Defending full lineouts - Sam Vesty coaching

Sam Vesty has plays at Bath Rugby and has played for Leicester Tigers and England

As I mentioned in previous coaching blogs, there are some natural weak points in any defensive system.

From a lineout, there are a couple of obvious ones.

Firstly, at the tail of the set-piece, in the hole between the tail-gunner (the last man in the lineout, usually the D7) and the first defender. Secondly, outside the D13 channel and thirdly, in the back field.

As a defence coach always says, it is easier to defend when we have the ball (they are a funny bunch).

The point to take from this is that if we can upset or even steal the attacking team’s ball, we are onto a winner. So it is vital to have a good lineout defence that puts pressure on the opposition at every lineout.

In attack. I think that it is best to keep things very simple and to take the easiest opportunities on offer.

Conversely, a defence must shut these weak points down as a priority and make the attackers work hard for their opportunities.

This means being solid at the back of a lineout and perhaps giving them some space in the wide channels. This space will, in turn, get shut down later in the play with aggressive defence from our D13, D14 and full-back.

I would always have a tail-gunner free at the back of the lineout who has no role in our defensive lineout. This allows him to get off and put the attack under pressure and gives confidence to D10 knowing he has support on his inside shoulder.

If the A10 comes to the line with A11 on his inside and a centre or two on his outside, then we number off as in the diagram below.

It is very important that the tail gunner holds for the A11. If he chases too hard and gets to the A10, then he is leaving a big hole on his inside. And the only people inside him are lineout forwards who may still be lifting.

It is the job of the defensive fly-half to communicate with his flanker at every lineout. The fly-half sees how the attack is set up and tells the flanker who is his man to mark.

For example, if A11 is set up inside A10 then D10 is marking A10 and D7 is marking A11.

This little chat at every lineout is vital to a good set piece defence - as we all know, flankers like to tackle fly-halves but it is this eagerness that must be harnessed.

Sam Vesty coaching - defending full lineout - inside ball

Defending at a full lineout - the inside ball

When the A11 is on the outside shoulder of ten then our tail gunner can be more aggressive and really go and pressure the 10.

Sam Vesty coaching - defending lineouts - shoulder ball

Defending at a full lineout - the shoulder ball

When attacks go wide, you can do one of two things; blitz or drift. It depends on many things which is the best option to take. Such as, where we are on the pitch, preferences of the coach, skill set of the players in the wide channel and the strengths of the opposition.

I will talk about the pros and cons of blitz and drift in a future blog.

The most important thing to remember, however, is that we defend as soon as we allocate numbers with the attack. If it’s three attackers, we allocate three defenders and we go forward and get them.

Sam Vesty coaching - defending lineouts - wide play

Defending at a full lineout - the wide play

Notice on the diagram that as soon as the ball has gone past you as a defender, you must drift and help the man on your outside. But when the ball is still in front of you, or inside you, you must stay square to the play.

In this example the A10 has miss-passed to the A13. The D13 can go forward and hit him because we have allocated numbers on the outside (our winger hits their A15 and our full-back takes the last man on the end of their move).

Our D7, D10 and D12 in this example work hard on the inside to help the D13 if the attacker steps inside. This is known as “The Hunt”.

In this system, there is a lot of work for the blindside wingers as they have to look after all of the back field once the full-back engages the end of the line.

There are different ways to defend wide attacks and you can see them in my forthcoming blog: “Blitz v Drift”.

The main point to take from this blog, is how vital the little communications between the fly-half and his flankers, wingers and full-backs are to the defence as a whole.


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