DEFENSIVE PRESSURE & THE BREAKDOWN

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This study used notational analysis to examine the effects that different types of defensive pressure have on the breakdown. More specifically, the objectives of the study were to determine:
1.What type of pressure was most successful in producing a turnover.
2.What type of pressure was most likely to result in a penalty.
3.The effect of the advantage line on ruck outcomes.
4.Whether top ranked teams implemented different defensive strategies than lower ranked teams.

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DEFENSIVE PRESSURE & THE BREAKDOWN

  1. 1. REFERENCES 1. Melrose, B. Attack ‘without the ball’ – A look at defence. ARU level III coaching course. 2003. 2. Sasaki, K., et. al. Int. J. Performance Analysis in Sport. 7: 46-53, 2007. 3. Westgate, P. The principles and techniques of defence in rugby union, 2007. Available at: www.rfu.com CONCLUSION Much success in modern Rugby Union can be attributed to defensive strategies, and regaining possession of the ball. This study found that there was a trade-off effect between achieving a positive defensive outcome at the ruck, and giving away a penalty to the attacking team. The results show that a jackal player was the most effective way of achieving a turnover or penalty for the defence at the breakdown. However, this was a high risk option and was more likely to give away a penalty than result in a positive outcome. In contrast, a cleanout occurring before the ball was won by the attack at the ruck contest was the only type of pressure that produced a higher likelihood of achieving a turnover than conceding a penalty. Application of the findings suggests that a team can become more successful when exerting pressure at the breakdown. For the most effective results, the defence should attempt to shut down the attack behind the advantage line whenever possible. This will give them the ability to apply pressure more frequently, and increase the likelihood of gaining a turnover. Additionally, it will slow down the opposition’s ball clearance from the ruck, allowing more time to reset their defensive line in case the ball is retained by the attacking team. Once this has been accomplished, a cleanout before the ball is won by the attack at the ruck contest should be applied as first preference of pressure. This combination will maximise the likelihood of a positive outcome whilst minimising the risk of conceding a penalty. RESULTSINTRODUCTION Top Rugby Union coaches attribute much success in the modern game to defensive strategies, and regaining possession of the ball (1). Literature shows the importance of turnover ball at the breakdown as a try scoring platform (2). However, teams must be careful when exerting pressure at the ruck as this is where the most penalties are given away (3). Beyond this, there is little research surrounding the ruck contest in Rugby Union. In particular, there is a lack of research that takes a defensive perspective to investigate the effects of pressure at the breakdown on ruck outcomes. This study used notational analysis to examine the effects that different types of defensive pressure have on the breakdown. More specifically, the objectives of the study were to determine: 1. What type of pressure was most successful in producing a turnover. 2. What type of pressure was most likely to result in a penalty. 3. The effect of the advantage line on ruck outcomes. 4. Whether top ranked teams implemented different defensive strategies than lower ranked teams. METHODS Performance analysis was conducted on 13 Super 14 Rugby Union games involving all teams. Only phases of play and ruck contests where an advantage line had been established by a previous breakdown were examined (N=1234). The primary variables consisted of: 1. Team Rank (final 2010 Super 14 standings) 2. Ruck Outcome (ball retained, turnover, penalty attack, penalty defence) 3. Advantage Line (equal to, over, behind) 4. Defensive Pressure (none, counter ruck before ball won, counter ruck after ball won, jackal player) 5. Ruck Clearance Time Kappa statistics (k =.757) and correlations (r =.909) indicated a high intra-tester reliability for the coding. Chi Square (χ2) analysis determined the relationship between defensive pressure and ruck outcome. ANOVA investigated the effect of the advantage line on ruck clearance times. Dave MILLS DEFENSIVE PRESSURE & THE BREAKDOWN email: u3018001@uni.canberra.edu.au Figure 1: Defensive Pressure vs. Ruck Outcome -8 -6 -4 -2 0 2 4 6 8 StandardResidual Defensive Pressure at Ruck Ball Retained Turnover Penalty Attack Penalty Defence Counter Ruck Before Ball Won Counter Ruck After Ball Won Jackal Player(s) Chi square analysis indicated a significant relationship between defensive pressure and ruck outcome. This relationship was only significant when there was no pressure, or the pressure was applied before the ball was won by the attack at the ruck contest (χ2 (9) = 2.108, p < .001). Figure 1 shows the changes in ball retention, turnovers and penalties that occurred for each type of pressure exerted at the breakdown by the defence.een Advantage Line ANOVA determined that the advantage line had a significant impact on ruck clearance times. (F (3, 1113) = 27.078, p < .001, partial η2 = .046). • Ruck clearance times were faster when a phase of play gained territory over the advantage line (M = 2.5s, SD = 1.9s) in comparison to equalling (M = 3.3s, SD = 2.4s) or being shut down behind (M = 3.9s, SD = 2.7s) the advantage line. • The effect size was small to moderate, with the advantage line accounting for approximately 5% of the variance in ruck clearance times. • Post Hoc analysis indicated that all differences were significant. A significant relationship was also found between the advantage line and the frequency of pressure applied at the breakdown. (χ2 (2) = 37.258, p < 0.001). • Defending teams exerted pressure at the ruck 56% (SR= 3.6) of the time when they shut down the attack behind the advantage line. • Defending teams were only able to exert pressure 30% (SR= -3) of the time when the attack made it over the advantage line. A significant relationship was observed between the advantage line and ruck outcome. (χ2 (6) = 20.866, p = .002). • A turnover was six times more likely to occur (SR= 3.2) when the defence shut down the attack behind the advantage line in comparison to over the advantage line. • A turnover was three times less likely to occur (SR= -2.5) when the attack made it over the advantage line in comparison to equalling the advantage line. Team Rank No significant differences were discovered between higher and lower ranked teams in relation to the advantage line, turnovers, penalties, the frequency of pressure exerted, or in the choice of pressure exerted. No Pressure

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