Looking to open a bit of a debate. I was running a?

Looking to open a bit of a debate. I was running a?

Looking to open a bit of a debate. I was running a 'coach the coaches' course last night and I asked the candidates 'do you coach your players to run at the man? or run at space?'. There was a 50/50 split, the older coaches said 'the man', younger ones 'the space', and others who'd never played before 'both!'. What do you coach?

Rugby CoachCoach
Rugby CoachCoach

And my starter for 10 is... ;-) Surely it's contextual and both would apply%3A - "At the man" to commit defenders in narrow channels, or in restricted areas - "SPACE" at any other time The general principle has to be that you can't be tackled if no-one can touch you, so that has to be the preference. BUT, often in order to create that space for others it is necessary to commit defenders by running at them.

Rugby CoachCoach

I would tend to agree, if you don't run at defenders to check them and instead run straight at the space, that space will soon be eaten up. But again, even in a tight channel its still possible to create space by running at space, even more so than in the wide.

It then becomes more important to develop players awareness of where that space is likely to crop up, personally, I believe that space is left by the tackling player, and requires a last moment step into space by the ball carrier to create it. The space will then be left at the point where the ball carrier stepped into space from. Confused??? They were!!!!

The current maxim of 'run at spaces, not faces' can be varied and added to by 'run at faces to maintain space(s)'.............

Rugby CoachCoach

Yes, makes sense. I would then be more interested in developing decision making skills - as the choices here are fairly simple%3A run AT or attempt to run AROUND. The trick now becomes when to do what. To take the decision a little further, this is then driven by support players both inside and outside you - you are more likely to run AT a player if you have support - allowing them to utilise the space you have just created by moving the defender. In a more isolated situation, you would be looking to buy time by running away from the defender - within the space and context as it unfolds around you.

Rugby CoachCoach

I think one thing worthy of further discussion here is that the ball carrier isn't the only player that can create space and that its equally important for the support players to look at creating possible space for the ball carrier to run into.

A lot of coaches see this as very complex, but it is quite simple, and is worth exploring with players at a young age.

For example, an out to in or in to out line on a 2v2 or a 3v2 where the lateral support runs wide taking oppo defender off line and giving a 2v1 for the ball carrier and rear support. Many coaches in the English game neglect coaching the support players.

Will Greenwood was a master at creating space as a support runner, he wasn't the fastest test player but space always 'magically' opened up for him or the ball carrier. I went to a coach conference where Eddie Jones did a session and he made an interesting comment, he said 'England didn't win the world cup cause of Jonny Wilkinson, they won it cause they had Will Greenwood outside him!'

Simon JonesCoach, England


Did you see I used one of your other answers as this months Hot Tip in the newsletter?

I hope that was OK and thanks for all your interesting answers and comments.


Rugby CoachCoach

Thats fine Simon, good to see that some of my views on the game are listened to, makes it all the more worthwhile then.

Misspelt my surname though!

Simon JonesCoach, England



Rugby CoachCoach

No worries! Showed to Tony Robinson (i'm one of his coach developers), he said about adding a defender 10m and putting RUNNING as the option!!!

Dave RobinsonCoach, Australia

How about running at face THEN space?

Rugby CoachCoach

I think it always depends on the situation. When the ball carrier breaks the defence line and needs to deal with the cover defence, then running at the FB will hold space for support

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