Celebrating rugby's old-school wall moves – we canvas voices from all over the rugby world to dicsuss trick plays from penalties and free-kicks
Celebrating rugby’s old-school wall moves
It was a throwback to the time of baggy shirts, off-brand boots and lost gumshields. “Remember wall moves?” came the question from Ruaridh Jackson a few months back, before lockdown. It was a conversation that brought the best memories of junior rugby spilling back.
And the thought has stuck. Wouldn’t it be great to see more of those mad moves again?
So we canvassed the views of figures from all over the rugby world to see if they think the trick plays still have a place in the modern game…
Recently retired, 33-cap Scotland fly-half
“The good old wall move! I think there’s a place for some deception with penalties and we’ve had a couple of things in place at Glasgow over the years that have had varying success.
“A lot of teams switch off when you’re shaping up to kick to touch and start waking back to the lineout. Dummy the kick and tap it and you’re up against a disorganised defence. Two times I remember it working – with Huw Jones for Scotland versus Australia and (Callum) Gibbins scored for Glasgow against Cardiff Blues.
“Back in Toony’s (Gregor Townsend’s) Glasgow days we had a move as well in the 22. I’m not sure we ever scored from it though!”
Exeter Chiefs skills coach
“I think there is a place for it in the lower leagues where you may get more entries into the 22 to score points. I think at a Premiership level, a lot of attack coaches would look to the percentages for scoring points when in the 22 – so forward coaches would like lineouts to maul from or set up a pick-and-go as you have a lower risk to scoring ratio.
“I do think that it could be an option for a free-kick, as if it did not lead to a score you could get into phase play and pick and go. At Exeter we have a set free-kick play but could add a trick option as defence coaches start to read it. Every team has analysis at the top level as well as defence coaches, so attack coaches could use it to trick them.
“At the lower levels, with no analysis it is a great way to deceive the opposition. I do love seeing the Baa-Baas try them and it does add to the spectator side of the game.”
Former professional referee
“Do I like them? Yeah, why not! They are different and interesting.
“And there’s is no legal issue, per se, with a wall. The challenges from a refereeing perspective all involve player safety. Things like players in the wall without the ball being taken out illegally, making sure there are no forward passes (easily done), which happens if the players don’t line up correctly, as is the incidence of obstruction.
“When the wall is poorly executed you typically see these issues. When it works well, it can be a quirky and effective part of the game.”
Ex-England hooker and USA performance coach
“I’m so up for free-kicks being innovative and would love to see more plays being designed off them, but the wall doesn’t rock my boat. It does give licence to tackle from behind on players in the wall, with or without the ball, as the defence cannot see.
“I remember playing when they did use it and coaches just told us to smash the guys in the wall, which led to some cheap shots. So it’s not for me, but I’m keen for free-kicks to be used in some way that allows creativity.”
Treviso and Italy back-rower
“It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed watching from when I was growing up. I remember watching the Barbarians do it and it was always exciting. And really kept the opposition guessing.
“Why not bring it back to add some excitement to free-kicks… although maybe not for penalties. It would be good to see one of our big boys come through the middle of a wall and score. However, at the same time, it won’t be that fun if you find yourself running into a Manu Tuilagi or a unit like Mathieu Bastareaud!”
Former All Black and Harlequins assistant
“I used to love watching the wall growing up in NZ. In the early to late Nineties, NPC sides used to all have one. I guess with the improvement and high success rates of mauls, we see more of them five metres out from the line – and let’s be honest, a good attacking maul set-up is almost impossible to stop or bring down legally these days.
“Some teams are extremely good at it. Think of Exeter in the domestic game in England and then England or Ireland in the international game.
“I do, however, believe that you want to take teams out of their comfort zone, especially in defence. And name me a team that spends the extremely limited and precious time on the training field preparing for attacking wall moves five metres out from the line! Whereas defending mauls is a large part of forwards training time.
“So the surprise element alone warrants that they still have a place in the game. I imagine teams will look at success rate – the percentages – versus training and preparation time. Which is why we see it more in exhibition games than in competitive games.
“Personally I love the out-of-the-box thinking, and the challenging of the status quo nature you get with the wall move.”
Ex-Crusaders, Highlanders, Leicester and London Irish ten now working in talent ID for Auckland
“Great question. They were great to watch and looked entertaining.
“My gut feel is ‘no, they don’t have a place in the modern game’ as there was not a lot of organised defence or line speed in the era (they were most prevalent). However, maybe the surprise element would catch people off-guard?
“Some 41% of tries in Super Rugby are scored from first phase. So there’s potential. However, those are mainly scored from mauls and using manipulation off the maul or from scrum, with strikes inside the 22.”
Australian rugby commentator
“Yes, yes it should be part of the modern game.
“And it shouldn’t just be used close to the line either. I want wall moves and set-piece plays used 95 yards from home. In the NFL, how good is a draw play that has a running back go long distance for a TD? It’s the best.”
Blitzbok cap now assisting at Southern Kings
“I actually miss this. I love the creativity. For me, I think it should be used more in rugby. I think it keeps the games authentic, like back in high school, when we ran such moves. And maybe World Rugby could ban scrums on the five-metre line, to avoid pushover tries.
“Most teams in that zone opt for pushover scrums, which puts more pressure of the front row. Plus, it’s the one place on the field where there’s the most retaken scrums. So maybe ban scrums five metres out, from a penlaty or short-arm situation.”
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