Tactical play refers to the decisions made and actions coordinated by a small group of players. Rugby moves typically involve between three and six players. It’s vital that players interact with each other in many different situations at training, understanding each other’s abilities and working on coordination. The following are things they must address to make the tactical element of the game – which is the majority of game play – efficient and effective.


Awareness of self, team mates, opponents, laws of the game, reading when the ball is about to emerge, space, opportunities, game plan, taking cue to start run (1st or 2nd depending) to keep tackle line forward

Communication / Listening

Early, loud, short, specific; be unselfish and trust that teammates are as well

Work Rate

Executing efficiently and re-algining faster than the opposition, with purpose.

Considered, Determined Alignment

  • Purpose
  • Layers / Shape determines opportunities and options
  • Flat vs Deep
  • Narrow vs Wide

Ball Movement

  • Everyone a passer and receiver – be ready!
  • Early vs Late / Flat vs Deep
  • Through the hands vs Miss passes

Purposeful Running

  • Players in motion are tougher to defend – unpredictable, more powerful
  • More players in motion = more that defenders have to worry about
  • Straight to fix defenders / preserve space
  • Sudden and sharp cuts to exploit space or draw attention
  • Deceptive movements that ‘lure’ or ‘lull’ defenders for an explosive change of direction or for someone to run off
  • Stutter and go to freeze defender and exploit
  • Slow down / angle during a linebreak to allow support to catch up
  • Sideways or arching run to draw several defenders, inviting a straight-running teammate to exploit


  • Action beats reaction
  • Tempo – quick to beat disorganised defence, but not before we’re ready to go; slowed down to re-focus, re-structure with the aim to re-establish quick tempo


Problem Solving

Decision-making can be made easier by treating problems posed by the defence as being solvable by the use of one or more tools, in much the same way a carpenter uses a uniquely crafted tool for a specific task. Training in both the recognition of situations and in the execution of relevant solutions simplifies the game for athletes. They are able to improve upon their capability and confidence as the game’s patterns and tactics applicable to those patterns become familiar. Intuitive ‘decisions’ are enhanced by regular game play. Patterns become more familiar. A set of solutions are tried and best ones are selected. This takes time, trial and error, the freedom to fail with positive and constructive feedback, and self analysis, all leading to understanding why things work and why they don’t in various contexts. This section will examine ways rugby players can simplify what is a very complex sport. It will help coaches conceptualise and provide or facilitate solutions to recognisable situations, helping their athletes create a tactical tool box to help build successful attacking play.

In rugby, the simplest is usually the best course of action. Complex moves might sometimes be effective at unlocking tight defences but these take time to learn and coordinate. Because set moves are just that – scripted acts that require much concentration – players always run the risk of missing easier opportunities that present themselves all the time in amateur rugby.