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Do British coaches concentrate enough on defence?


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The marked improvement in Hull FC's form and defence on the back of the appointment of Hodgson, has made me question whether British coaches concentrate on defensive structures enough. In my time, I can only recall Shaun Wane, as a British coach, have a strong focus on defence. Even Brian McDermott for all his success, it was more often based on the individual brilliance in the side. The teams at the top invariably have the best defensive records and are also invariably coached by Australians. That's not to say that all Australian coaches are good, as there are plenty that have failed.................however, the question is, should British coaches focus greater attention on defence to be successful? 

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You can play quality attacking rugby and focus on defence. The thing that stands out to me is the difference in line speed between the likes of St Helens, Catalans, Wigan versus your Salfords and Hull KRs. 

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I definitely think coaches generally pay much more attention to defence these days. A good defence is often the difference between an average side and a title challenging side - see Cas pre 2017. They had always played well under Powell, but their defence in 2017 was what turned them from also rans into the dominant force they were that year. I think maybe Aussie coaches believe that mantra a bit more than English one's - perhaps because the intensity of the NRL requires it to a greater extent for success?

Wane, and his predecessor Maguire, put major emphasis on a particular style of defence that I've not seen from any other coach frankly. 

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The game in the UK looks to Australia for its coaching trends. They innovate (to a degree), and we follow, or try to.

I do wonder how many British coaches (not necessarily 1st grade coaches) are genuinely studying the game to try and find a way to improve a side, be it defensively or offensively.

They do however have a hell of a lot more resources than we do, which does play a significant part in such things.

Edited by EastLondonMike
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1 hour ago, dealwithit said:

You can play quality attacking rugby and focus on defence. The thing that stands out to me is the difference in line speed between the likes of St Helens, Catalans, Wigan versus your Salfords and Hull KRs. 

You mean how they get away with being offside ?

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24 minutes ago, EastLondonMike said:

The game in the UK looks to Australia for its coaching trends. They innovate (to a degree), and we follow, or try to.

I do wonder how many British coaches (not necessarily 1st grade coaches) are genuinely studying the game to try and find a way to improve a side, be it defensively or offensively.

They do have a hell of a lot more resources than we do, which does play a significant part in such things.

That has been the trouble for a long time and why we are always playing catch up. Throughout my time watching the game there has been a major lack of innovation for us to get ahead, we simply copy the Aussies a year or two after they have done it.

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3 minutes ago, Damien said:

That has been the trouble for a long time and why we are always playing catch up. Throughout my time watching the game there has been a major lack of innovation for us to get ahead, we simply copy the Aussies a year or two after they have done it.

Which is also why we have historically seen a lot of reserve grade or lower grade coaches get 1st grade jobs over here.

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1 hour ago, Tommygilf said:

I definitely think coaches generally pay much more attention to defence these days. A good defence is often the difference between an average side and a title challenging side - see Cas pre 2017. They had always played well under Powell, but their defence in 2017 was what turned them from also rans into the dominant force they were that year. I think maybe Aussie coaches believe that mantra a bit more than English one's - perhaps because the intensity of the NRL requires it to a greater extent for success?

Wane, and his predecessor Maguire, put major emphasis on a particular style of defence that I've not seen from any other coach frankly. 

Its not simply defence... not active defence ... it is an issue of completion.  Its attacking with speed, accuracy and efficiently which spares the need for exessive defence.  Errors and penalties in attack as well as in active defence are what lead to losing games.

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5 hours ago, GUBRATS said:

No , it's boring 

I'm going to have to disagree with you again 🙂

I would rather watch a game between 2 good defences, not giving an inch and seeing the opposition work hard to try and break them down using their skillset rather than a game where a try is scored on almost every attack, now that's boring!

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40 minutes ago, Man of Kent said:

Not judging by Warrington vs Hull KR at the weekend, no.

Neither club has a British coach. Well done chief.

I can confirm 30+ less sales for Scotland vs Italy at Workington, after this afternoons test purchase for the Tonga match, £7.50 is extremely reasonable, however a £2.50 'delivery' fee for a walk in purchase is beyond taking the mickey, good luck with that, it's cheaper on the telly.

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Considering the majority of clubs use the same attacking structures. I don't think it is so much of not working on defensive structures. Mainly it's the players themselves not sticking to those structures, which when your defence is under pressure can happen, by over reading players or believing by moving up without other defenders, they're doing the right thing. I'm no coach, so these are my opinions. If they are wrong I'm happy to be put right. Cheers

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19 minutes ago, meast said:

I'm going to have to disagree with you again 🙂

I would rather watch a game between 2 good defences, not giving an inch and seeing the opposition work hard to try and break them down using their skillset rather than a game where a try is scored on almost every attack, now that's boring!

I was taking the P , all coaches work on all aspects of the game , as regards inovation , well in truth it is sadly lacking in virtually all the pro leagues , too much emphasis on completion rates and then hunting mistakes , all IMO of course 😉

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7 hours ago, Tommygilf said:

I definitely think coaches generally pay much more attention to defence these days.

Phil Larder's Rugby League Coaching Manual (late 80s/early 90s?) says something like - you have the ball half the time, the other team has the ball half the time. So coaching defence should take up half the time, and coaching attack should take up half the time. 

