The best teams consist of players who understand each other. Great teams consist of players who know each other’s abilities and tendencies to the point that they can play off each other intuitively, without the need for pre-planned moves. The following are essential things rugby players should learn and understand about their teammates to develop coordination with each other.
1. The Quality of each player’s passing ability
How well can the pass off each hand? How far? How fast can they release a pass – immediately, or does it take a step? This certainly changes for most people when long passes are concerned. The will to pass and what it takes to get a teammate to pass is also very important!
2. Average speed and quickness
Note that speed = straight line sprinting, while quickness = agility, lateral movement, and acceleration off the mark. You might have to lay a little flatter OR start your run earlier to be able to keep up with someone who’s faster than you, or the opposite if you’re faster than the ball carrier.
3. Preferred means of receiving a pass
This primarily refers to the way receivers prefer to take the ball: standing flat, on a big run from deep, little run flat and out, etc. This knowledge helps support runners position themselves and time their runs. Maybe the receiver has a certain physical trigger that will help support know when to start moving? The big one here is running vs standing and flat passes vs deep passes. Each has it’s advantages, and the disadvantages of each are accentuated by support players not knowing how to time their runs accordingly.
4. Tendencies with ball in hand
This is related to the last point, but deals more with what the ball carrier tends to do when they have the ball. Some players consciously or unconsciously want to do it all themselves when they get the ball, so probably need early, loud and specific communication if the real opportunity isn’t through them. Other players are less decisive and might need to be told what to do with the ball when the opportunity IS with them. Some players habitually need to step while passing, or have a tendency to drift outwards when running with the ball. These are things that eventually can be tweaked or corrected, and players should always try and develop the full range of skills, but until then teammates need to be aware of such things so they can adjust themselves accordingly.
5. Agreed-upon communication
It can’t be stressed enough how important communication is in coordinating attack. Communication not only needs to be present but also must be short (no sentences, just monosyllabic words and small phrases), relevant (must be a considerate option, not a selfish one), and specific (not: “Yeah, yeah, yeah!” but “On your left. Pop… NOW!”). Communication can also include specific advice to teammates (“Hold it! GO!” … when someone’s about to pass, but has a huge hole in front of them, or telling them to step in to create more space for a pop pass). One basic piece of communication that can help passers fix on their target is to say “See [state your name]” or to use a teammate’s name when there’s a clear and imminent opportunity elsewhere. Code words can also be used, but at some point teams tend to work out what they mean. If they don’t, they might be so complicated that one wonders if every player truly understands them or can act upon them at a moment’s notice. In rugby, defenders generally have to react to the actions of attackers, so it shouldn’t really be a worry if they hear timely bits of communication between them.