The Couch potatoes guide to constructive viewing

  • Start with the principles of attack and defence as they are what a team has to achieve in order to be successful.
  • Be sure you understand what each of the principles mean.
  • Remember they are in sequential order and, because of this,they are in order of priority.
  • Look at strengths and weaknesses/work-ons. A strength can be enhanced and used to dominate covering up a weakness. A weakness can go from fair to average but in the time frame cannot become a strength.
  • Remember attack is when a team is in possession of the ball and defence is when the opposing team is in possession of the ball. To be able to see things clearly attack and defence has nothing to do with field position.

So here is the checklist:




Gain Possession to


To Contest Possession and


Go Forward with


Go Forward


.the Support of team-mates to


Applying Pressure(by tackling) to


Maintain Continuity


Prevent Territory being gained (quality of tackling)


Applying Pressure to


Supported by or in support of team-mates to


Score Points.


Regain Possession (a turnover) and


Counter Attack

And here is a guide as to their definitions:






Scrums, Line-outs and Kick Starts and Re-Starts only.

  • Do we gain possession or not?



This refers to the method used by the team in taking the ball forward by any combination of running, passing and kicking.

  • Once possession has been gained is the next contest (the tackle, ruck or maul) over the gain line?
  • From each successive contest is the next contest for the ball over the gain line for that contest?


Support refers to how the ball carrier uses team-mates to take the ball forward after the initial attack from the set piece.

  • Is the pace of play and/or options affected because of a lack of support?
  • Is the pace of play and/or options affected because the ball carrier does not use the support?


So that the analysis is precise continuity refers to phase play i.e. rucks and mauls only. The purpose of each is to re-create the space that has been used in the initial attack so that there is the time and space to continue.

  • When we have the ball and form a maul or a ruck do we win the ball?


Pressure is an abstract term but it refers to those things that reduce an opponent’s defensive options enabling the attack to score.

Pressure is based on the attack being in possession, having a field position as close as possible to the goal-line and playing at pace so that the defence has insufficient to recover.

  • Possession – see Gaining Possession.
  • (Field) Position – Where do we play the game? Plot on a map of the field the position of each contest for possession.
  • Pace – a subjective assessment as to the team’s ability to maintain the pace of play preventing the defence from recovering..


  • When we have the ball how many times do we turn the ball over to the opposition?
    • By taking the ball to touch.
    • By infringing so that the opposition has the throw in at the scrum that follows.
    • Losing the ball in general play.
    • By conceding a Free kick or a Penalty kick.







While the team may not regain possession by contesting the ball the “quality” of the possession can be reduced enabling the remaining principles to be more effective.

  • Did the team win possession from scrum, line-out and kick starts and restarts?
  • Did the team in challenging for possession result in the attacking team’s options being reduced?



Reducing the time and space that the attack has to be successful. It applies to players going forward collectively to a pattern so that individuals are not isolated and easily beaten.

  • When the opposition wins the ball do our players go forward as a unit keeping a defensive line?
  • Do we stop the attack, after each contest for possession, before it crosses the gain line?



Having reduced time and space the next task is to tackle.

  • How many tackles were attempted? How many were completed and how many were missed?





Increasingly the nature of the tackle is becoming critical. These can be those that reduce options and those that don’t. This can be based on whether or not the tackle stops the ball carrier.

  • Do our tackles stop the ball carrier or is the ball carrier able to either drive through the tackle and/or off-load in the tackle and/or make the ball available without it being contested?


Support occurs when team-mates assist to complete the tackle and/or begin actions to regaining possession.

  • At the point of contact is there support that at the least slows down the opposing teams recycling of the ball?




Possession may be regained during play and secondly when there is an infringement and the team is given the initiative to re-start play.

  • In general play how many times does the defensive team regain possession of the ball either in general play, from penalty kicks or free kicks, and at the throw-in at the scrum or the line-out?



Once possession is regained the team will counter attack and the principles of attack will apply.  

  • When the ball is regained is the team a better field position than when the ball was first regained at the next contest for the ball?