What is true over here is that commentators don't often point out the different defensive organisations teams use.  For example, if you watch SL games this weekend, keep an eye out for the situation where the defence is not properly set i.e a quick p-t-b, or where there's only four defenders instead of five on one side of the pitch or some other problem for the edge defenders. Some teams will come out quickly and try to wedge in and prevent the attack, others will hold and concede 10+ metres and try to let the inside defenders move out enough to contain the problem. The whole line needs to know what's going to happen, and you'll see different teams default to different approaches.

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You can coach defence as much as you want, but if a team doesn't have the right attitude it all falls to bits. One difference between good and bad sides (now also true in the NRL) is how they react to a score against them - good sides redouble efforts and try to get back on top, bad sides often let in groups of tries in short periods.

It also helps if you are good in attack - you'll generally win field position and have the opposition starting deeper, which means more drives up the middle and less actual attacking play to defend against.

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21 hours ago, GUBRATS said:

You mean how they get away with being offside ?

Personally I don’t think the referee makes them wait for the ball to clear the ruck before they start moving up. BUT, these teams do move up together, whether they’re offside or not. 
I love Salford, but watching the game last week it was a real problem in defence where first defender (usually Mossop) from the ruck did not move up at all. They conceding 10m every time and it made it tough to win the battle for field position. You’re then starting your sets too deep in your own half. It’s so bloody frustrating to watch and is really down to fitness - both physical and mental. 

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I haven't been anything like close enough to a top-level rugby set up to know what the right balance is between time spent on attack and time spent on defence.

I do know that Warrington have had a coach or two down the years who have focused on defence and said openly that they are letting the attack look after itself. That's the case with our current coach, and by and large our defence is good in most areas: we are pretty resolute in the middle of the field and you wouldn't question anyone's commitment to the task. We do let the odd soft try in due to individual errors or weaknesses, but that happens. The attacking part of that equation doesn't work though: we are a poor attacking side which falls well short of the sum of its parts. That makes us frustrating to watch and costs us in big games because we have no idea how to break down the best defences.

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I can confirm 30+ less sales for Scotland vs Italy at Workington, after this afternoons test purchase for the Tonga match, £7.50 is extremely reasonable, however a £2.50 'delivery' fee for a walk in purchase is beyond taking the mickey, good luck with that, it's cheaper on the telly.

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On 04/05/2021 at 14:57, Rupert Prince said:

Its not simply defence... not active defence ... it is an issue of completion.  Its attacking with speed, accuracy and efficiently which spares the need for exessive defence.  Errors and penalties in attack as well as in active defence are what lead to losing games.

So what happened when it used to be said 'defence wins matches, take care of the defence and the attack will take care of itself' only us owd un's will remember that Princey.

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20 hours ago, JonM said:

Phil Larder's Rugby League Coaching Manual (late 80s/early 90s?) says something like - you have the ball half the time, the other team has the ball half the time. So coaching defence should take up half the time, and coaching attack should take up half the time. 

What is true over here is that commentators don't often point out the different defensive organisations teams use.  For example, if you watch SL games this weekend, keep an eye out for the situation where the defence is not properly set i.e a quick p-t-b, or where there's only four defenders instead of five on one side of the pitch or some other problem for the edge defenders. Some teams will come out quickly and try to wedge in and prevent the attack, others will hold and concede 10+ metres and try to let the inside defenders move out enough to contain the problem. The whole line needs to know what's going to happen, and you'll see different teams default to different approaches.

Yeah I totally agree with your second point particularly.

I played a lot of RU as a teenager but it was heavily influenced by RL defensive systems - particularly in the backs but in general also. We had drift defences for more passive scenarios, squeeze defences where a specific defender jams in on an attacking ball player, we had another defensive tactic that was effectively a really aggressive drift but relied on creating pressure across the oppos backline to force an error.

I'd quite enjoy say Jon Wells to point out the tactical variations each team goes for in defence, if a team has a weak flank (always wondered why opponents never tried to attack down Leeds' right when our 3 defenders were Watkins, McGuire and BJB, arguably the worst 3 on the team), what the defence are trying to achieve in their style and whether that is consistent across the pitch etc. The subtleties between defending out wide vs the centre and how different systems have different strengths and vulnerabilities.

There's a lot of sophistication to go at but it rarely comes across in commentary. The after match stuff is good but think we could do so much more with it - particularly in short form social media clips.

I think the presentation shouldn't shy away from using fancy terminology either. Football gets a bit of flack for being too high brow football hipsterish when using fancy terminology like a high press, a low block, or literally any non-English term like Geigenpressen, Raumdeiter or Regista. RL however I think would benefit given how in my experience most RL fans are bigger fans of the sport than most football fans; because of the sizes of the two sports you are basically comparing a mass appeal product with a niche interest group. Football of course has a growing niche interest group, but RL already has it amongst a greater percentage imo.

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3 hours ago, Harry Stottle said:

So what happened when it used to be said 'defence wins matches, take care of the defence and the attack will take care of itself' only us owd un's will remember that Princey.

No "simply" defence is what I said.  

I'm as owd as they come

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On 04/05/2021 at 15:04, EastLondonMike said:

The game in the UK looks to Australia for its coaching trends. They innovate (to a degree), and we follow, or try to.
 

You say that, but I think @DoubleD has a point here.

For me, NRL defences come up harder than SuperLeague teams do, and apply a lot more pressure. This has been particularly apparent over the last couple of seasons. 

In SuperLeague, teams tend to come up a bit, and then stand off and let teams play on front of the line. It is really infuriating to watch at times, and gives rise to the scenario (myth) where guys in England get "beaten by footwork" in a 1.5m space. If they had kept moving forward as a unit, more often than not, they would make the stop.

 

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