Defending a Midfield Scrum Posted over 1 year ago

A midfield scrum or one with a 15m+ blindside is one of the hardest set pieces to defend.

A split of defenders is required on either side of the Scrum. How many do you load on each side? What role does the no 9 play in the defence screen? What lines do the loose forwards run? Just some of the decisions the defence must answer and Community Coaches must prepare and plan for with much less time than professional coaches have available to them.

From a Midfield scrum, scrum dominance is the 1st line of defence, as Sir Graham Henry (Ted) outlines in his Master of Defence video and its remix series Master Defence
(one of the most popular video series on the Rugby Site).

However, what happens when scrum dominance does not occur for the defensive side which is often the case especially in Community Rugby? A recent match between Producer Warren’s undefeated Petone U21 and OBU in Wellington, NZ under 21 competition highlights this point, with both teams mirroring their defensive scrum mistakes.

In the 1st instance, as seen from the fixed VEO camera footage, OBU (in the stripes) wins possession with a dominant scrum moving the ball left.

View the clip

As the play develops, notice how the OBU’s inside attack is close together and the Petone’s (in blue and white), inside backs 10, 12, and 13 target the 2 OBU players.

The result is an overlap for OBU and a try is only prevented by the Petone no 9 running a covering line.

As Ted says ‘your defence needs philosophy’ and ‘a policy of who is defending who in the attack in each situation’. During the Line Defence from a Scrum video, Ted also highlights ‘the importance of communication and swivel to watch the defender’.

Even from the camera distance, it is evident the Petone’s defence is not communicating with no arms movement or voices being heard. Plus, all the defending players were ball watching and did not locate their defenders.

This resulted in 4 defenders on the 2 inside attack backs and a clear overlap for the OBU no 11.

These defensive mistakes are replicated by the OBU backline defence in the 2nd video.

View the clip

On this occasion OBU had the dominant scrum but failed to align its defense. The OBU no 9 remained on the blind side of the scrum and not part of the open side defence and the no 7 breaks too late to be effective in the defence line.

The result is 3 OBU defending 4 Petone backs and the OBU no 11 getting fixed on the Petone 13 with the clear overlap for the Petone 14.

As in previous example, from the wide VEO camera view, the OBU defence was neither communicating nor watching their opponents, leading to a fixed and staggered man on man defence rather than a sliding connected defence play and giving up an easy overlap in the outside channel.

In Summary

You could argue that positive attack play with excellent skip passes by both teams resulted in the gain line advantage.

However the advantage gained was magnified by both teams missing key elements in their defensive setup, a common mistake in community level rugby.

As Ted, states in his Line defence – when down on numbers in defence video – Down on Numbers, it is important that a defender is not taken out of play by an attacking player by over committing.

Which in both instances the defences were guilty of.

For community coaches, (at any level), understanding and improving these areas of play can be easily achieved.

1. Using inexpensive equipment such as VEO cameras, coaches get the opportunity to view play from a wider and more consistent platform and gain a greater understanding of how the team-based attacks and defences are operating;
2. Either via your own knowledge or getting experts to review footage like The Rugby Site’s MCR service – MCR; and
3. Coaches can then access the Rugby Site video content to understand the aspect of play better and then apply it at training.

Enter your email address to continue reading

We frequently post interesting articles and comment from our world class content providers so please provide us with your email address and we will notify you when new articles are available.

We'll also get in touch with various news and updates that we think will interest you. We promise to not spam, sell, or otherwise abuse your address (you can unsubscribe at any time).

See all Analysis videos


comments powered by Disqus

Topic Analysis
Applicable to Coaches   Players   Others   Supporters and fans   Managers   Referees   Youths, ands, highs, and schools   Sevens  

Related articles

Create Favourite Videos Lists

Make your training sessions easier – store your favourite videos.

Ennis Rugby Club producing Red Diamonds

How did 3 of 6 academy players come from Ennis Rugby club, in Co Clare, Ireland, not exactly a traditional powerhouse of Munster rugby appear in a European Champions Cup match and win? Luck of the Irish or the result of a successful development programme?

Archive: Wilkinson’s Revolutionary Drop Goal in ‘03

This week we look at what was behind the famous Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal to win the 2003 Rugby World Cup and the dramatic effect it has had on modern rugby and in particular the last two World Cup campaigns.

Argentina's Perfect Scrum

This week we look at the Argentine scrum that was nearly faultless, against the All Blacks in the recent world cup. From the preliminary ‘set up’ phase, right through to ‘the push’ which concludes the scrum.

Rugby Injuries and Six Nations

Injuries are now a common part of our game, and this year’s Six Nations has been no exception. So as we look forward to the weekend, take a moment to think of those on the side-lines, whose absence could have made all the difference.