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The 'sliding pivot' - the style revolutionising rugby's attacking strategies

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Roar Guru
1st August, 2023
6
1526 Reads

The ‘sliding quarterback’ is a term based on the tactical style of NFL mastermind Tom Brady, a direct player with evasive abilities, varying the attack and delaying options until the last second to outsmart defenses. Extra touch and ‘slide’ movements around his offensive linesman are trademark to his brilliance.

Similarly, the sliding pivot in rugby has been the application of flyhalf in Leinster, as I’d coin it the Leinster 10.

The sliding pivot has emerged as a pivotal role in rugby, revolutionising the game’s attacking strategies. We examine the historical development of this archetype, highlighting players such as Johnny Sexton who have embraced and perfected this style, making it an integral part of modern rugby.

It veers from the idea of variety as a 10, instead systematically slotting pieces into place, doing just enough to guide the machine into motion.

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The Sexton Loop

One of the key aspects of the sliding pivot’s game is their ability to execute multi-touch short passing plays. There often are two-three touches involving ball handling from a 10 in this sequence, often requiring an elite short passing game, built on efficient handling, square holding lines, and a physical threat in traffic.

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Sexton is iconic in Leinster for this legendary loop, a pullback onto a looping pivot run and a second over-under’s line all done in a tight space of 10m-15m requires precision, sharp decision-making, and an innate sense of timing.

The concept of a sliding outlet is built on the concept that a defensive line is built of sliding walls, and if you target the seams enough, holes open that you can attack through. A sliding 10 has to line himself up with the ‘first edge’, often being the defender on the edge of the pod and the first defender outside, softening the defence for the options outside.

From there, long-range passing is often left to the looped inside winger (Mack Hansen), outside centre (Garry Ringrose), or fullback (Hugo Keenan). This dual playmaker dynamic allows them to maintain width while the 10 can manage the play.

This application is replaceable, as durability and short passing is crucial. Thus Ross Byrne has had little trouble slotting in, compared to a Joey Carbery or Jack Carty. Ross Byrne does not offer you the organisation and control of Sexton, but gives you a stand in to make the key plays – meaning Ireland lose nothing from a set move perspective in Sexton’s absence.

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The sliding pivot’s ability to target the seams and create the extra man with multiple touches is an interesting application of your main revolving outlet, making them an indispensable asset in modern rugby. The Leinster 10 is an excellent translation from NFL to RFU, and demonstrates the importance of archetypes in a sport that delves into specificity and analyses.

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