What can we learn from Rugby?

Rugby is a sport in which the main objetive, every time a team has the ball, is to look for numerical superiority. The nice thing is that, with its structure, we can find some clear superiority concepts, which can be easily transferred to hockey.

To begin with, as the ball cannot be passed forward, every time a team has possession, usually they are more or less in a horizontal line, so, every time a player has a ball, there is a decision to be made: Passing to the right, or to passing the left. The same thing will happen every time there is a Scrum, a Ruck or a Maul.

Left or Right? That is the question

Choosing which way to go, could be for many reasons like which kind of players we have on one side, if we want to attack or just keep possession, but we will focus only on two which we apply in hockey.


Of course, first of all we should check on which side we have more numbers than the rival team, checking for numerical superiority.

In Rugby this is basic, but in hockey not so much, and we should try to apply it much more. Every time we have the ball, inside our heads we should be “counting”; Thinking where we have more players. Understanding this will be key in order to attack more efficiently.


Very similar to the numbers, we also need to understand where there is more space. We can sometimes attack on the small spaces (Blind Side in rugby) but we have to try as often as possible to attack to the place where there is more space, and more chances of succeeding.

Using the Space

Together with understanding where to go, in order to succeed, or at least have more chances, we need to use that space wisely. In Rugby, using all the width of the field is key, and also, moving the ball from one end to the other, until the defense can be broken.

Another thing Rugby has, is the option to create a Maul or a Rack when you find yourself in an inferior situation, getting people together to launch afterwards a new attack. This can be compared in hockey to getting people together on one side, preparing a pass back to start a new attack on another place. When we manage this situations properly, it’s hard for a defending team to close us down.

How to create Superiority

Finally, my favorite concept about Rugby, is overlapping.

Overlapping, means to attack with numerical superiority, playing 2v1s until the defenders run out and we end up with a free player.

One thing is when we find superiority, after moving the ball, how to play it, but what is really interesting is how, from an equality, to create a superiority.

The concept they use is “Draw and Pass”. This means, drawing a defender, close enough to you, so he has no chances to defend the next player you pass to. It’s the proper 2v1 in hockey.

The difference is that, instead of drawing the player defending me, in Rugby, you would run straight at the defender marking your teammate, forcing him to put pressure on you (Drawing him) and this way, we free our teammate and play a successful 2v1.

As we see in the animation: From a 2v2, we create a 2v1 situation. Great concept to apply to Hockey!

Another way of overlapping, is passing the ball and running behind my teammate to create superiority again:

To finish the post, we will show an perfect overlapping example, by the Wallabies, in which, from a 3v3, the create superiority.

Players on the ball always run diagonal towards the following defender, and pass in the perfect moment so that their teammate is free to keep going, until, lastly, they have a free player to finish the action.

Overlapping example: Wallabies vs. Los Pumas

As usual, when we create this kind of posts, the idea is to research and look for new things which could be useful for Hockey. Maybe these aren’t new concepts, since they already exist in Hockey, but it is a nice wat of presenting them, and making it easier to understand them.

In the future, we will do another post where we will add all the defensive concepts that can be used, like the “gainline” and other stuff.

From looking at other sports we can always find something that can be useful and we can apply, we always need to keep an open mind and use our imagination.

Comments 3

  1. An interesting and well researched article. It certainly makes you think and engage with the details that can often be forgotten …. individual tactics.

    Thank you for sharing.

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