking a left of pitch scrum.
This means that D10 chases A10.
Just as D10 is about to commit to the tackle, the A12 drops underneath and receives a lifted pass from the A10.
As soon as the A12 has the ball, he needs to start going away from D7 who is chasing from the scrum. Imagine the running line of the A12 to be like a banana.
The 10/12 Switch (pic 2): Running through the play.
This may sound too simplistic to breach good defences - but the Kiwis use it to great effect.
You must remember that there are no magic moves in rugby. It's the simple things, executed very well that make the difference.
The '8-9' Play
Another good ploy from a left-sided scrum is an ‘8-9’ play.
The pre-requisite for this is a solid scrum. If your team struggles in this area of the field, just concentrate on getting the ball in and out as quickly as possible.
After A9 has put the ball into the scum, he walks past the A8 and taps him, then moves out a couple of metres.
This gives A8 the timing to pick up the ball, take one or two steps, holding D7 for a split second, to give A9 a bit of space.
When he gets the ball, A9’s job from here is to get to D10.
If this first bit is done well, you are on to a winner. Whatever fancy bit you put on the end, will have them under the pump.
A favourite of mine, is for A12 to run short off the A9 and for A10 to sneak out the back with the blind winger on his inside.
The 8-9 Play (pic 2): Attacking options from the 8-9.
Let me explain further.
In an ideal world, the A9 would get to the D10. But more often than not, he will have the D7 hunting him down.
The A12 runs on the D10 outside shoulder - it is a good play to hit the A12 short - as we all know that most D10s do not like tackling!
The other option on this play is to pass behind A12 to A10. With A12 bearing down on D10 he commits to making the tackle and effectively is out of the game. This isolates D12 with a classic two-on-one with A10 running at him with A11 on his inside.
This play puts a lot of pressure on D10, but remember, the most important part of this move is a solid scrum and a good A8-to-A9 transfer.