Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

The Seven Most Well Meant But Least Helpful Words in Rugby Coaching by David Clarke


I have just heard three of the most annoying words in rugby.


Last night I went to the Liberty Stadium in Swansea to watch the Junior World Cup finals. Wales were playing against South Africa for third place and the big prize being contested by New Zealand and England. In a sort of symmetry with the senior game, the power of Springboks and their super offload skills won the their match. The sparks of brilliance from the number one seeds the All Blacks were too good for England.


In the true spirit of rugby, fans from all nations sat side by side, sharing the atmosphere and rivalry in good humour.


Behind me, a South African supporter gave a running commentary to his friend. A fervent supporter but no reader of the game, he said at least three of the seven most well meant but least helpful words in rugby coaching.


1. Support!

2. Communicate!

3. Depth!


I wasn’t the time or the place to tell him otherwise but you might want to know why I think these are the most well meant but least helpful words. So I am going to cover each one in a mini-series on the blog and invite you to comment. Plus I will tell you the other four.




Sometimes heard in the expression “Where’s the support?” the phrase is also known as “Where’s the back row?”


It is well meant because the ball carrier needs players to pass to or help them go into a contact situation. The truth is most players do support. Of course the odd lazy player will stop running once he has passed the ball. Also, as the game wears on, the supporting players will run out of steam and not be so quick to be there ready.


But it is not helpful because most of the time the ball carrier is well supported until he makes a break.


By definition, the support will momentarily, at least, not be close to the ball carrier. He has breached the defensive line and his team mates will need to get behind the defenders as well. If it is expected, then a designated player or two will be in support, as part of the set play. If it is unexpected, supporting players will be changing angles and catching up with the play.


It would be better for these supporting players to “anticipate” the ball carrier’s possible intentions. This is a training ground exercise, with scenarios for expected and unexpected breaks. Practising a set play requires the play AND the possible outcomes to be run through.


Shouting “support” therefore really means, “get off your lazy backside and get back into the game” or “we have failed to train adequately for the breaks”. A word of encouragement for the first situation would be better. A quiet note in the coaching diary for the second I think.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Communicate? Depth?

All these 3 ideas have their place in educating rugby players. Of course people over-use or mis-use terms, that happens in any sport that is popularly supported, yet to dismiss these three concepts is a bit rash.

Comment by eskimorugby

I agree they have a place. However too many coaches/supporters/players use them incorrectly without developing them. Over-use and mis-use is exactly why I highlighted them!

The Communicate piece is coming up…

Comment by admin

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