In this year’s 6 Nations, there will be many intelligent and innovative coaches strategising on the big stage. It may be surprising to hear, however, that England’s tactics under Eddie Jones break from the norm of their 6 Nations counterparts most of all. England’s structure, passing and use of Rugby League style strike moves are a fresh take on how modern Rugby can be played. Here is how England’s tactical differences might play out in the tests to come.
How England’s tactics break the 1-3-3-1
The 1-3-3-1 is the hot attacking structure in international Rugby right now. Pods of 3 forwards grouped together are the main characteristic of this system. The backs will play around these pods, using them as a platform to structure their play. England will usually start their phase play with a pod of 3 like the other sides, but then transition to pods of 2. Here is that structure in action.
The first stage is a pod of 3 forwards taking the carry. This is the same as many other international sides and isn’t a revolutionary concept. But now Farrell (red circle) is directing runners for stage two. In the next phase, England will transition into a pod of 2 forwards.
We can now see the structure that Farrell was organising a phase earlier. The pod of 2 players on his right are used as decoys to hold the Springboks defence. Stage 3 is all about stretching the opposition. As the ball goes wide we can see two English forwards near each touchline.
This part is distinctly akin to the All Blacks structure, where Dane Coles will often materialise on the wing unexpectedly. With Stage 1 and stage 3 retaining similarities to other international sides, it’s stage 2 that is the most different and intriguing. Let’s look at another example of the 2 man pods, or prongs, in action.
Setting up the prongs attacking structure
Using pods of 2 may seem like a far easier way to play Rugby, but there are some unseen intricacies happening behind the scenes to make it work. You can find a detailed article explaining how it all works to create space below, but we will look at the basic structure here.
Here England does a midfield crash and sets up a clear 2 pods of 2 forwards either side of the ruck. We can call these pods prongs, due to their two points of attack. This may seem simple enough, but the players that are really making this system work are the ones circled in red.
The first player of note is Courtney Lawes, who is sitting behind the prongs. He is a roaming forward in this situation. He isn’t part of the prongs, but he is tasked with assisting whichever one gets the ball. This is critical against teams with pillaging loose forwards who will target the English rucks. With only one teammate to assist, players would often get isolated if this roaming forward wasn’t used.
The other two players of note are in back play. Wilson quickly backs up to the near touchline to spread the defence All Black’s style as we mentioned earlier. Sinckler may be on his way to the far side to do the same.
Now let’s take a look at some of the moves that can be built around this unique structure.
Eddie Jones’ Aussie-Influenced Strike Moves
Now that England has their fundamental system in place, they can start getting creative. Below we see the first two stages of the English attack all in one move. It starts with a pod of 3 forwards being used to hold up the Australian defenders, and then the prongs are used to strike at the hole that is subsequently created. It works beautifully as the big man is sent into a gaping hole.
We can think of this pattern as two lines of attack. In the first line, we have the pod of 3 forwards. In the second line, we have Farrell and the prongs. These lines start becoming more apparent as the moves become more advanced. The prongs are used as the first line in this example.
The second line is lead by Farrell, who is now able to exploit the space created by the first line. This isn’t far off a Rugby league attacking pattern, and has a distinctly Australian vibe to it.
Farrell and the second line are now well set up after the second player in the prongs (blue circle) is used as a decoy. A nicely sold pass, and Farrell is through.
England’s tactics are also different in defence. You can read about how they used a special tackling method to shut down the All Blacks below.
The 1014 Rugby have previewed the 6 Nations on their YouTube channel. See the following video for more information.
Do you think England’s innovative system can help them win the 6 Nations? Let us know your thoughts.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes