Missing Tackles Means Nothing

Missed tackles.

 

There’s been a huge uptick in quoting statistics within both commentary and fan circles and here at Linebreak HQ we work tirelessly to ensure that all our articles are fact checked and completely accurate. 👀

So here’s a quick article about why missed tackles as a stat shouldn’t matter. Missing tackles might be actually good and all teams should defend like Harlequins who defend in the same way a sieve holds water.

Defensive systems range from Saracens wolfpack all the way down to Harlequins’ paw patrol.

Right now it feels like there’s nothing more depressing than being a Harlequins fan. The first thing we have to assume as a Quins fan is that you’re also English. Which (pause) *sad music*. Close up of wheels falling off a chariot.

Quins don’t have a lot going for them apart from Marcus Smith. Who they cling to like the fungal spore that takes control of an ants brain turning them into a hybrid zombie creature. They’ll drag him down deeper and deeper until he becomes another incarnation of Tim Swiel or even Ben Botica. Who to this day still doesn’t fully understand how kicking downfield works.

 

Quins can’t defend. They had eight international players vs bottom of the table London Irish and boy do you not notice them at all. With EIGHT international players why are Harlequins conceding so many points? Well the answer doesn’t lie with their individual players so much as with their system. Finally someone got the message and #Kingstonout worked. Shout out to the tireless shitposting efforts of JP and Jimothy.

Individual tacklers

Here’s Ross Moriarty.

Dominant and hard hitting. He’s like a man made of stone, in that he doesn’t know the meaning of the word backwards, sideways, or any words at all really. All he knows is that he’s legally allowed to hit things and when he does they usually stay hit. A bit like Fantastic 4’s The Thing with his government authorisation to generally clobber people.

Then there’s Jonny Gray the often dominant but always present tackler, sitting at 97.9% tackle completion he never misses and is surprisingly reliable in all situations. A small lack of acceleration made up for with good positioning and rangy arms. His tackle count this previous 6 nations was phenomenal.

In the most ambitious crossover of all time we have to imagine Elastigirl and Captain America had a kid and rather than save the world from evil he grows up desperate to play rugby for Scotland. However, to protect his secret identity he chooses to play second row where the whole game is spent with his face either in someone’s chest or deep in a scrum up someone’s arse.

Then there’s George Ford. Most of this goes without saying, but,well, he’s small.

At 5ft 7, or 175cm if you’re a fancy European using metric, he is always going to struggle on a rugby pitch where the average height of Tier 1 international teams is around 6ft 2. Now this doesn’t really affect Ford’s gameplan. He’s not put on the pitch to tackle but if we take a peek at his stats with 89% tackle completion we find that he barely misses.

Big thumbs up from me as I love the bloke but other than the status quo of the opposition keeping the ball how does this benefit the team?

Compare this to the frenzied attack of Owen Farrell. His missed tackle stat of 73% tackle completion is far worse than most players. But his in your face attitude and style creates problems for backlines the world over.

If England are ever going to reach the dizzying heights of Harlequins then George Ford is going to have to miss far more tackles.

Let’s head south for a moment.

In 2016 the Hurricanes won Super Rugby’s biggest prize. Players stood around cheering and everybody dressed in yellow was very happy.

The Hurricanes play with the same ruthless intensity of Liam Neeson searching for his daughter in Taken. Boy, are they pissed when they don’t have the ball. However, much like Liam Neeson, within this bottomless pit of rage is a game plan.

Dreamed up in the hearts of Hurricanes coaches, who stared at their overly dynamic and glorious 10 Beauden Barrett (one true golden god), they decided to create an overly dynamic and glorious gameplan. In keeping with the storm theme the Hurricanes have going on I like to call it the flood.

Others call it a blitz but these people aren’t down with the whole weather theme that Hurricanes have going on. Also it’s better than a blitz.

A blitz is often a controlled event whereas the Canes coaches seem to just give the players a license to kill and have done with it.

Only recently did I glance at the film series sharknado. I feel it displays this defensive concept in incredible detail. If you haven’t seen the film imagine massive killer sharks in an apparently symbiotic relationship with a Tornado. That’s fundamentally the Hurricanes style of defence. There is no doubt in my mind that they play these movies during Monday tactical review sessions asking players individually which shark were you this week?

Let’s try and break it down.

From a rugby standpoint what the Hurricanes do is say no to passively soaking up phase after phase of organised attacking play. They take their strongest weapons of pace, power and the five rows of sharp teeth to attack without the ball. They ruthlessly fly up in what looks like a chaotic swirl desperately trying to get their ball back. The apparent lack of a CGI budget does not slow them down in the slightest.

If they miss a tackle then one of their teammates is usually able to be there instead. This is all down to their ability to make the opposition pause. Attacking players are forced to improvise and the majority of rugby players are only ‘’okay’’ at improvising. If Brad Shields flies up at you with breathtaking speed and you move to the side, then you live to fight another day. But all of a sudden you don’t have any momentum and without momentum you’re going nowhere. Eventually they will take the ball off you and you will succumb to the extreme weather pattern.

Clip of the Hurricanes first try in the 2016 final created through aggressive defence.

 

However, missed tackles in this context only don’t matter if you’ve trained for it. Hurricanes will spend hours on the training paddock whipping the storm into a frenzy so that everybody knows what they are doing. You can see in the above clip Dane Coles sweeping behind already on a more scrambled structure.

It also 100% helps if you have a team that can attack from anywhere. All teams should be able to thrive on turnover ball and most players love to attack from deep. You’ll see in this following clip the lack of hesitation from Beauden Barrett and Ricky Riccitelli. They don’t think about flying up to get the ball because the thinking part has been removed, it’s all instinct. That’s good coaching.

 

For every missed tackle that might happen the Hurricanes don’t usually lose metres. Not only that but their scramble cover defence is awe inspiring on its own. Most missed tackles are happening about 5-10 yards behind the gain line and even when players cross it the Hurricanes will do the same again next phase. If just one of these chaotic blitz attempts work, then not only have the Hurricanes regained momentum but there is a good chance they scored off it. This positive outcome only comes about by playing an arguably risky style.

The risk vs reward calculation is something that coaches make all the time. But it takes guts to decide, yup, let’s just charge at the opposition non stop and see if they can handle it. Most of the time teams really can’t, and by the time they can the clocks run out or everybody is dead on their feet. The true answer is there are no half measures.

So the next time you’re playing club rugby with a 24 stone prop rolling steadily down the local hill at you. Just remember if you miss the tackle it’s because you were trying to emulate the Hurricanes and not because you were completely and utterly physically dominated. Also that brown streak in your pants is mud and don’t let anybody tell you any different.

This article was drafted just after the Six Nations and any relation to current English struggles is pure clairvoyance.

 

Sav

 

 

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