Using the Space that Exists
By Lee Smith:
In 1987 I was teaching in Dunedin and took a group of students to a mid week game at the RWC. Some were unused to rugby coming from immigrant families and being more used to football. One of the girls asked me, upon seeing the configuration from scrum and line-out wanted to know why there was so much unoccupied space. Some years later at an early practicum my mentor, J.J. Stewart, passed comment that rugby suffered from a mental blank not realising that a ball could be passed the full 360°around the ball carrier and not back of 180°.
Based on this the group decided to have a go at developing a game that enabled this to happen.
First of all there had to be a good reason for it to happen. Now even more so than then the defence, because of the limited incentive to contest the ball at the breakdown, frequently outnumbers the attack. As there is limited lateral space between defenders, space across the field, we are faced with a territory game in which the attack aims to get over the gain line. It is very difficult to “put a man into a gap”.
So if we could get rid of some from the defensive line the game may be able to regain its identity of a game that creates and uses attacking space rather than a game of gaining forward yards by taking the ball up.
The solution we came up with was to enable a team to have a specified number of forward runners who could receive a forward pass or a kick from what is currently an off-side position. The defence would now have to defend down the field as well as across the field. It was recognised that we currently have to defend down the field from a kick but practice shows that this does little to reduce the number in the defensive line because the kick more often than not results in a turnover.
In order to enable this to happen, the front runners would have to be differentiated from their team-mates by having a jersey of similar colour but with vertical stripes, horizontal stripes, a plain jersey – whatever makes a difference with team-mates but doesn’t clash with the opposition.
The players would be able to play ahead of the ball once possession was won from scrum, line-out, ruck and maul. Should a ruck or maul be formed they must return to the on-side position that applies to the remainder of the team.
It would be up to the team to decide which players would be front runners. These would vary from team to team, they may vary from game to game and they may vary during a game.
We have borrowed from a number of games why not American Football if it is going to re-establish the game as one in which we develop strategies to create space and to use that space?