Principles of Play

If we want to play the game well then we must know what the elements are in the game whether it is 15 a-side or the 7 a-side game which will ensure we do just that.

What does a team have to do when it has possession of the ball in order to play well.

4 Principles of Play

  1. Go Forward
  2. Support
  3. Continuity
  4. Pressure


You cannot score a try without moving forward with the ball.  The team must be aware of the fact that they can only play well if they go forward. Attacking the opposition goal line becomes a priority rather than constantly heading towards their touchline.

This principle amounts to a contract between members of the team.  If every player tries to move the ball forward then there is some organization and other players can co-operate because they know what is about to be attempted.


Going forward can only be sustained if there are players capable of carrying it on.  This is why support is such an importan principle of play.  No player at any level on any team throughout the whole of the game has the ball in their hands for longer than one minute in total.

If the player only has the ball for 1 minute in total in an 80 minute game, what do they do for the other 79 minutes?  They support the player that is carrying the ball.  There are 3 factors that ensure  good support play.  They are a good attitude, good skill and great fitness.

The player has to have a good attitude.  They must want to support the ball.  Many players’ work rate drops as soon as the ball leaves their hands.  The player must also work to develop their skill at reading the situation and know when and where and how to support the ball carrier.  For example, a player could be running up field witht he ball but the support players could be so close that when the ball carrier is checked, they over run them.  The ball carrier may have chosen that moment to pass but because of the closeness of the support players, the ball gets tangled up and possession is lost.

It is obvious that all the attitude and skill in the world will be useless if the support players cannot get there.  Fitness is vitally important.

In this video the commentator dissects a Super 15 game between the Sharks and the Brumbies showing the Brumbie support during their offensive phases. When the commentator says +4 or +3 etc. he means the number of support players with the ball carrier.


In a situation where a team is moving forward with support, in order to press home the final advantage it is necessary to keep the ball moving.  The team must learn to develop continuity ie. the means by which the game is kept alive.  Running, handling, passing, kicking, rucking and mauling are all continuity skills.

We want to keep the ball moving and prevent whistles and stoppages of paly because at a stoppage of play there can be perceptible relaxation in the the work rate of players and a loss of ball possession.
See this video for more information on continuity:


Even the best teams know that in normal circumstances ball possession during a game will be shared with the opponent around 50-50.  Therefore knowing what to do when the opposition has the ball is important.  We take the game to them. We deny them time to develop attacks.  We deny them space in which to move.  Pressure causes them to make mistakes and give opportunities to regain possession.  Pressure is a fundamental principle which the opposition must be exposed to when they have the ball.

In this video they show both in demonstration and in game film, examples of pressure from defense. Don’t worry about how complicated it sounds but simply watch how fast the defense attacks the offense and ball carrier.

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