Yellow cards are issued regularly in the modern game and it is vital to have a game management strategy in place to deal with the situation, whether playing a player short or with the advantage of an extra player.
Dealing with a Yellow Card is something that teams often neglect to plan for. But considering it is a common enough occurrence in the modern game it is important to plan for the occasion.
If a player on the team is yellow carded it means playing with fourteen players for 10 minutes. In this situation, if possible, it is important to control the pace of the game. To do so, being in possession is a priority. Once in possession it is important to retain possession and slow the pace of the game as if running down the clock when in the lead near the end of a game. If the opposition do not have the ball it is impossible for them to score.
But it often happens that a team has a player yellow carded for an offence which automatically gives possession to the opposition who have fifteen players. This is a difficult situation but not impossible to deal with. It requires players to increase their work rate on defence and that can often be as simple as getting off the ground from a tackle or ruck situation quicker than the opposition. Also, being aware of not wasting defenders contesting at the tackle/ruck area, unless they can poach possession or slow down possession considerably for the opposition. Using defenders to contest the tacke/ruck area without having a material effect on the quality of the opposition possession is a poor use of an already scarce resource.
The team short a player may also have to adapt defensively in other ways. If a back is yellow carded, at the scrum a back row player will have to be sacrificed from the scrum to defend in the back-line. This means contesting at the scrum with seven players, so the use of the defensive wheel comes into play. Of course if the team short a player is in possession and feeding the scrum they should consider putting eight players in the scrum to ensure they win possession at the scrum, even if that requires a back going into the scrum.
If a back is yellow carded, as in the scrum, it is important to put a forward in the back-line when defending the line-out. The team short a player at the line-out must consider not contesting the line-out on the opposition throw. Being a player short in the line-out makes it unlikely they will win the line-out or disrupt the opposition possession. Also, they will need players on the ground to defend the 1st phase possession strike from the line-out.
When throwing into the line-out and short a player it is again a matter of priorities. If the team has eight forwards on the field, it would make sense to put eight forwards into the line-out to ensure they win possession. If short a forward it makes sense to shorten the line-out to six or even five players. This will allow the team run a line-out option that is already rehearsed in training and with a much better chance of success, rather than attempting to run a full line-out with just six players.
Teams that have a strategy for dealing with a Yellow Card situation can make the difference between winning and losing the game. When a team has to play for 10 minutes with fourteen players their ability to enforce a strategy of damage limitation is often the difference between staying in the game or remaining in the lead until the player that was yellow carded returns to play. If they can achieve this it is also huge psychological boost to the team and can sow seeds of doubt with the minds of the opposition. If they failed to dominate with an extra player on the field they are unlikely to dominate when the numbers are equal.
But the team that can take advantage of playing with an extra player and extract full value from the advantage can often create a number of scores that put the game out of reach for the team short a player. How often have we seen close games end as a competition when the team playing with an extra player turn their advantage into scores and effectively give the opposition no chance of reversing the score line.
Managing the Yellow Card situation is a crucial aspect of game management in the modern game.