Warning: mysql_real_escape_string(): Access denied for user ''@'localhost' (using password: NO) in /home/onerugby/public_html/wp-content/plugins/statpress/statpress.php on line 1191

Warning: mysql_real_escape_string(): A link to the server could not be established in /home/onerugby/public_html/wp-content/plugins/statpress/statpress.php on line 1191

Warning: mysql_real_escape_string(): Access denied for user ''@'localhost' (using password: NO) in /home/onerugby/public_html/wp-content/plugins/statpress/statpress.php on line 1194

Warning: mysql_real_escape_string(): A link to the server could not be established in /home/onerugby/public_html/wp-content/plugins/statpress/statpress.php on line 1194

Warning: mysql_real_escape_string(): Access denied for user ''@'localhost' (using password: NO) in /home/onerugby/public_html/wp-content/plugins/statpress/statpress.php on line 1197

Warning: mysql_real_escape_string(): A link to the server could not be established in /home/onerugby/public_html/wp-content/plugins/statpress/statpress.php on line 1197
Rugby Defence - Sliding Defence

Rugby Defence – The Sliding Defence


Following a recent email to a few hundred amateur rugby coaches, I asked what their two burning questions about coaching a rugby team were and I was overwhelmed by the response. There were several questions centering around rugby defence and in particular coaching a sliding defence. Here’s one of them,

Q. “What is the best way to teach sliding defence? and on the whole,
is this the best defensive structure to use?”

Firstly I would have to say that most professional coaches would mix and match their defensive structure, depending on which area of the field they are in and the quality of their players.

For instance, if you’re in your opponents red zone, you can afford to condense your line and  put pressure on them for the first few tackles. As they advance up the field your defence would spread out more and go for man on man. Of course if your blessed with loads of speed in your outside backs then you can afford to leave a bigger gap and trust the ‘Slide Defence’

The main coaching points when teaching a slide defence are:

1. Line Speed

2. Always keep your body position facing forward (never turn sideways to run)

3. You only slide when the ball goes past you.

4. The talk MUST come from the inside man

If these points are carried out you can defend a large space with less defenders than attackers, the emphasis being on the inside man talking and pushing the line out.

With regard to “Is this the best structure to use” I would have to say I would primarily coach man on man and only use the slide if your caught short and have to scramble or you have an abundance of speed in your side and they can afford to condense the line.

Rather than explain the drills I think it’s better that you watch them and look for the coaching points. The first few examples show the slide working fine and the last clip shows how it can go horribly wrong if you don’t get it right.

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

Give it a try and let me know if you have anymore questions about rugby defence.

Neil Harmon



Hi Neal.

Good footage ,at the moment I’m using a compressed defence line . Depending to where we are on the field the team adjust’s accordingly , i.e left corner side in opponents red zone our right side winger pushes in line with the right hand upright and mirrors the same in the right hand corner. The wingers , centre , five eight use an up and in defence trying to push attacking team to run back into a tight A,B,C defender. This defence pattern only works when the outside men push in , if they dont using such a compressed pattern leaves you open to attack down the fringes. If the attack does push outwide the defence requires the ability to adjust which at the moment is a major problem and we are getting caught outwide .

Any suggestions on drills to use for adjustment or even changing style of defence . I feel it is a great sytem that adjusts the further down the field you go , but like all patterns , they are only as good as the team that executes them.

Cheers Dean

ps do you know of any clubs looking for a coach next season???


Hi Dean

Thanks for your comment. To answer your question, you’re right in that the best defensive system in the world will only work if the players carry it off but as I mentioned in the blog post, I would use the compressed defence in the oppostions red zone and start to relax it as they advance up the field.

Try giving your guys markers so the outside backs know they are to be moving further out as the opposition moves forward. For example if they get to the 40/50 they know they should be 10 metres further out than they were in the red zone.

The drills shown can be used with 2 v 6, 3 v 6, 4 v 6, to emphasize the slide technique. Split your defence up into their defending groups, i.e. left side defence, right side defence with the halves and lock fitting in accordingly. The main points that MUST be coached into the guys are the inside man is THE most important because they are the one controlling the slide. (In the last clip you see the winger goes without his centre telling him he’s got his man covered and therefore the winger broke the rule that you only slide when the balls gone past you.)

After running this drill for 5 – 10 mins run a kick off set and get your attackers to spin the ball early to see how your outside backs (and middle) react once they know what’s expected.

