The Principles of Attack and Defence

The principles of attack and defence give an indication of what a team is attempting to achieve at different stages in the game cycle.


When the team is in possession of the ball (which is different to the Law book definition which refers to a team in the opposition half):

The team in possession tries to advance the ball, by carrying or kicking the ball forward, in the direction of the opposing team's goal line.

The players of the team in possession can use both the lateral space across the field of play, and the linear space down the field to perform an attack, to eventually score.

A team in a possession maintains continuity of play by keeping the ball and
advancing the ball towards the opposition's goal-line.


When the team is not in possession of the ball (the team in their own half in the Law book):

The initial task for the team not in possession is to deny their opponents space and time to advance the ball down the field.

If they are successful they may regain possession of the ball and launch their own attack.

Contest for possession

The contest for possession is a key principle in Rugby. Various forms of this contest take place throughout all stages of the Game. This may be in dynamic play e.g. when a player of one team is in contact with the opposition or static play at restarts - scrums, lineouts, or kick-offs.

All of these contests must have a degree of fairness for both teams, so that each team has a chance to gain and/or retain possession. At restarts the initiative to commence the restart is given to the team that has not made an error. This gives the team an advantage in gaining possession when play is re-commenced.