Scotland v Italy | How to tear a defence in half
Scotland’s strike moves are perhaps the most frightening in world rugby. The goal of many of the moves used here against Italy was to tear the defensive line in half.
Scotland uses two decoy runners moving straight and fast to pull the Italian defence apart. Kinghorn then runs a subtle angle, which the now flat-footed defenders can’t react to. The use of the Blindside winger in the move also gives Scotland an extra option.
Here Scotland try an old-school switch.
Notice the Italian defenders are pulled in one direction, but Scotland are already moving to attack. They have a slight upper hand from two simple passes. Italy are now out of position and are beaten on the outside.
These strike moves are very professionally executed and work by compressing defenders in tight by using dummy-runners. Scotland are willing to think outside the box during their phase play as well, which brings us to more Gregor Townsend genius.
Scotland v Italy | How Gregor Townsend breaks the rules
When I say Gregor Townsend ‘breaks the rules’, I don’t mean the laws of the game. I mean the arbitrary rules by which most people think international rugby should be played. Most coaches are too risk-averse to try Barbarians style plan in a test match, but Gregor Townsend tries it in this game.
They start with a totally normal crash ball. Nothing to see here.
But in the very next phase, the camera zooms out to reveal a pre-planned maul.
On this occasion, they make a mistake. But the intent to set this up is there. If this was to work in a game, it would draw defenders in and basically give Scotland a de-facto scrum. Unpredictability is a strength for Scotland, and you can read about Scotland’s other strengths and weaknesses in this 6 Nations below.
In this next example, Russell takes full advantage of the deep dead-ball lines at Murrayfield and Stuart Hogg’s acceleration to put him in for a try. This is very resourceful, intelligent play.
And that brings us to the player who stood out most during this win.
Scotland v Italy | How Finn Russell is playing in slow-motion
Finn Russell seemed to have time and space to burn every time he touched the ball. The first thing to note is how his kicking game is never telegraphed to the opposition. He takes the ball right to the line in two hands before finding space between the Italian fullback and winger.
These kicks can be used to mercilessly pin teams back in their own half.
This time Russell kicks again and finds grass right behind the Italian line. Because northern hemisphere teams are using their 9’s in the defensive line instead of as sweepers, this space is always present. He almost exploits it with this kick.
Russell is great at drawing defenders in, waiting for them to come to him before finding space. Below his passing game comes into play. Watch the time and space he has now generated for himself as the Italian defenders hold off, unsure what to expect. It’s almost like the game goes into slow-motion when he gets the ball.
He holds the ball in two hands, pulling defenders towards him. He then slips a pass to Strauss at the final moment. Scotland has now manufactured the space to score.
While Russell is constantly improving at the dark arts of the no.10 position, he will soon be up against teams with much more aggressive and physical defensive lines. Do you think he can play just as well under more intense pressure? let us know your thoughts.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes