I already stated earlier that this is the hardest series I’ve had to write, and you’ll see why in the next stills.
Like I’ve said, Scotland maintains a very fluid framework within their structure. To manipulate defences, they want the defence to be occupied by the attackers and the lines within their 3 pods. However, they also want to present the same picture to the defence, with the option to present a different attack altogether.
This setup, is a very similar setup to the one presented in the first still of the Scotland 1-3-3-1 article yesterday. It has a 3 pod targeting one pass out off the ruck, with Finn Russell behind, and another flat 3 pod off him.
This is again, where the decision making of Russell and the skill of the forwards come into play. Russell has noted the defensive line runs hard at the 1 pass out channel, holding their depth outside as to drift on to any outside plays. This is a tactic in defence the All Blacks have been using. Russell, having noticed this, calls for the ball. The carrier passes him the ball using outside attacker in the 3 pod as a screen. This allows the Scots to get outside that very narrow fulcrum of the Samoan rush defence. We will see examples of how this was also effective later on against the All Blacks.
A flatter 2nd pod
Now, here is where the 2nd 3 pod has to be stood flatter. That is my only gripe with this sequence of play. As can be seen, the 2nd 3 pod has a lot more space to run into as the outside defence usually drifts rather then presses. Russell making a flat pass closer to the gainline allows the Scots a greater chance of getting over the gainline due to the defensive line not knowing who the ball will hit. However, the ball goes to the pod, who run good straight lines, holding the normal drift defenders.
A failing Tenet
This is where some of the Scottish tenets fail. These are numbers one and four. The defence, from the movement of the 3 pod is compromised. You can see the Samoan last man (purple), calling for support, however, the Scottish backline and play have not organised as quickly as they needed to outside Finn Russell. On top of this, the Samoans have momentarily held the carrier up, stifling quick ball.
The combo of these two ruins the space. With quick ball here and faster realignment, Scotland are looking at a huge opportunity out wide. Because the ball was slowed down, this is no longer the case, and by the time the ball has been passed out, the defence has realigned and snuffed out the space.
The shape of the below attack is an effective one, but it’s snuffed out running against too many defenders.
Six Nations improvements required
This shows what the Scots will need to do better in the Six Nations. Greater urgency from the backline, and better body positioning going into the contact from the forwards. We can see the space was created very effectively, but it was not exploited. Which goes to show with the later backline shape. You can have the most beautiful running shapes and lines on gods earth. But you make your job and them far easier if you do the basics right.
Variation causing confusion
Now, as you can probably imagine, a lot of the attacking variation comes from the use of the 2 “3 pods”, screen passes and the fact that a template is often not followed. This combination confuses defences. Whilst these 2 “3 pods” are instrumental in creating space, there isn’t a sequence to them or an order in which they’re performed. It is reactive to what the defence is doing. And most importantly when there is nothing on at all, it is varied consistently to keep the opposition guessing.
Like the Classic 1-3-3-1. That there was clearly, not as effective at generating space as the 3-Tip-on-3. Due to the Samoan Rush 10 defence and the space being outside it. However, if the Scots don’t attack that channel at all and do the tip-on-3 constantly, they themselves become predictable. And teams can start to adapt to it. Rendering your attack less effective. By varying the game, the Scots keep their 3-Tip-On-3 effective, keep the Samoans defending the same way, and therefore with better execution can finish off or make chances from the Tip-On pattern.
When they use the pattern that won’t be as effective against a particular defence, it doesn’t matter. Firstly, as nothing much was on anyway. Secondly; It keeps the defence in that particular system, so when you vary it, the variation remains effective.
Author: Conor Wilson
Recently retired from the Military, Skydiving and rare Steak Enthusiast and Player of the beautiful game of Rugby.
Joe Schmidt, Will Greenwood and Rod MacQueen are my heroes, and my proudest moment was putting Jason Robinson in for a try at a promotional Rugby day. It was truly beautiful.