by Tom Billups, C.S.C.S.
In this offering I would like to share with you an approach we use when coaching team defense and organization. We refer to the moments which span from the time immediately following the tackle to when the ball is ready to be moved away from the ruck (to begin the subsequent attacking phase) as a defensive life cycle. In a defensive life cycle, there is a small window of opportunity to compete or contest for possession after the tackle has been made and if we are unsuccessful in dispossessing the attacking team of the ball, we must reorganize, rebuild, and launch our defense again. This is a defensive life cycle.
After a tackle one for the first tasks at hand is to recognized several important pieces of data, and then communicate and organize defensive roles. The next moment is the defensive launch, after which we hopefully have made a positive grade tackle.
When we speak of defensive recognition, we are speaking about two general categories, primary phase and secondary phase defense. Recognition in primary phase is pretty straightforward. In the recognition portion of our primary phase defensive life cycle, our defenders need to be aware of the primary phase source of possession and location on the field. It is in secondary phases when defenders are under the most duress and therefore where employing a prioritized approach to a defensive life cycle most productive.
While playing secondary phase defense, the first moment of recognition occurs immediately following or as the tackle in being finished, where we must acknowledge the quality of our defensive effort. Additionally, our defenders must appreciate our field position and the quality of the attacking possession.
The third piece of data that must be quickly collected and processed by the defenders is how their numbers match up to those of the attackers. Our defensive running lines and mentality will change depending on the numerical balance. If our defenders have a numerical advantage, we intend to disposes the attack of the posession, conversely, if there are more attackers then defenders, we must adjust our defensive lines and drift, playing across the face of more than one attacker.
Execution of team defense involves building a fringe, midfield and depth of our defense. The three units must be tied together through two-way communication, meaning giving and acknowledging receipt of information. Once the defense is built and tied together, the gain line defenders must launch at the attack, with the defenders knowing where their help is coming from and whom they are responsible to assist.
A defensive life cycle only lasts a matter of seconds, but there are dozens of them during a match. Dozens of defensive opportunities when you and your teammates have about a “Two Mississippi” to get organized, connected, and ready to launch.
When teams get this aspect of their team play correct it is very powerful and as rewarding as scoring a try.
Tom Billups began his rugby career in 1984 and has spent time as a player in New Zealand (Bay of Plenty), the U.S. (The Old Blues), England (London Harlequins), and Wales (Pontypridd) for domestic teams as well as representing the U.S.A. at international tournaments with the Eagles. After hanging up his boots, Billups got into coaching leading the Eagles and now with University of California – Berkeley. Read the entire bio of Tom Billups as well as Billups first column My Rugby Path and then check out what Billups is saying about the game of rugby in The Billups Column on Rugby Rugby.
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