Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Coaching, rugby defence | Tags: beating a spread defence, French flair, passing the ball out, playing wide
Coaches and commentators love to hold on to phrases that make them sound good.
“French flair” and “earning the right to go wide” are two such phrases which need a little thought.
There is no doubt that the French play rugby with passion, speed and risk.
The backs look like models from the catwalk, the forwards like something the cat has just brought in.
Er…can’t we say that about all countries? Perhaps not the looks, but all the top rugby playing nations have passion, speed and risk in their games.
And as to the French being unpredicatable. A professor of stats who I know looked into the French playing record and low and behold, like many top nations other than New Zealand, they won some games, then lost one, and then won some more and then lost one.
In a coaching sense, the French have a particular style. They like to play more than train. It’s natural. It’s healthy. They enjoy their rugby.
Earning the right to go wide
Spinning the ball down the back line seems like a joyous way to play rugby. Throw in a couple of hip sink passes and you could be watching a good game of rugger at an English prep school in the 1950s.
However if you haven’t tied in the defence, then “going wide” will be all for nothing. The defence will simply spread themselves across the field.
Simple logic, but a bit “old school”. Perhaps a return to the prep school will change your mind.
Spreading the ball wide causes the defence a number of problems:
1. They cannot defend narrow and so have to spread out. This leaves holes in the midfield if they decide to spread out.
2. All the front line defenders cannot be fleet-of-foot backs. There will be mismatches.
3. Spreading across the field needs bodies, bodies that cannot be in the back field to field kicks.
4. In chasing the ball across the field, players become tired. They might not hold their line integrity.
5. It is easier to go forward against a spread defence than a narrow defence.
Wales, the Lions and South Africa have all spread the ball wide in the last few seasons, without worrying about “earning the right”.