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Defence Principle Two - Go Forward


Go forward to a pattern to reduce time and space to prevent the attack getting over the gain line.

Basic Defence Pattern:

The basic defence pattern is to have a defender in each of 6 lanes and a sweeper behind. A modification is to have a defence line of 5 and 2 sweepers. (see sweeper strategy below).

Don’t ball chase, shuffle in the lanes defending inside out and immediately reposition if the ball is passed to cover the next defender’s backside. This enables the defender to tackle a player who cuts back inside. See below for reverse drift.


The tendency is to spread wide and not start closer to the source of possession and move with the ball. Spreading wide leads to the ball carrier being able to isolate the defender but the attack cannot start close and drift if they lack pace.

Rush Defence:

A rush defence works so long as all defenders are involved, and they can sustain it. You need at least 6 in the line otherwise the attack will have an overlap. If the attack is backing up towards their own goal-line to create space move forward as a unit retaining your formation in lanes so that you can cover the inside space of the next player in the line. Keep taking away their space.

Touchline Play:

If you squeeze the ball carrier towards the touch be alert for a loose pass back infield and conning the ball carrier to take the outside lane using the touchline as the most reliable defender of all forcing the ball carrier into touch.

Adjusting to Penetration:

If the attack makes progress the defence line has to retain its form with players defending their individual lane. This requires reloading quickly and then setting the line at a tackle so they can then move forward into the attack. You may concede space, but you don’t let the attack penetrate the defence line.

The Sweeper(s):

Work out a pattern for a sweeper to cover the attack’s kick and chase option.

Option One – using the wing:

  1. Use the wing on the side the ball is moving away from to track the ball across the field always keeping inside the ball so the kicked ball can be moved into.
  2. If the ball is not kicked and gets close to the far touch the player can join the defence line and the sweeper role can then be taken by the wing on the other side of the field.

Option Two – permanent sweepers:

In the way as the attack pattern can be 6 attackers and 1 sweeper or 5 and 2 defence can use the same pattern. This allows the same players to be used in both attack and defence.

  1. In selecting the teams fastest and most skilful players for the sweeper role(s) the defence line will move into their tackles in the knowledge that, should they miss the tackle, there was good support behind to defend.
  2. Using this pattern, the defence line should attempt to drive the attack across the field and if the overlap has been successful the sweeper can move across to make the tackle.

Reverse Drift Defence:

When the ball goes from one side of the field to the other and no ruck/maul is formed there is no offside line so the defence line can get further down the field than the position of the ball.

When this occurs, each defender can align alongside their attacker so they can see the attacker and the ball in the same line of vision. This enables the defender to defend the attacker outside-in if the ball is passed. The line of running is outside-in, so you come from the attackers outside to make the tackle – from the player’s blindside and the opposite direction to the pass.

Use the big hit “outside in” to try and stop the overlap and regain possession.

Should a ruck or maul form reload into the defence line to prevent being offside.

To counter drift defence the attack should overload the channel at the ball.