Extract from RLCM Book - Defensive Lines ....apart from causing turnovers, the real area of contest on the defence is the advantage line. This is an imaginary line drawn across the pitch between a tackler and the ball carrier.
If the ball carrier can get across the advantage line (or gain line) without being tackled, he will have been successful – the goal of the defender is to ensure they hit the gain line and make the tackle before the attacker can pass.
With an aggressive defence such as the one outlined above, the aim is actually for your team to make it over the gain line, thus pushing the opposition back and earning your team vital territorial advantage over them.
This strategy could be described as “meet them and beat them” – setting the terms of the defence yourself, rather than allowing the opposition to decide them for you.
Exactly how you form up your defensive line will depend on a number of factors. The first thing to consider is how wide you want the line to be – in other words the distance between players in the line.
This will obviously depend on the confidence you have in your tacklers – the more you can rely on players to make tackles on their own, the wider the gaps can be as you are less concerned with having players ready to move in for a double tackle or covering tackle.
You must also consider the speed of your players (even the best tacklers can miss one sometimes – can the next player move in quickly enough to cover it?) and the ability and attacking style of the opposition – are they likely to play the ball out wide or try to make space in the middle?
Where you are less confident of your team’s abilities in defence, you may resort to using a second line of defence, to allow for missed tackles. This does, however, open you up to the possibility of leaving space out wide for the attacking side.
This is a personal preference for the coach and should be based on the speed and tackling skills of your players. One thing that is indispensible however, is very high levels of fitness.
The stress of a strong defensive effort can put enormous strain on a player’s body, especially an aggressive defence that tries to push the opposition back. Make sure your players are at the peak of their fitness levels to optimise their defensive lines.
The advice up until now can be summarised as the ‘Defence Triangle’ – “Form up, move up and make the tackle”.
These calls to mind the importance of good spacing on the line, good communication and team work, and good tackling. If you can instil these values in your players, the opposition will find it.....