All players must be aware of the general game plan and their team’s strengths. They will use these to get and stay on the front foot – that is, keep moving forward in attack while the opposition continually retreats. This is called continuity and it is a core principle of rugby.
Short and specific communication is vital to maintaining continuity. Early communication gives the intended target time to process what’s been said. Clear opportunities typically exist only for short periods of time, so it’s also important that the ball is moved unselfishly to those areas. Players must also be sure that they are providing information that is in the team’s best interest. Calling for a pass when isolated is more likely to lead to a turnover, or at least a threat to attacking continuity.
Work Rate is also vital to continuity. It goes without saying that players in the action area need to work hard to execute a move and retain possession. Those not involved in that play must also work hard to get into useful positions for the next phase. You are no use to playmakers if they have to wait for you to get into position or if they have to go alone without you. Quick ball should be the aim, denying defenders the time to get aligned, let alone focus their attention on dealing with emerging threats. In the best teams, this is not just the responsibility of the decision-makers. All players should take responsibility to maintain continuity through seizing opportunities within their agreed-upon plan of action. This will keep the attack flowing and ensure the defending team remains in state of disarray.
When deciding “Where to next?” and no clear opportunities exist, teams should fall back upon previously agreed upon game plan, whether it’s simply playing to strengths or getting into a pattern or other structured form of play. To borrow a phrase from Pierre Villepreux, you go “Where it’s easy to play” – where you have numbers, space to move, and time to act. If you blindly bash into a wall of waiting defenders, it is unlikely that the ball will emerge quickly for the next phase – if it comes back to you at all! You also don’t want to kick the ball away and hope for the best, because teams that take pride in their defence treat this as a sign that they’ve frustrated you to the point of not knowing what else to do with ball in hand. Running phases that are coordinated, well supported, include hard working participants and have a clear purpose that sets up the next phase will maintain continuity. Even against tough defending teams, this recipe will drag defenders into positions that will create mismatches or eventually wear them down.