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Mike Haley: How to perfect your positioning at 15

Bright spark: Mike Haley makes a burst for Sale Sharks. Photo: Getty Images Rugby World

Sale Sharks full-back Mike Haley gives his top tips on how to defend in different situations


Mike Haley made more carries (207) and more metres (1,180) than any other full-back in last season’s Aviva Premiership. Here the Sale Shark talks through how a No 15 should defend in a variety of situations…

Danger area: A lineout during a Mitre 10 Cup game in New Zealand. Photo: Getty Images Rugby World

1. LINEOUT IN 22

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“If the opposition have a lineout near their 22, I’ll be on halfway in the middle with one of our wings tight to the same touchline as the lineout. If they box-kick, our wing is there to take it and I support him. If they kick cross-field, I’ll move across to cover it.”

2. SCRUM IN 22

“For an opposition scrum in their 22, I’ll be deep behind halfway. Our wings are further forward covering the touchlines. I’ll look at their kickers and the way the scrum wheels to predict where the ball will be kicked, then work in a pendulum with the wings.”

Central positioning: For a lineout in the middle of the field, Haley would sit deep. Photo: Inpho Rugby World

3. MIDFIELD LINEOUT

“For an opposition lineout around halfway: one wing covers the touchline, the other is about 15m in from the other touchline and I’ll be further back to cover the long kick. If their back-line is standing quite flat, it’s an indication that they’re going to kick.”

4. BREAKDOWN KICK

“If there’s a counter-ruck, I’ll drop deep in the middle of the park. They might have a left-footed and a right-footed kicker and I need to cover both. As soon as it looks obvious who is going to kick it, I’ll hedge my bets – move forward/left/right.”

Be alert: It's important to get your positioning right from a restart. Photo: Inpho Rugby World

5. RESTART

“At a restart, if our ten kicks left, we’ll keep the eight back behind halfway close to the touchline and I’ll be a few metres inside him. That covers a box-kick, one to catch it and one to support. If I kick it back, the ten will drop to cover a cross-field kick.”

6. GENERAL DEFENCE

“If the opposition are attacking between the ten-metre line and our 22, myself and the nine will each cover half the pitch in the 22, standing just behind the defensive line. If I make a tackle, the nearest wing will drop back to cover with the nine.”

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This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Rugby World.

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