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Defence – How Do You Coach Communication?


defence clipOver the past few weeks, I’ve received several questions regarding how to coach communication in your defensive line? Some were concerned about only part of their defence talking while others were more interested in having an effective slide.

Both of these are to be addressed if you wish to have an effective defensive structure. Firstly I’d just like to point out that if you’re implimenting a slide defence, it should only be utilised when you’re out-numbered or stretched and you’re having to over work at reducing the threat.

A couple of coaching points to try are;

1. In your training sessions, try to split your defence into 3 groups, left, right and middle. So your left side wing, centre, second row, half, same for the right with the loose floating and the middle consists of your front row.

2. When performing defence drills, play them against each other with penalties for the losing groups.

3. Point out that every defender only has to talk to the guy next to them

4. Once the ball goes past a defender it’s his job to increase their talk. i.e. the talk always comes from the inside when a slide defence is in operation.

5. Stop the session if the line is breached and ask the players who was at fault and how could it have been averted.

Usually after a couple of errors the players become more aware and switch on to their particular role in the slide defence.

The other advantage of working in their groups in training is they gain more of a bond and it becomes quite competitive between the groups as to who’s performing the best i.e. where are the tries being scored?

For a more in depth view on defence drills plus video go to;


Neil Harmon

Categories : General



Thanks Neil for all the many messages and offers recently. I appreciate any advise/suggestions as regards coaching rugby. Any information for coaching under nines mini rugby Union advancing upwards towards U16’s is the area I am volunteering in at present.
[my youngest son plays U9’s union]
Unable to advance with my own personal training due to circumstances.
Maybe sometime in the future I will find more time to re-educate myself in new areas if the opportunity arises.


hi neil am a head coach of a senior unionclub in ireland and i also have a strong league background the defence and the voice senarios are good and can be built on in other ways good though cheers dennis bowes


Hi Neil,
found the sliding defence drills very usefull, and i think that they have finally got the message.
Still having problems in some areas with communication, however a forfit tends to jog the memory albeit briefly.
Keep up the good work.



Hi Neil being a union coach i have tried out many defensive systems.
The one that seems to work for my team at the moment is a drift defence but its not very dynamic. ie the 10,12, and 13 do not blitz the space in between defence and attack but let the attack perform their moves and drift on to the next player. This has worked well this year but am not totally convinced or confident about it.
Can anyone give me any feed back on their systems and what works well for their teams?

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