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"5 Tips for Breaking the Gainline and Getting the Attack Moving"

Updated: Mar 29

How do the All Blacks make it so easy to get over the gainline?”

Where do I start with a question like this?

Southern hemisphere rugby has always been very attractive to watch for a number of years and arguably the all blacks are one of the best in the business. Over the last decade, other southern hemisphere teams have been able to understand their playing style and adopt certain characteristics to their own attacking strategies, but the all blacks in recent times have once again evolved which other teams haven't been able to do.

In this article, I will explain the All Blacks attacking structure and how they get over the gainline the majority of the time with ease.

I’ll also share 3 important tips to consider within your team.

What is the gainline?

The definition of the gain line in rugby is an imaginary line (parallel to the halfway line) drawn across the pitch at the point where there is a breakdown in open play, such as a ruck, maul or scrum. Advancing across the gain line represents a gain in territory.

Time and time we speak about it because in fairness each step we take is one step closer to you putting points on the board and breaking down the defence both mentally and physically. Not forgetting the main objective to win the game.

You’ll see below in figure 1. the red line represents England's gainline.

How do I break over it each time?

The AB’s use a number of strategies most controlling it from this man Aaron Smith, the master at directing traffic as I like to call him.

Like most scrum-halves Aaron uses a simple draw and release system that keeps defenders fixated on him a lot as he distributes the ball to big ball carriers. These big players bring in even more defenders thus creating space out wide for him to release the backs.

He gives defensive systems a false sense of security in thinking they only need to have one defender commit to any area around the breakdown or lineout.

What do the other players do in the backline?

So we have our director of traffic but what are the other players like Richie Mo’unga, Beauden Barrett, and Sevu Reece doing (pictured below. Well, the short answer is alot.

Most coaches will say look for space. These guys don’t need telling this, they instinctively know where it is. What they do so well that you don’t see a is play within a 15m channel giving them acres of space on either side.

Example; Kick return from an opposing 22m drop out, Richie receives the ball on the halfway and gives to Beaudy 2 metres away in space but they will work within a short channel in front of them usually 5metres. What Aaron does is draw defences and play a 1metre pass right or left depending on what Wing he is attacking, in this instance to Sevu for him to work some magic and put the ball down in the corner or under the posts.

What tips will help me and my team to master this?

Here's 3 tips to help you and your team try and replicate what the AB’s do so well.

1. Hip to Hip

The easiest way to explain without giving a demo, imagine a piece of rope connecting your left hip with a player standing in front of your right hip or the opposite based on what side you’re attacking this is the imaginary connection we are looking for.

We would use this majority of the time in set piece structures such scrums and lineouts.

If you’re attacking speed like the AB’s, they play phases with minimal numbers of players from this they create quick ball and the backs go to work easily.

What this does is allows you to create space out wide and give you the ability to run shapes within a smaller defined area.

In scenario 1 you’ll see how the hip to hip works and progressing onto scenario 2 where they demonstrate how increase spacing for themselves allows them to go wider.

Scenario 1 - First phase - Lineout attack

Scenario 2 - first phase - lineout attack continued

2. Perfect your handling skills in channels

The AB’s like to play within the confides of 15m channels try this in training and see what outcomes you get.

By working in smaller channels and and creating 2v1’s and mismatches you’ll always have an advantage against other teams. Space will suddenly open up in front of you and you’ll be confused as to how you did it.

In scenario 3 you can see how the pitch will start to feel a lot bigger than it is, so use this to your advantage each opportunity that presents itself.

Scenario 3

3. Hunt in numbers

Easier said that done, what I'm referring to is when you break the line do it in number not putting you in a vulnerable situation alone, you’ll still need to beat the fullback or wingers coming across to make an all important try saving tackle.

It’s always better to have support than none at all, getting lost in no mans land isn’t a nice feeling, if the full back is as good as he should be he will wrap you up and potentially turnover the ball if you’re not careful.

Hunt in pairs as a minimum.

What Now?

I’m sure with these tips like the previous article you can use to start building your foundations for your attacking strategy. I’m sure you will start generating some great results and most importantly and have FUN in the process!

Leave your comments, questions and thoughts below.

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