Remember to keep coaching the main points and drill them into the whole team.

1. Line Speed

2. Always keep your body position facing forward (never turn sideways to run)

3. You only slide when the ball goes past you.

4. The talk MUST come from the inside man
I hope this helps and I’ll keep my ears open for any coaching jobs:)



hi i read your article and was impressed with your explanation and lay out, i am involved with a small rugby union team but im sure i will be able to carry some of this information forward


Neil, Great job. This is exactly the kind of thing I am looking for. I coach the College of Charleston RFC in South Carolina, USA and need lots of help coaching the basics. Some of the guys on the team have never seen rugby on TV let alone play it. When can we get/see more from you? I played for 12 years at club level in England. I have lived in the US for almost 25 years. Keep it up and let me know what else is available.



Do you have any tips for building a teams Go Forward capabilities


hey loved the sliding drill but what i need is something for the forward pack to improve thier loose play


this is not bAd but i thinks this is Easily and this Defence will work if attack play only passing


I think that the drills will help the team I’m coaching; Hoever, I really think that one of the most imprtant points is the communication between players.
We had been practicing sliding defense for the past 4 weeks now and the most common mistake I am having is communication between players.
I have them do push-ups for miscommunication but It seems that on the game day they just forget about it.


Thanks for the comment. You are right to say one of the most important points is communication. One thing I would stress is to explain to the players that they are only working with 2 men. One inside and one outside, however they only need to talk to the man directly outside them as all slide defence operates with the talk coming from the inside.

So as the player moves up he reacts to what is in front of him and should hear the guy inside him talking. Once the ball has gone passed him then he slides and talks to the guy on his outside (the man inside him should still be talking to him telling him he’s got his inside covered.) Therefore the whole line will be talking to the guy directly outside him on the slide.

The above drill can be adapted numerous ways but the principal remains the same.

Hope this helps


Neil thanks for the information and coaching points on the sliding defence , some really good points in regards to keeping the shoulders square on etc i can concentrate on these areas now when coaching the sliding defence. I think what we need as coach’s is more information on winning and working the floor also new techniques that are coming into the game agility drills , approach to contact in defence etc. In the meantime many thanks for your help and your website is really good for us as coach’s , keep up the good work Neil.

Colin Phillips


I remember you in that warrington kit, with your hair flying in the wind. poetry in motion. you were the dogs bolloks.

We have just lost our grand final. help.


Hi Greg, wow you’ve got a good memory as my Warrington stomping days were many moons ago now:) However, hopefully I can help you improve on the final appearance to a final win. Stay tuned as I’ve been working non stop to launch my main coaching site which will be packed with drills, articles and templates for you to use….


Dear Neil,

For this I thank the sending of its response for defecate. This Video helped me a lot to coomprender the desplazameto to reduce espação the attack, leading from the inside out. This minimizes the field with the attack.

I would like to receive other videos to apply to defecate in my training for my team, the Rugby Club Curitiba.

Armando H. Gauna


at the moment i am coaching under 13s and newley started youth rugby union sides and i will be using a slide defence as this i think is the easeiest for the players to learn at the start then i will be moving onto a blitz defence at a later stage when they have mastered this the tips have been great thanks for the help


Hi, thats really helpful to have this side, I can use the drills
very good for my team in Germany, where we are really thankful in any
kind of support, which we can get to bring the greatest game to germany.


I am coaching u10s at the moment and the video is very helpful to show the boys and also for me to design a training game for them
thanks very much


Hi Niel,
hi had played rugby for 25 years and not really appreciated the coaches role until now, I have been an assistant coach for two clubs until now the real thing responsibility me the head coach.
we have had four league matches so far and we have won two lost two, thats not my problem I feel we are too soft and we always give the first 20 mins away and I can`t seem to drill it in to them that they lost these games through it. do you have any ideas up your sleeve?


Neil, Thanks for the drill. I’m coaching under 14s this year and (due to two injuries and one player leaving) currently playing without a recognised fly-half – and we’ve been shipping tries out wide. I like the drills – importantly, in our current circumstances, the emphasis on the communication from the inside man could help us a lot. I’ll try it at our session on Sunday and let you know.


Thanks Neil, I think that one of the most important concept is the communications and the commitment from the inside man in the defence line.

Leave a Comment