Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Analysis Corner: The Leinster Loop

O'Gara: Out                     Sexton: In
Irish head coach Declan Kidney has selected Leinster Fly Half Johnny Sexton to start ahead of Ronan O’Gara in the final game of this year’s 6 Nation’s championship. Sexton’s inclusion means that Ireland will be playing an all-Leinster 10, 12, 13 axis, with Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll outside him.  
While D’Arcy’s form at the moment is questionable his partnership with Brian O’Driscoll remains one of the most respected and feared centre pairings in world rugby.  Defences are therefore determined to give away as little space as possible to the either man. Leinster have become masters at using this against their opposition by employing loop moves.  
A loop, or a wrap-around, is when a receiver passes the ball to the man outside him, then loops round him and receives the ball back on the other side. 

This animation shows a typical wrap-around. Notice how the defensive 12 and 13 have no time to adjust because they have committed themselves to closing down their opposite numbers. This is why it is so effective for Leinster and Ireland. Defences rush up to limit O’Driscoll and D’Arcy’s space leaving them exposed to this move.

Here are a couple of examples of Leinster executing this move to perfection.  Notice how the defence overcommits (rushes up too fast) in this first example.

In the Second Example notice how the player who returns the ball to Sexton occupies two defenders opening up space for him to make the break.

The key to defending it is to not overcommit in defence. In this example, from the second weekend of the championship, the French outside defenders don’t rush up and are able to make late adjustments to the defensive line. It isn’t well executed by the Irish but the French do defend it well.

The English midfield defence has been particularly strong in this year’s championship but if the Irish can get some clean set-piece ball they have the ability to test the English midfield in a way that no team has so far. I guarantee you that the English will be preparing for this move.

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