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The remarkable similarities between Sumo wrestling and England's defence

BY Grant Constable  ·  Thursday Nov 26, 2020

Following England’s win over Ireland, a fair bit of analysis has gone into how strong they’re looking right now and how they are setting up to be a commanding force for years to come. Today’s guest post looks at various passages of defence from that win, and the similarities in style to that of Sumo wrestling.

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Coach Craig Wilson of thecontactcoach.com says that he is always searching to learn new things, particularly from other sports. Here he outlines how his experiences have led to him analysing techniques in goal-line defence.

The art of coaching is deciding what the needs of your team are and packaging it into messages the group can understand. I often find that using imagery from another sport can help bring technical aspects of rugby to life.

On tour in Japan with Yale University, the team I coach, we had the privilege of visiting a sumo wrestling training session. What struck me was how well it related to rugby, particularly the explosive movements from a low position the wrestlers demonstrated as they collided with their opponent, and then the leg drive to maintain the momentum.

When watching England continually defend their try line against Ireland’s attacking power plays in the Autumn Nations Cup match, it reminded me of what I witnessed first-hand in Japan.

When defending close to your try line, it’s imperative to win the collision, and with that, the gain line, to drive the opposition backwards.

The ‘sumo technique’ is not unique to England, but as you can see from the video, particularly from Billy Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler, they employ similar explosive movements to those of sumo wrestlers to repel the Irish attack.

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Interspersed with the ‘sumo technique’ is the more conventional rugby tackling style, demonstrated by Joe Launchbury, Mako Vunipola, Sam Underhill, and Ben Earl. All these defensive techniques combined make England a very difficult team to score against.

So the next time you watch a team defend their try line at close quarters, this video will hopefully give you a slightly different way of looking at it. If nothing else, it’s simply interesting to acknowledge the similarities.

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