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Principle Three: Support


Be in a position to provide the ball carrier with options to make a pass or offloads to move the ball forward.

Make the ball beat the defenders.


Create space so the attack can move forward by having the support players reloading and the ball carrier going forward and attempting to penetrate.

Support Player Options:

  1. If the defence is grouped support to receive a pass laterally, in space across the field.
  2. If the defence is spread support to receive a pass, an offload or have the ball carrier place the ball after the tackle so that the next player can pick up the ball and go forward.
  3. If there are opponents around the ball this player may drive them off the ball. This is called cleaning out. This enables the next player to pick up the ball and continue play down the channel. This is linear support.

In Support Play Linear to Go Lateral and Play Lateral to Go Linear

Once play gets underway passing, evasive skills and speed are the main skills underpinned by some key factors.

From the post tackle, ruck and maul the first ball carrier must commit a defender before passing. By running straight at the defender, the ball carrier has left and right evasive options. It is important to run first and evade at pace. If the players steps first, because they don’t move forward, they will be easily defended.

By holding the defender, the ball carrier creates space for the receiver and this pattern is reflected along the attack line.

License should be given to each ball carrier to attempt to penetrate and when this occurs support down the channel is essential leading to, as previously stated offloading, gut passing, maul and ruck.

One difficulty occurs when the attack line is spread widely as, when a ball carrier attempts to penetrate, support is too far away to arrive quickly.

But this can be better than being too close and running beyond the tackled ball carrier, thus being in front of the ball, and out of play. This is called over running or front running and receivers must learn to “back their pace.”.

A Solution

A solution is to have an attack line of 5-6 players and 1-2 attacking sweepers behind who can provide support quickly.

As explained earlier the aim of channel play, often called linear support, along with the maul is to draw the defence in creating lateral space for the ball to be passed to exploit the overlap.

A very skilful evasive player drawing in a number of defenders and then passing to attackers who have retained their spacing also achieves the overlap.

What stands out in sevens is that a half break, with support, is enough to create a try. To achieve this, players have to do much more in support than as the ball carrier, whose key skill is to decide what is best to do with the ball. The support player must reload to be able to move into the ball while at the same time being alert when a teammate attempts to penetrate and to get there to support and to continue play.