Saturday 17 March 2018

Tactics at the barricades

Drift defence

A fluid system designed to use the touchline as an extra defender by advancing at an angle to drive the attacking team towards the side of the pitch, cutting down their space. Adhering to the zonal rather than man-on-man system, it allows defenders to hang back to cover kicks. However, the extra space allows attackers to build momentum and effective switches and angled running can be difficult for defenders to adjust to.

Blitz defence

A man-on-man system, also known as the rush defence, where the defensive line attempts to cut down the time and space of the attackers by sprinting towards their opposite numbers as soon as the ball is released. Puts immediate pressure on offensive moves and can induce mistakes, but is vulnerable to 'over the top' or grubber kicks and skip-pass overlaps if the full-back is added as an extra attacker. Shaun Edwards applied the system effectively at Wasps, while South Africa are also noted exponents.

Trust defence

A term used by Ireland defence coach Les Kiss to describe the hybrid, interchangeable version of the drift and blitz systems that relies heavily on communication and faith in the defender alongside as well as the use of 'shooters'.


A nominated defender who surges ahead of the line to apply sudden pressure with Brian O'Driscoll fulfilling the role effectively for Ireland. Increases the opportunity of interceptions and can prevent cut-out passes but creates a hole in the defensive line.


The defender on either side of the ruck who holds his hand aloft to set the line and is normally first-up tackler for close-in drives.


Most teams operate two sweepers, usually nos 9 and 7, who run behind the line at an angle to cover over-the-top and grubber kicks, line breaks and the far corner. Tomas O'Leary is a noted sweeper for Munster and Ireland.

Scramble defence

A term used to describe the practice of defenders chasing down attackers after the line has been breached.

Irish Independent

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