Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching


Channel your energy by David Clarke

Once upon a time while in discussion about our wonderful game of rugby, a “non-believer” couldn’t see the point of continuously running across the field to a breakdown. Why not? Because on arriving at there, you simply see the ball go back in the opposite direction, so you have to run to where you have come from.

Of course, I defended the nature of our game to the hilt, but in the cold light of the day and many years of thinking about it, I think the “non- believer” could have had a valued point. And that this has broad implications for rugby coaching at a grass roots level.

One of my pastimes in the name of research for rugby conditioning is noting how long into the game it takes the front row, then the second row and then, dare I say, the back row to start walking following a set piece. This “research” is only carried out at grassroots and lower league games, as the higher the standard you go the more physically impossible it is due to the speed of the game to be everywhere, even back rows.

Nick Tatalias, a rugby coach specialising in contact conditioning, has an interesting theory about this. Quoting from an article by him:

“The players seen standing on the fringes of the rucks and mauls with hands on knees breathing hard are tired because they are recruiting a much higher percentage of their muscles in each encounter than the opposition players.”

He goes on to say that typically the conditioning coach sees this happening and prescribes more aerobic type conditioning, but that this further exacerbates the problem.

What Nick is saying is that if you are using nearly all your strength in the scrum, there’s nothing left in the tank for work around the field. So he prescribes that greater levels of strength are needed, better anaerobic conditioning and lastly sprint endurance.

But what about the social rugby XVs that are pulled together each weekend? To them the mere mention of training is a swear word.

Well help is at hand for you to conserve even more energy and put an end to running across the pitch only to see the ball move away in the distance. This can be done in various ways to best suit your team but basically it’s like this. Instead of having your forwards trundling or walking across the pitch to the breakdown, but really only getting in the way of the backs, have them stay in channels after a set piece, working up and down the pitch as opposed to across it.

For instance, and depending on who’s attacking or defending, have your front and second rows stand near to or behind or in front of the centres and wings, leaving your back row to cover the entire field. Or split your pack down the middle and have them work the left and right sides of the pitch, depending on their scrum positions. The variations are endless and you could chop and change during the match to suit attack or defence, making the opposition even more confused.

The advantages of this system, I believe, are that it allows for:

• On the shoulder support for offloading the ball in the tackle, getting players into gaps.

• Doubling up in defence, allowing for two man tackles.

• Mini rucks, ensuring you get quicker ball.

• Secure, quicker ball at the breakdown, as your players get there first.

• More of your players to defend in midfield, giving the opposition less options in attack.

• More of your players to attack in midfield, offering you more overlap opportunities.

• More of your players to cover when a team mate is out of position following a move.

You might be thinking what if the opposition use a rolling maul and you haven’t got sufficient numbers to counteract?

Well rolling mauls are hard to stop once they get going and need to be stopped on the outset. However, with the experimental laws (ELVs) being trailed you could soon be able to collapse a maul anyway.

Colin Astley, www.inno-rugby.co.uk

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