Maintaining possession during a number of phases of play in a rugby union game is a coach’s dream.
This kind of continuity requires concentration, communication and a number of skills which can be found categorised at the World Rugby site.
Put simply, continuity involves maintaining pressure on the opposition whilst retaining possession of the ball and making ground on the pitch across the gain line. Not as simple as it may seem as any player or coach will tell you. Encouraging support players to be in position to receive the ball and ensuring the ball carrier is adept at the offload or making the ball available when grounded are skills which need constant practice.
The scrum-half will often be the player who has to make decisions to alter the focus of the attack and in his absence, other players, including forwards will have to have the skillset to step up and be confident enough to make that choice. Repetitive rugby drills on the training pitch will ensure that players understand their responsibilities and advice on this can be found at sites such as Sportplan.
Coaches must be able to replicate game situations during these sessions and encourage players to take responsibility at the height of the battle without losing possession. Making sure defenders are committed means their energy levels will drop and space will appear across the pitch. By tying defenders into a narrow area of the play frees backs to strut their stuff.
The quality of the possession which a team boasts will influence the game and periods of pressure tax not only the physical resilience of the opposition but also their mental strength as they struggle to close out space and attempt to retain possession. By releasing the ball during contact players can dictate the tempo of the game. If a player goes to ground the opposition has a chance to clear out the ruck and regain the ball and so offloading in contact is a key skill.
The best pass will be to a colleague who is going forward at pace into their hands and making space. If the ball carrier can do this whilst still on his feet ground will be made rather than if he is already tackled meaning momentum is lost.
The correct decision making under pressure means possession is retained.