Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

What Everyone Ought to Know about a Bad Drill by David Clarke


I watched three different rugby sessions today.


And I cheated.


All the sessions were all online. Two were from Youtube and one was from an email I got sent by a rugby coaching business. As you know, I am a magpie for all things to do with rugby coaching, so I looked at them carefully. I came to one unfortunate conclusion.


But before I tell what the conclusion is, I want to tell you about something I observed last night at another training session.


The training session was for 14 and 15 year old boys who are aiming to get into the Osprey U16 squad. Just before the session split into rugby skills sections (I was doing decision making), the academy head man gathered the youngsters together.


“We are working three nights a week at the moment and that is NOT excuse to not do your homework,” he said. “You need to manage your school work and rugby. If that means working more at weekends then do it.”


It sounded like a parent talking. Time to switch off?


No. The head man then said: “You know Alun Wyn Jones (Welsh International 2nd row currently on tour in South Africa). He is a full time professional AND he is studying for law at Swansea University. He manages to do both to a very high standard”.


The use of a real life example was powerful, hammering home the sort of commitment these boys needed.


So, to my conclusion from the sessions.


I watched how the players started the exercises. They ran at each other from positions that they wouldn’t normally in a game. Either the rugby offside lines were incorrect, or the angles of entry into the grids were unlikely, or worse still, the players were passing the ball forwards because they were just running towards each other.


Don’t practice in the wrong environment


I spent the weekend reading and annotating a scientific paper on rugby decision-making. One of key conclusions was that players improve in realistic rugby environments. That is because they are making sometimes imperceptible decisions based on the information that they are facing. Skew this information away from normal game circumstances, then the players are practising under false pretences.


Yes, create different constraints on drills and exercises, but don’t allow players to enter into the exercise from positions they would never take up in the regular game.


It is subtle change perhaps to your coaching, but one you need to acutely aware of.



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