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Jackling

The Italians have the unenviable record of most turnovers conceded in this year’s Six Nations Championship with 36 in just the first two games. English centre Jonathan Joseph offers up enough of a threat to any team but when Italy lose the ball so easily and regularly its hardly surprising that he makes the most of the possession.

Watch England turnover the ball against Italy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgJxuSu1NRs

As with another try that weekend, Stuart Hogg’s long run in for a Scotland score against Wales, the coverage focuses on the ball carrier’s achievements at the expense of the work done to secure the ball.

I spoke about the breakdown from an attacking perspective in “Clearing Out the Ruck” [add link to article on Rugby Today] which featured Sam Warburton talking on BT Sport’s Pitch Demo about the options you have to clear out the defender looking to jackle the ball. In an earlier edition of the programme Brian O’Driscoll, record breaking Irish centre turned pundit on the show shared his knowledge by going through the options from the defender’s perspective.

He talks through 3 scenarios looking at the decision making involved around how best to help your team in each situation.

There’s no immediate opposition support on the ball

Get over the ball and hold on. Ultimately you want to strip the ball but failing that you will likely win a penalty if you can stay on the ball and the player on the ground doesn’t release. O’Driscoll emphasises adopting a low body position over the ball as you will take contact trying to clear you out, and he stresses players should have their head tucked in. “There’s nothing worse than giving the opposition a target so tuck the head and if you take impact it should be on the back of the neck. Bend your legs, use the player as leverage, tuck the head and wait for those impacts to come.”

Key support in close proximity to the tackled player

With no space to get on the ball, O’Driscoll suggests getting over the line and clearing out the ruck is the best option. “I’ve committed to the ruck so now I’m looking at barging through and creating space. Make the ruck a 4-5 second ruck so my defenders can get around the corner and reset the defensive line.

Key supporter in contact with the tackled player

The ball is well protected so there is no gain to be made by getting involved. “I can’t slow it down so I push and bounce away…I’m just trying to use the momentum of the defender and get out and setting my line to get line speed to go again.”

Watch the BT Sport Pitch Demo with Brian O’Driscoll

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMKhzOQmW-s

This seems simple when you sit and read it calmly but in a game, with fatigue setting in, frustration building, and the clock ticking it’s all very different. The temptation to try to swoop in and win the ball is great but if it leaves your team mates exposed it is often too high a risk unless you are confident in your abilities and decision making.

This is where watching rugby offers a great education. The professionals face nearly 100 breakdowns in a typical game and you can see how they react in defence and how their decisions play out. The consequences of winning the ball are great when it works, as England showed against Italy, but getting it wrong can leave your team badly exposed. Rugby is a team game so watch and learn.