Now what are some of the specifics we should be looking at:




Gain Possession:

§  Line-outs:

o   Money ball is based on limiting movement and is usually to the front.

o   The height of the jump is maintained by watching the ball into the hands.

o   Ball is secured by having “soft” hands and moving the hands towards the ball.

§  Kick-offs:

o   The aim should be to regain possession or to gain territory or both, not just to start play.

§  Scrum:

o   The success of a scrum is based on all 8 forwards maintaining their effort until the ball is out.

o   Don’t “swim” into engagement.

o   Options are maximised by channelling the ball to the right of the No. 8.


To Contest Possession;

§  Line-outs:

o   Defend space not players.

o   Position to force and contest the over throw.

§  Kick – offs:

o   The points scored are only as good as field position and/or possession following the kick off.

o   Give the team an aim for the conclusion of play following the kick off.

§  Scrums:

o   Use superiority when you most need it.


Go Forward;

§  There are more variables and greater timing is required for attack cf defence so space needs to be created to allow for this.

§  Line depth is as great as the skill of the players and the time and space they need relative to the speed of the defence line.

§  Run then step don’t step then run you will never get away.

§  A late change in direction is more effective than an early one.

§  A pass is only as good as the ease with which it can be caught.

§  The ball should only be passed to a receiver in a better position than the passer.

§  The pattern is only as good as the ability to pass, catch and run.

§  The later a penetrator enters the attack line the more effective will be the penetration.

§  The speed of the attack depends on No. 9 being there early and knowing the direction of the attack before arriving.

§  The initial and simplest threat the backline can create is in their alignment prior to the contest for the ball which can be varied within reason.

§  Stacked midfield may indicate that the blindside is available and vice versa.

§  When defence outnumbers the attack group players at a favourable miss-match and play with greater attacking numbers down that channel.


Go Forward:

§  In general defend inside-out.

§  The pattern is only as good as the ability to tackle.

§  Don’t go forward so fast that you arrive early and have to stop (plant).

§  Never get ahead of the defender inside unless you are practiced at reverse drift defence.

§  Especially from phase play in which the defence exceeds the attack number from the outside in to group greater numbers closer to the source of possession.



§  Depth creates time and space for adjustment.

§  The most successful pass is one made to a receiver coming from depth off the shoulder of the passer.

§  The space the player creates is the space moved away from not that being run into.

§  Prior to making contact have a pre-planned escape route for the ball so that it happens immediately.

§  Hit and spin keeps the ball carrier in play.


Applying Pressure(by tackling)

§  Tackling the legs prevents forward momentum but you need a team-mate to contest the ball. This should be practiced as a complete skill.

§  Tackling at the level of the ball contests possession but doesn’t stop forward momentum.

§  Remember the touch line is the most reliable defender of all.


Maintain Continuity:

§  It is the responsibility of players in a ruck to provide a protective screen for the passer.

§  Prop illegalities at the scrum can be used at the maul to create an advantage.

§  Because of the difficulty in defending a maul they create points scoring opportunities.

§  A succession of phases tends to flatten up the defence and create space to kick into.


Prevent Territory being gained (quality of tackling)

What about this to measure tackle effectiveness based on outcomes:

0 = Tackle Missed.

1 = Able to play through the tackle.

2 = Able to play immediately following post tackle/ ruck.

3 = Able to continue play after a delay that allows the defence line to form.

4 = Turnover


Applying Pressure:

§  Possession, field position and pace, in that order, leads to points. Patience is also in there somewhere.

§  Against the most worthwhile opponents simple is best as it means success can be based on a few things done well.

§  Patterns reduce reaction time, individual play creates uncertainty in team-mates and delay. Keep to your pattern under pressure.



§  Complete the prescribed job so that the support player doesn’t have to duplicate it.

§  Identify the cues for counter rucking.

§  By binding and having the shoulders above the hips similar to the body position at a scrum counter rucking can be effective.


Score Points.

§  If in doubt head down and follow through.


Regain Possession (a turnover) and


Counter Attack

§  Pass away from the mass of players you are running towards.

§  Base you options on the positioning of the opposition.

§  A return kick is a pretty good option if the next best is to be tackled behind team-mates.