Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Backline play by Eddie Jones by David Clarke

From the IRB Total Rugby programme, here is Eddie Jones, international coach formerly with Australia and South African back play.

“Well the basic difference in philosophy of backline play is the alignment that the backline sets itself. Generally speaking there are two types of alignment – the flat alignment which Australian sides and sometimes the New Zealand sides play and then you have the deeper wider alignment which the European sides have tended to play.”
On the aims of the flat alignment…
“Australian backlines have always traditionally preferred the flat line of attack where we attempt to fix the 10 and 12 defenders and make sure that they can’t drift quickly. We try to play the ball right at the line, our 10 and 12 have to be very good ball players and then we rely on making their 13 make a decision in terms of who he is going to defend against.”
On the aims of the deep alignment…
Most of the European sides use this. We won’t run it straight, we will tend to drift across the field on this play and what we are relying on is pace on the outside to get around the opposition. This sort of attack increasingly has become more difficult to execute because of the fact that defences are so good at drifting. So sides that have got really quick outside backs can play off a deeper alignment. New Zealand have played like that, where they have had a really fast 11, 13, 15 and 14 where they can actually gas you on the outside.”
On a classic move called the ‘Haileybury’ – one used by the Brumbies…
“What we are trying to do here is to fix the 10 and 12 defender. To make them make that decision. So we are going to take the ball right to the line. Sides over the last 10 years have used it pretty successfully – and South Africa scored a fantastic try against Samoa in their first World Cup game [last year].”
On a classic move called ‘Bulls’… “With the ELVs it’s created exciting opportunities from scrums with the defence back five metres. One of the particularly popular moves from a left-side scrum is being able to attack inside the 10. So here the eight will pick to nine and the nine will then go to the line and attack their 10 and have options off it. This play has got about four or five difference options we can use.”
“In the summer the All Blacks scored a try with Sivivatu off this play. Exactly the same play, chopping back on the inside of the 10, I think it was Hodgson at the time … it’s a very effective play.”
“The beauty of this play is that the base play looks the same, but we can play any number of options there and it’s about the skill of the players to be able to see what the defence is doing and then pick the best option available.”
On the most important element of back play…
“The important thing about backline play in rugby at the moment is to have a consistent philosophy – whether it be a flat line or a deep line – and then be able to execute plays, base plays that have a number of options and to make sure that those plays look the same all the time. The ability to play different options is up to the skill of the players and the decision-making of the players.
Better Rugby Coaching


3 Comments so far
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What are effective backline drills for under 12 and 13 players

Comment by jp jordaan

who inventred the flat backline attack?



Comment by James

[…] What should you aim to achieve by the seasons end? A team who can pass the ball down the line? Basic back moves? Agree on your captain, your scrum-half? Have established a team pattern of play? When and how to […]

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