Articles

Space - the final frontier Posted almost 4 years ago

Photo: The Rugby Site

Space: the final frontier

The influence of rush defence in the modern game means the ability to identify space and
react in time to exploit it is an essential part of the attacking game. With fifteen players in
the opposition on a 100 × 70 metre field there must be space somewhere. According to a
reliable source allowing 31 sqm for players and a ref leaves 6969 sqm of space and that is
not including the in goal. When eight of these players are bunched in a lineout or scrum
this opens up even more space. From set-piece situations the distance between the
attack and the defence is greater. Why do we seldom take advantage of this? Is it fear?
Are we afraid our skills are not good enough to get to space or do we just not see it?

In phase play we need time to see the space as the positioning of the defence may vary
and the availability of attacking players can change. In set-piece we have both time and
space plus the knowledge of the defence and attack positioning.

Finding Space

• Know what you are looking for
• Position early
• Identifying space is a team (not individual) responsibility

Space can be open ground, a weak shoulder on a defender or even space above the
defence.

Being in a position to see space is essential to good decision making. The more you see
the better your chance of a good decision. An individual under pressure will often fail to
see all options. Teammates need to feed them good information. A player positioned early
has the time to process options and take action.

Creating space

• Manipulate defence through footwork or running lines
• Understand that space may be for others
• Position to stretch defence

There will be times when it appears there is no space and a team may need to create
some. This can be done through foot work (to square up a defender), support players
running sharp lines that force the defence to react (sit or chase) or introducing set ups
that group or stretch the defence.

Keeping space

• Run straight or angle to hold defence
• Speed is a weapon

Defending sides will often give the outside space in what is commonly called ‘fools gold’.
The aim here is to push the attack to the edge where the sideline becomes part of the
defence strategy. Keeping this space can be very difficult however it can be exploited by
highly skilled sides who have an understanding of who they are trying to hold in the
defence.

Running square and flat at pace can work providing the catch pass skills are high. So can
threatening runners angling back at the defence who want to push out – however these
lines need to be genuine threats and not just token decoys. Many players will choose to
throw long miss-passes to get to the player into space. While this may work at times it is
the time that the ball is in the air that can kill this attack strategy. The recovery time for the
defence to shift and shut this down is the issue. However, a fast, flat miss-pass to a
player outside the edge defender can be very effective. It’s a risk or reward tactic as the
possibility of an intercept increases.

Attacking space

• Run onto ball at speed
• All players to run genuine lines
• Strong ball focus

A player hitting onto a pass at speed can cause issues for most defences. Players who do
this into space can really break up a team’s defence. In almost all cases this requires the
attacker to appear late, giving the defence no time to react. Prior to this the defenders
may need to be set up. Players in varied positions or attackers running genuine running
lines providing more than one option to the passer can help achieve this.

If the space is above the defence then the attacking player will need a strong commitment
to the ball and anticipation to allow them to win the race to that space.

Analyse

Look at this video and see if any of the options around space mentioned could bring about a
more favourable result for Wales.

Summary:
Will the days of creative first phase attack return? I certainly hope so. Japan showed this
is still possible on the big stage. Will the drive to play like this come from some of the less
traditional nations? They know they must do something different to beat the more
powerful sides and playing without fear is a great place to start.

Check out more posts from Dave

The Rugby site is the only online coaching resource to offer a truly global perspective, subscribe for 12 months – now at a lower price point.

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 Attack videos

Comments

comments powered by Disqus

Following age-grade representative rugby, Dave became a passionate Coach specialising in skills. As Director of <b><a href="www.ellisrugby.co.nz">Ellis Rugby</a></b>, he is a consultant coach with over 28 years in player skill development and a strong background in coach education. Dave is internationally recognised for the creation of a unique coloured coaching system and aids designed to enhance progressive skill development.

Comments
Topic Attack
Applicable to Coaches   Players   Others   Supporters and fans  

Related articles

Bending the Line

‘Bending the line’ in an attack. Analyst Dave Ellis has been intrigued by the term and what it means to an Attack. He details in this weeks article.

Options - Are they in your attack plan?

Teams who want to develop their attacking game need to have multiple options in their attack plan. The complexity of your plan depends on your personnel and the level of the competition you are playing in. Analyst Dave Ellis (Ellis Rugby), looks at an example of a whole team attack shape "Aussie Box’, and its options, that can be used at every level of the game.

Breakdown Policy - Do You Have One?

What is a breakdown policy and Why should you have one? In his latest article, Ellis-Rugby Analyst Dave Ellis explains how England’s Breakdown policy was more effective than the All Blacks in their RWC semi final.