This was demonstrated well through thinking about how defenders line up and (generally) oppose an attacking team. Many times we find ourselves matching up with whomever is across from us and firing up straight in a flat line (obviously nothing is wrong with any of this but it is generally what happens). Here's a mini diagram to make it that obvious:
I picked up on it as a defender myself when we scrimmaged against each other - when someone ran at an angle it completely made me question whether or not I should be tackling her or someone else that is in her lane....or that other person who is now in her lane.....or that other other person now in her lane.....etc.
However, it's important to stress that this angle we practiced running at is 45 DEGREES - you are NOT running horizontally.
You're still moving forward!
NOTE: When defending this, part of the solution to almost any problem in rugby is COMMUNICATION. So communicating who is making the tackle and who is in support is very important.
...I feel like the words communication and support appear in almost every single one of my posts.....not a coincidence..........
We also discussed many specifics about going into contact and offloading. Very similar to Indian sprints, we did a drill where in a single file line we ran laps around the field. We would rotate through these positions, but the person in the front of the line would run out a few steps and be a defender against the second person in line (not full on defense....just a wrap to get the ball carrier tangled up). The ball carrier would practice that quick pop pass right off the hip and with a flick of the wrists while the next person in line would burst onto the pop pass, running tightly off the ball carrier's hip. Then that person would start the drill all over again by placing the ball on the ground and becoming the next defender. We rotated through that for a little while and then tried to implement it into game play. While still playing a touch scrimmage, the rule was added that the ball carrier was granted a 2 second window of opportunity to pass the ball after being tagged. We were able to practice running onto the ball and getting quick pop passes off, however it's also clear that when you are put under pressure, you can be much more susceptible to making bad choices....like I did a few times. With everything around you going so freakin' fast, it can be really hard to slow your mind down and give yourself the time to think through a decision. Especially when you're in the process of going into contact yet you see a bunch of your teammates around you all wanting the ball at the same time, it just makes you feel like AGH!
JESUS TAKE THE RUGBY BALL!
Soo there were a few times where I attempted to offload the ball whilst in the middle of being tackled and FAILED MISERABLY. I was feeling pretty bummed about it and frustrated because my mind kept telling me "YOU KNOW BETTER! YOU KNOW THAT'S WRONG!"...but then my coach asked me to explain my thought process about where I go and what I do when I'm on attack, and then explain my decision making to someone else who was inquiring about things to do on attack.....
AND THAT'S WHEN I REALIZED I HAVE NO FREAKIN' IDEA WHAT GOES THROUGH MY HEAD WHEN I'M ON THE RUGBY FIELD.
But once I took the time to actually pay attention to my thought process, I figured it out.
First of all: whenever setting up in a line for attack, my mind immediately gravitates to CINGULAR BARS.
....you get it. If not YouTube the commercials.
I always try and figure out where I am in that progression based on how far away I am from the ball carrier and who is behind me. If I'm at the end of a line and there is not enough room for me to continue progressing deeper then I'm not going to keep backing up all the way into the try zone or out of bounds because clearly that's not logical. However, I will hesitate/stay active in that one spot right until that opportune moment comes where I am at the appropriate amount of depth for me to burst onto the ball.
It's a tough thing to time right, but in order to ensure you're running full speed onto a pass/offload from your teammate it helps to get your mind into that feeling of "OH SHIT I'M NOT GONNA MAKE IT!" except don't make the situation too much of a close call.
But sometimes you've just gotta filter yourself into the line; it's not always an option to go all the way to the end of the line either. Whenever I think the area surrounding the ball carrier looks way too crowded, I'll take a step back and find a gap that I can filter myself into so I can still be used as an asset in the upcoming cycles of play. I may not see any action or I may find myself with the ball sooner than expected, but stepping back from the action can sometimes be a pretty important thing to do or attacking teams can end up like this:
....however, that Scooby Doo crew looks like they could run a pretty supportive banger/crash ball...
Another reason why I was mentally kicking myself for making some ridiculous offload passes right before being fully tackled is because I personally have a golden rule that I constantly follow when I am running with the ball. Of course whenever anyone is running with the ball they are trying to gain meters and make it closer to scoring, but I am constantly thinking about getting to the ground with the ball safely presented towards my teammates (at the right time and place, of course. I'm not exactly thinking that if by some sort of miracle make it into a fast break).
Any type of pass or offload is an ADDED BONUS, and clearly scoring off a run is a legit bonus. But whenever I receive the ball I do not expect any of those things to happen. If I were to estimate, I would say anything besides going to ground and presenting the ball to my teammates happens only about 20% of the time when running. Of course it's fantastic if there is an opportunity to offload or score, but I'd say 8 times out of 10 I will not risk losing possession to achieve one of those things. They will come eventually as long as we are able to hold onto the ball, so that's really the simple goal of attack.....along with moving forward, of course.
So then there's also those times where you're sorta close to the ruck but there's already a bunch of people in there and everyone else is already lined up ready for attack and you are just STUCK in a crazy no man's land. Personally I'd look towards the ruck first since I love rucking and would selfishly check to see if there's a chance for me to enter. If it looks like we're teetering on losing, READY OR NOT HERE I COME. If it looks pretty stable then I will recycle to behind the attack line and either filter in where there's a discrepancy in the cingular bars or prepare to support the next round of ball carriers. If the ruck looks like we're going to lose possession (like there's no chance of salvation) then I will communicate that to the rest of the team and POST.
In the end, shit happens. All the time. LITERALLY, all the time in rugby. You and I are both going to throw some absolutely shitty passes...and I don't care if you are reading this before trying out for the All Blacks. We're all going to lose the ball at some point, or do something that literally makes us question how we are even smart enough to tie our laces.
But I think in order to be good at rugby, you have to be able to handle the times that you're bad and make mistakes, because IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN. As my coach touched on tonight at practice, you don't really learn anything unless you make mistakes. YOU HAVE TO! You don't become a great rugby player through miraculously doing everything right your first time around. You become a great rugby player through analyzing where you can improve or potentially try something different that will give you a better outcome next time. Rugby is all about being perfectly imperfect. Rugby doesn't want you to do everything right, otherwise it wouldn't be FUN! Part of the FUN in rugby is the crazy rollercoaster of shit hitting the fan and seeing how you and your teammates can handle it....that's all rugby really is! Of course there's a lot of strategy and tactic that occurs behind the scenes, but those are all basically so you can have a back pocket full of tools for when SHIT HAPPENS.
So HUZZAH! Embrace the wild and the unknown! Just fuck it and go with the flow, you'll figure it out! And GET YOUR ASS OUT ON THAT FIELD because there is no better tool in your pocket than practice and game experience itself.