by Nigel Melville
Nigel Melville Direct
I have watched rugby all my life, seen the game develop and change, watched the impact of law changes, score changes, changes to the tackle area, the scrum, lifting in line-outs, hookers not wingers throwing in the ball, kicking to touch using a place kick, backs moves come and go, back row moves, penalty plays and more recently defensive systems and patterns of play. I was once part of a laws committee that tried out news ideas at the ‘Laws Clinic’ in Cambridge, England, new ideas being tested by teams. I was involved in the initial ‘crouch, hold, engage’ conversations, then came a pause, a touch, and soon we will be back to where we started! I remain an advocate for a 10m, 22m line, and can remember when it was a 25 yard line and the game moves on, generation after generation.
Recently, I have also taken a greater interest in sevens rugby. When I was younger it was a bit of fun at the end of a long season, a chance for the fast men to actually touch the ball and run with some space, I played sevens, enjoyed the festival atmosphere in Hong Kong and at the Middlesex sevens. Then it became a development vehicle to test out some potential super stars like Jonah Lomu who cut their international teeth on sevens, as did the likes of Todd Clever and Chris Wyles with the USA. The ad hoc events in Hong Kong and Wellington, Dubai and others were joined together grand prix style to form a circuit, and now sevens is a brand new shiny Olympic Sport.
Watching sevens, a simpler form of the game, and comparing it with fifteens there are still some very basic principles required to be successful. Obviously defense is crucial, in 15′s and 7′s, miss more than 10% of your tackles and you will lose. New Zealand are probably the most successful team on the sevens circuit, they rarely miss more than 5% of their tackles. The reason defenses dominate the game these days is because a defensive system is easy to set up, and if you all work together and commit to making the one on one tackles when they arrive, you have a very good chance of a successful defensive structure.
In attack, I think its fair to say that despite, 2 pod, 3 pod attacking structures and others, there is one principle of the game that has stood the test of time – GO FORWARD!
Simplistic perhaps, but a ray of hope for every coach out there wanting to win a game of rugby!
My point is that whatever system/framework, call it what you like, you implement, if your ball carriers do not go forward, the defense will control the game, simple as that. As I watched rugby recently, I think too many players and coaches are getting wrapped up with complex systems and forgetting that simple ‘go forward’ has a greater impact than any fancy move.
Go forward helps reduce the width of the defense, forces it to re-set itself, makes it easier for your support players in contact, provides off load opportunities and line breaks. Scrum halves and outside backs love go forward ball, it creates momentum and space and puts the attacking team in control of the game – basic, simple and straight forward, give it a try next week – players love it!
With an impressive resume as player, coach and administrator, Nigel David Melville took over as CEO and President of Rugby Operations of USA Rugby, the National Governing Body of the sport in America, in 2006. In addition to his full time job promoting the sport in the U.S., Melville has launched his own blog, Nigel Melville Direct, to further the discussion and his passion for what it will take to make the U.S. a great rugby playing nation.
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