Some snippets of e-mail correspondence with Jeff Hollier.....

["....Seems to me that if you don't have some structure you have anarchy....]"

[......I'm not against structure, I'm against micro-management. I would rather have them dynamic with guidance than scripted...."]

[...I think I probably agree with you, but the crux of the issue for me is "how much" structure you impose, not "whether or not" to impose structure. I agree that there has to be a game plan. You have to help your players make decisions by structuring some of the decision making. The difference lies completely in what you tell your players. Look at the example you outline. If you try to teach your players these responsibilities specifically, you will paralyze them. If however, you give them a plan that says we want to start our attacks from the side of the field to give our primary strikers, the centers, the most room to work, and that we want to ruck with three players, that should be enough structure to let them figure out how to move the ball to the 15m hash with their rucking and recycling skills if you give them enough practice at executing them, AND at recognizing when it it needs to be moved there, and when to stop and move on to the attack phase....]

I have found that visitors to my site have an interest in Plays. Playing the Adaptive Game the plays only have limited use.

Why? A couple of reasons:

  • To break up opposition defence from slow ball or set situations.
  • Place "Why" before the "How": if you do have some plays (and my teams have them) when do you use what play? Develop the tactical understanding of your players first.
  • Acquiring a skill has a higher priority then learning to perform a play,
  • There is a danger: players are performing a routine rather than focus on the reason to perform it,
  • Just training plays gives players a false sense of security. Use competitive games to develop the tactical sense: where is space? How do I attack it?

I focus on the basic skills needed to play the penetration game of the 'Live of the Ball' family. Skill training has a place between the 'Modified Game' en 'Game'. This will take this one step further than the regular pass and catch exercises. I train my players to focus on scissors, switch moves, 3 against 2 situations. Individual requirements, related to positions only need a game related situation and players really start learning to take the right decisions.

Breaking up a well organised defence from slow ball in maul or ruck or from scrum and line-out can be done with certain plays. Closely observe the defensive patterns and decide on which play to execute. Players like the Full-back or blindside Flanker can play this observer role.

Crucial in this is to create a climate or culture where players can try exciting things and express themselves through their style of play. Free their mind. Our game is based on courage and courage can also mean take responsibility and do something else!

So, if my players come to me with questions on plays I discuss the following:

  • "Why do feel the need to learn plays?".
  • "When should we perform this play?".
  • I satisfy the need by focussing on a couple of plays: full back or blind side wing joining the line: fly half gives a miss pass; "Where should the full back join in?".
  • We practise some penalty plays

It should not be a surprise that I am a big fan of French rugby. We know how their National Team play but do you know that in the French competition 75% of all tries are scored from counter attacks? Makes you think....

Pierre Villepreux on the definition of decision making: the capacity of the player to execute an action following some conscious tactical or strategic choice.

Do you want to see more plays? Some interesting links: