Zen Rugby - The Power of Stillness in the Running Game - Green and Gold Rugby

Zen Rugby – The Power of Stillness in the Running Game

Zen Rugby – The Power of Stillness in the Running Game

Written by D. Mitchell. Only posted by Bobas.

“Play the man” and “play the whistle”, the wallabies win on the weekend showed clearly that these clichés have had their day. The Wallabies showed off a bold new strategy, sometimes just “don’t play at all”. You might call it lazy play, but like a Kung-Fu master they decided to adopt a stance where they could defeat movement with stillness. Perhaps some of the coaching staff and senior players have been brushing up on their eastern philosophy expecting a season or two in Japan, but this is the kind of out the kind of inventive rugby I love to see (as evidenced here and here). So here’s a rundown for four areas of play to achieve something, while doing nothing at all.

1. The Lineout

Teams have known for a long time that sometimes the best defence is achieved by not contesting the ball. Expecting the maul, but being ready to slide across to cover the backs, the forwards don’t jump to contest, but instead wait for their opponent to land before they strike. On the weekend, the wallabies added poison to this move. Rather than play hard defence, they played smart defence which forced the referee to penalise the attacking team.

They moved like they would form a maul, but never engaged. If the ball was passed they would move in on the front. If the ball was held at the front they would push in from the side or back. With no maul formed, but the South Africans surrounding the player, the referee had no choice but to penalise them for obstruction.

Here’s where you take it to the next level: start doing it on your own throw in. Once again an underarm throw would work nicely. Toss it high up to give the opposition every chance to catch the ball and set their maul up well, without a maul ever actually being formed.

Giant Wallabies' lineout jumper, Will Skelton, awaits the throw as Rob Simmons makes calls it behind him.

And if we’re not going to jump, guess who’s back?

2. Receiving The Kickoff

Why rush to collect the ball when it is kicked to you? It’s tiring and you risk dropping the ball or being smashed as soon as you hit the ground. You could lose possession and put the other team in the driver’s seat. Short kicks you’ll have to take, there will be too much opposition in close otherwise. Long kicks you’ll have to fetch, too much risk of a try being scored or a tight lineout if the ball dribbles out of play. But all those kicks within about 5m of the 22m line? Don’t bother.


DHP would have stayed this fresh if he wasn’t catching every single kickoff last game.

The opposition will send one or maybe two players to chase hard – you’ve got more than that around the ball – so let them have it. As soon as they touch the ball, have your defensive trap ready to snap shut on them. Force a turn over or even more preferably a knock on or penalty. Then you’ll be nicely set up for a kick down field. Alternatively, if the ball goes out near the 22, you implement the strategy above.

3. Scrum time

Trying to get a hooker to lift their leg up and over the ball to pull it back while holding the opposition back is too much work. There are frequently scrums where the pressure is too great for a hooker to make a decent strike. So strike forwards not backwards.

Riveting stuff

rolling the ball backwards with your foot always seemed like more of League thing anyway

Kicking the ball into the opposition during a scrum might seem like a brain fart, but it will almost certainly disrupt their defensive scrum setting allowing your team to demonstrate dominance. And when your team knows that the plan then your half back or breakaways can be quick to leave the scrum if the ball squirts out, giving you possession already over the advantage line.

4. The 22m Drop out

In Union, there is no requirement for the ball to travel 10m off a drop out. It only needs to cross the 22m line. A common trick has been for players to simply roll the ball over the line with their foot and regather. As such most defensive teams have a player mark the kicker from just the other side of the 22m line. Don’t kick it over the marker, gift the ball to him.

Drop-out rules

If this is the set up, and the man in close catches it, there is no way he can retain possession.

Organise a little forwards conference behind your kicker in the lead up to the drop out. As the punter moves to kick, the meeting should break up, and the forwards charge headlong at the poor fool marking the kicker. A little stab pass later, and once again you can force a turn over, hopefully a knock on or penalty. Best of all, it will mean the opposition will over commit at the front on the next 22, giving your punter a better shot at finding grass on a long range kick.

What other ways can you achieve something while doing nothing on the rugby field? Let me know in the comments.

  • Pedro

    I don’t understand the obsession with passing the ball when you can only pass it backwards. Don’t pass it at all I say, why give away that territory just to follow convention?

