Brian Smith's Analysis - Busting the Blitz - Green and Gold Rugby
All Blacks

Brian Smith’s Analysis – Busting the Blitz

Brian Smith’s Analysis – Busting the Blitz


In the modern game the Blitz Defence has become a key consideration for all attach coaches. There are a number of hybrid types of Blitz Defence but they all share one thing…line speed. In this analysis we’ll look at some attack principles that are designed to break down the Blitz. The examples have all bean taken from the second round of test matches played in the Southern Hemisphere on Saturday night.

Hard Lines

In order to get the defence on the back foot modern day forwards need to able to run hard lines off their scrum half to bend or break the defence. This clip shows the French flanker Kelian Galletier running a hard line off the acting half Geoffrey Doumayrou. Doumayrou does well to commit the first ruck defender (Luke Whitelock) and Owen Franks is caught flat footed. In this instance Galletier brakes the line but even if he just bent the line it puts the attack on the front foot and is a way of trumping line speed.

Phase Shapes

Off the back of an effective hard line carry teams are now running phase shapes designed to manipulate the defensive line. These shapes are usually spearheaded by ball playing forwards with backs playing out the back as links to the edge attackers. In this clip Adam Coleman is the ball player finding Bernard Foley out the back of Izack Rodda. Foley then drags the Irish defence laterally and Kurtley Beale drops under Foley and splits the Irish defenders.


Pack Pressure

All good teams have the ability to put their opponents under pressure in the set piece. When you have a set piece possession close to the opposition line it doesn’t make sense to pass the ball once or twice behind the gain line inviting the blitz to recover territory.

This clip is a great example. The game is in the balance and South Africa have possession close to England’s try line. The Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard helps his pack by popping up on the blind side and drawing attention from England’s back rowers Brad Shields and Nathan Hughes. This gives the Springbok pack an advantage and they capitalise marching the England pack and drawing a penalty try.

Counter Attack

The Kiwis are excellent at getting numbers behind the ball so they can launch counter attacks. When the game is in this transition phase it’s difficult to set a blitz defence to even in kick chase the defence may be forced to jockey (slide). This gives good attackers time on the ball and that’s all talented players need to hurt defences. This clip shows the play starting with Jordie Barrett making the decision to avoid contact and keep the ball alive. Damian McKenzie then uses his footwork to draw defenders and link up with his outside backs and Barrett is rewarded for his support play.

Strike Plays

Strike plays are great way to launch the attack and every defence can be unpicked by precisely run strike plays. The good thing about striking from set play is that the attackers know exactly how the defence will behave. In this clip England know the Springboks play a flat 4 blitz with their fullback shutting the gate. So England run one of their favourite strike plays to hold up the flat for blitz defenders and isolate Willie le Roux. It’s a play the Canberra Raiders and ACT Brumbies made famous in their golden ages in the mid 1990s…enjoy.

Situational Plays

Regardless of the defence system the game rewards those teams that can read a situation and take advantage of the situation. Good teams always set aside time in their preparation for scenario training. Ireland clearly spent time on this area of the game because as soon as Marika Koroibete was yellow carded they set up a drive and attacked the Wallabies left edge. Have a look at the work off the ball of Johnny Sexton and Andrew Conway. They start on the open side before flooding the blind side and outsmarting the Wallabies blind side defence.



We are very lucky to have so many high quality test matches being played in June. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the results let alone the tactics and strategies. Hopefully this analysis helps bridge the gap for schoolboys and enthusiastic coaches who love being students of our great game. Our game is always moving forward.

  • Nutta

    Cheers Brian. As a lifetime mug it’s always grand to get an insight into what professionals are thinking.

  • Reinforce

    Notice that DHP motors from his opposite wing to attempt to avert the try being scored by the winger. Its like he is the only one with his head up and anticipating what is about to happen. He is a brilliant fullback and gifted reader of the game.

    • Will

      Good pickup. He spots it waaaay before anyone else

    • Mart

      Or he just knew Koriebete was off, so had to work his ring off no matter what

    • disqus_NMXfOrw5ot

      Don’t know what Foley was looking at, he was the one who should have shuffled over to cover when his man moved to the blind side. He did eventually, but too late.

    • RugbyM

      Its a brilliant read from DHP. Knew they were a man down on that side, but was also the only one who was actually looking at the play and knew what was about to go down. Decent motor as well. Damn near prevented that try

  • Who?

    Brian, the Beale try. Not only was it drawing width (and we have over a decade of people whinging about 10’s running sideways – this is an example that shows a drifting 10 isn’t the problem, it’s a lack of hard line runners off the 10), but it also attacked the forwards/backs defensive seam. The interplay with the forwards is pretty well par for the course now – every team uses it, and it’s well analysed. Something I’m starting to understand is how often a good attack aims at the seam between forwards and backs.
    So, in this instance, the Wallaby forwards play their role of holding some of the Irish forwards in their drift. Leavy recognizes the danger presented by Foley’s run, understands that Ireland are a little skinny (not a major overlap out there for the Wallabies, but the Irish defensive line could be strengthened) and pushes hard. For Australia, this would be Michael Hooper – covering way more than most forwards can in defence, and defending alongside the first back (Johnny Sexton, in this instance). Beale recognizes that Stander has pushed a little further upfield than Leavy, but hasn’t pushed across anywhere near as hard. Leavy is the seam between forwards and backs, and the key is that we have a back attacking just inside the seam, to get the ‘back in space attacking slow forwards’. We can see the same thing in reverse – a forward running at a back (Furlong’s try came partially because he realized the seam was at the ruck – halfback defending just off the ruck, nothing better a prop could see in front of him!). But it seems this effort to divide a defensive line at the seam between forwards and backs using the natural pace differential between the forwards and backs is becoming better explained. And there aren’t many better examples to show than KB’s try.

    • Mica

      Nice summary Who
      Also, Foley’s play and pass was first class in this instance too.

  • moaning expat

    Thought you guys may find this interesting. Haven’t seen the dead ball line for a while but analysis of Folau jumping;

    Worth a look

All Blacks

Brian Smith is a rare breed who has both played and coached international rugby and doesn't mind telling it as he sees it. He's currently putting his Oxford degree to good use teaching Commerce and coaching rugby at the Scots College, Sydney.

More in All Blacks