Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Can a rugby coach be blamed for individual mistakes? by David Clarke

After the Osprey’s (the Welsh regional side) lost to Saracens in the Heineken on Sunday, a disappointed head coach, Lyn Jones was asked by an TV interviewer about the team’s errors.

He was probably thinking “Can it be my fault a 40+ capped international player drops the ball?”

He diplomatically deferred to possible tactical errors. Some newspapers however, were quick to question his rugby coaching ability.

Rugby coaching is about coaching rugby skills. A coach shapes a team’s approach to the scrum and lineout. Each ruck and maul will be influenced by the training sessions and feedback over weeks, months and years.

But as Frank Hadden, the Scotland coach, has said previously in Rugby Coach, it is the player who steps over the whitewash of the touchline to play the game, not you.

It is hard to watch your team play and make unforced errors. It is easy to pin the blame and quickly to look to either the players or yourself for fault. Fuel for your next rugby practice.

The enlightened view is not to blame anybody. Personally I find this hard to do. “Move on, don’t focus on the past, focus on the now” is the mantra that the top players use. Tiger Woods, the world’s best golfer, is a shining example of the removing the blame.

Where does this leave the coach? In the TV interview, he has to say who he blames. To his players, he has to say “let’s play the next game”.

I quite like the approach of Manchester United coach, Alex Ferguson. He says it all in the changing room straight after the game and that’s it. Mind you, I would not like to be on the end of his post match criticism!

Dan, Better Rugby Coaching Editor


4 Comments so far
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As coaches we try to eliminate the blame culture prevalent in our society in general. It is difficult to create a genuine team spirit if players and coaches can find a scapegoat onto whom all the blame falls as the truth is generally more complicated than one person dropping the ball and the emphasis should surely be on identifying strengths and weaknesses through rational and impersonal discussion so that players thoughts do not become clouded at any point with the idea: “I dropped the ball. Who can I blame?” which will slow his reaction to the next problem. In a team game like rugby a problem is the responsibility of all the participants and is rarely solved by shouting and screaming which usually provokes a hostile reaction in testosterone fuelled teenagers. Identify the problem, remember it while moving on without rancour, saving ones aggression for the opposition.

Comment by Alan Ferguson

Hi Alan,

I agree, especially about the collective responsibility. We have to be open, but that openness does not need an aggressive stance or over critical. If the environment and rugby culture is right, then so many other things fall into place.


Comment by Dan Cottrell

My Japanese assistant coach once said (after we had lost) “When the team wins (especially youth teams), they did it themselves; when they lose, it is our responsibility.” That says it all.

Comment by Steve Johnson

I like to coach the basic skills tactics and technigues and have a game plan, encouage the pace through our fitness, conditioning and strengthing coach and aim for the management on the field of space by the players.

I Like my team to accept responsiblity and embrace authoriy on game day. After the game we let it allout in the changing room then move on

Comment by Stuart Robinosn

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