    • Nutta

      Its more to do with passing to the Backs. Passing amongst Pigs is fine – short & simple. It’s Backs that are the problem. And not just in passing either. I find their entire outlooks on life puzzling. I tried to talk to a Back once. It was in 1989 at the Royal Hotel in Tumut after a game against the Tumut Bulls. He had a purple drink in a tall thin glass. I asked him what it was. He called it a High-Ball Fruit Tingle. I stopped talking to him at that point and I don’t think I’ve ever talked with a Back since.

      • Pedro

        I think you have to respect the balls it took to order a High-Ball Fruit Tingle in Tumut.

  • Nick Gregory

    1st point is actually genius

    • David Mitchell

      yeah, the wallabies successfully did this twice on Saturday, and pretended to do it once more and just sacked the receiver. But the saffa’s did make a break once when they read the bluff and just ran through the middle.

    • Greg

      What an interesting spectacle that would be as both sides watched the ball fall to the ground!

      • David Mitchell

        the lineout wouldn’t be over until the players pick up the ball or the ball passes the 15m line. So all the players would just be standing there and the ref can’t force them to use the ball. Dramatic viewing.

      • Pedro

        It would be like those velodrome sprint deals where they’re both just hanging back waiting for the other one to make a move. Spine tingling.

  • first time long time

    For any who have seen The Wire…..
    If you don’t play, you can’t lose!

    • David Mitchell

      perhaps lessons from the wire could be whole post on it’s own.

      • first time long time

        Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit! Indeed

  • muffy

    I was the master of doing bugger all on the field, never got me anywhere – maybe I was ahead of my time?

    • David Mitchell

      Maybe give Cheika a call?

  • Bobas

    If you have a conversion attempt and you’re already up by more than 7. Take the kick back to your maximum range, make your approach really slow so the players trying to charge it down have to run extra.

    • David Mitchell

      So you’re saying Hodge must be picked too?

    • Pedro

      Don’t even take the kick. Just leave the ball on the tee and get ready for the restart.

      • Bobas

        You’re forgetting about the concussions!

    • BarneySF

      Point to the sticks and say to the ref, “I will NOT be kicking at goal”, and then quick tap it for some fancy up the jumper move and score.

  • DK

    Tap all penalties and free kicks. With that bring back the wall with players all over the place…misdirection is the most direct route.

    • Bobas

      agreed, spread out a touch, and walk slowly backwards. It’s a penalty to tackle the player without the ball and they only have a 1/15 chance of getting that player first (probably get the captain to tell the referee which number is carrying it).

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Hahaha I like it. Also race in for a tackle but veer off as he braces so he falls over, then five on the ball

    • David Mitchell

      Nice. They might even get called for a voluntary tackle. (Is that still a thing?)

  • mikado

    Ha Ha brilliant.
    You missed “the Matador” – win ruck penalties by not contesting the ruck.
    Apart from that, it always seemed a good idea to me that if a team has a dominant scrum they should drop the ball at every opportunity and milk the resulting penalties.

    • Parker

      Yeah, now that the Poms are moving away from that approach, we should pick it up…and perfect it.

    • Pedro

      Love it. Rather than just drop the ball though, why not attempt forward passes or even deliberately pass forward to a defender who your team mates are lining up to smash?

    • Nutta

      England were doing that vs us at the 07 RWC. It still gives me nightmares.

  • harro

    I charged into a ruck once to clean a bloke out, he neatly stepped to the side and with no resistance I hit the deck and got penalised for going off my feet.

    • David Mitchell

      Were you playing against mikado? He mentioned “the Matador”

      • harro

        Possibly. Haha! It didn’t click with me that that was what he meant. Love it

    • Nutta

      I would try to really hit defensive rucks hard in the 1st half and force them to commit numbers. Pure irritation value mostly and their hard-men would then come like bulls at gates looking for me to get a smack on me. Then in 2nd half if we were in their half or our own 22 I would go soft and just deliberately push guys into the ground and call to the ref they diving & sealing-off. Sometimes it worked an absolute treat.

  • Canuckruck

    Hard on soft…..soft on hard…..it is basic….

  • Nutta

    The drop-out technique works. I’ve coached a couple of sides to do it and for one team it was our staple drop-out technique and it worked a treat. Your pigs stand 2-5metres to the right and really come onto the ball hard with a 10m wind-up. Get your kicker to simply pop the ball to knee height right in front of them and attack the legs and watch the bodies fly… Gold stuff. Terrified the shite out of the poor bastards catching.


Brumbies supporter now living in Melbourne. Rugby and Larkham fan ever since he de beered de Beer. Never shy of controversy because when I say it it's cute.

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