Rugby: Lateral Defender Drill

Pat Aitken

This drill teaches ball carriers to pass when confronted by defenders and encourages support players to get open for a pass.

Running the Drill
On a field about 20 meters wide, place a series of defenders in single file, five meters apart. Place two attackers on either side of the line of defenders.

The two attackers, one of them carrying the ball, run down the field on either side of the defenders. They must run in a straight line.

The defenders attempt to intercept the ball carrier. However, they can only move laterally, not up and back.

When confronted by a defender, the ball carrier must pass to his support player, or risk being tackled. The support player should attempt to get open for a pass by moving into the gaps between defenders.

The ball carriers' goal is to score by carrying the ball past the final defender.


  • Tell your ball carriers to position their passes ahead of the receiver so the receiver can run into the ball.        
  • Offensive players should fake receivers into moving away from the intended point of reception.
  • Remind support players to run into the spaces between defenders, rather than toward the defenders.
  • Attackers should carry the ball two-handed to keep their options open and fool the defensive players.
  • Tell support players to speed up as they reach the ball so they can bypass the defenders. 

1. Gary Pearse, Rugby Union Skills Manual, New South Wales (Australia) Rugby Union, 1993.
2. Simon Worsnop & Rugby Football Union, Rugby Games & Drills, Human Kinetics, 2011.

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