Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

When was the last time you felt like 007? by David Clarke
October 31, 2008, 10:45 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell | Tags: , ,

How many of you will be going to the new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace?

Despite the usual mixed reviews, it promises to continue in the mould of 007 films: classy, fast paced action with plenty of blood and gore. Just like your training sessions!

Good coaches have more in common with James Bond than they think.

1. Cool under pressure

Bond has to think quickly when all around him is crashing down. He looks for innovative ways to solve problems and is not afraid to make bold decisions. He won’t always please everybody, but he gets the job done.

2. No pain, no gain

The bloody, dusty, rugged Daniel Craig, now in a sling, shows that it is not easy being in the job. He takes off his DJ and roles up his sleeves to save the day.

3. Looks great

The image counts. It carries authority. By looking the part, Bond becomes a key figure to talk to and listen to. There is a touch of menace within his charm. He could not do this unless he dresses well.

4. Humour counts

A quick witted aside lightens the atmosphere. Not every situation needs to be serious, even if the outcome could be. The latest Bond is not as cheeky as previous incarnations, but still smiles.

Perhaps you won’t get the girl, save the world and drive the Aston Martin. But you can admire some of this character’s panache and bravedo. And even emulate some of his traits.

ELVs under attack by David Clarke
October 28, 2008, 1:40 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, ELVs, Rugby Refereeing | Tags: , ,

Here is an article from the Times Online website to have a look at.




By R.J.P.Marks

I think it is angry, but has some pertinent points.

See what you think!

Rugby movie coming soon by David Clarke

Rugby doesn’t feature in many films, but here is a proper, Hollywood style movie with rugby as the main theme. The story line looks sort of familiar, but it will be interesting to see how realistic the rugby is…the reviewers say this part is good.

The coach v player ego fight will be interesting to watch.

Hoping for a UK release?

A new rugby tactic for the weekend by David Clarke

I am working with the Welsh Women’s squad this weekend in Cardiff. I have been allocated a number of sessions to work on rugby skills, techniques and tactics, based on their game plan.


Of course I am not going to tell what the tactics are, but it has led me to check the Better Rugby Coaching archive for the words “rugby tactics”. I put in rugby tactics, but then thought, this is a rugby site anyway, so I changed it to just “tactics” and I got over 40 articles.


Here are the results.


Better Rugby Coaching search for "rugby tactics"


What is my new tactic for the weekend


When receiving a kick off deep in the 22m area, there are normally two options. Secure and kick for touch or long down the side of the pitch, OR secure, run open and either kick long or go for the break.


Struth! That’s four tactics already.


So here is the next one. It is a variation on one of themes.


Secure the ball. Take the ball towards the touchline, but not over the 5m line. From the breakdown, pass the ball behind the forwards waiting to take a short ball to the fly half, who passes it to the inside centre (12). That should give enough space for this player to take the ball forward, kick over the defence and for the outside centre, winger and blindside winger to follow up. The defence will be expecting the kick, will be spread further across the pitch. Risk and reward…what do you think?



How to take command of a rugby training session by David Clarke

Who is the most difficult audience to deal with?

Here are some factors that can cause you problems:

1. The players are tired.

2. The players have already been “coached” during the day.

3. The players have a low concentration span.

4. The players are not playing at the weekend.

5. The players are young.

And so the list eventually leads to my under 9s team! And having to coach them last night.

Having worked with two groups of elite players in the last few weeks in my roles at U16 backs coach for the Ospreys and now an attached coach with the Welsh Women, a blustering late Wednesday afternoon is a little different on a damp parks pitch.

How did I take command?

With the agreement of the other coaches, after the warm up, we split as usual into three groups, did seven minute segments of skills and then went into a game.

And we shut up! It was hard. We only gave small doses of praise and bit our lips. No shouts of “Pass”, “Tackle”, “Get lower” or “Run straight”.

After each try or big breakdown, we gave some feedback, asked some questions and let them play.

It was strangely eerie. But what it did allow us to watch and observe and reflect. One observation is that we are going to make the teams smaller in practice games to make sure all the players are more involved.

So to take command of a rugby training session, here are two suggestions:

1. Break up the training into manageable segments and the same with the groups.

2. Say less, watch more, intervene effectively.

Using the haka in your pre match warm up by David Clarke
October 22, 2008, 9:05 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Coaching | Tags: , , ,

In the latest Rugby Coach Newsletter I have taken some of the best minds and practices to give you an excellent template for a warm up.

For some teams the warm up is the precursor to their “war dance” or haka.

Sometimes it can give an added edge or not.

What do you think?

Coaching the reluctant rugby player by David Clarke

Last week I posted a blog about getting children to listen.

In my further research and then observations over the weekend I reflected on our expectations as coaches.

Over one hour of training should the players be fully concentrating on rugby the whole time?

On the one hand we would expect this because it is only an hour and they have to concentrate for longer in a match. But I think we need to be more realistic.

Elite players in a warm, comfortable environment like an indoor training faciltity will be on task most of the time. 11 year olds, on a windy pitch under lights after a full day at school, then “do the math”!

These extremes will count across all age groups, senior and junior. Our challenge as coaches is to understand these constraints and work within them. If we get frustrated by the lack of attention, then often is a whole host of uncontrollables.

I will be writing more in the next issue of Rugby Coach.

How session planning starts by David Clarke

I have written over nine seasons worth of different sessions I worked out today.

Here is a sketch of a session that I made two weeks ago, which I expanded upon to make up part of three different sessions.

If anyone else wants to send in their sketches, it would be great to build up a gallery…

If you don’t ask, you will rarely get by David Clarke

About this time last year, Bill Pratt begged me to come down to Thornbury RFC to do a session with his Under 14s.

His second email was worse!

 “Dan, I will not keep writing to you. Bust a gut and train my boy’s on Thursday. We are away to Dursley and we need some work on defence. One session is all i ask. Go on you know you can!! Bill.”

Well, what could I say. Though it took some time to find a suitable slot, I “bust a gut” and trained them last night.

I arrived on crisp autumn evening at the grounds on the outskirts of Bristol (where I brought up). Bill was there to greet me and my first impressions where that it was a well organised junior club.

I split my session into two themes, body shapes in the tackle and body shapes into contact. It was a “kitchen sink” session, so I covered four times as much as I would in normal session, with the idea that Bill could build on any or all of the points over the next month or so.

There were 22 boys (now under 15s) in all. They were polite, chatty but attentive and obviously enjoyed their rugby. They were responsive to questioning and gave some good feedback. They worked hard and with purpose in the exercises.

It is sometimes easy to come in to do a one off session and hold the players attention because you are a fresh face and new voice. However it is easier if there is good environment for the players to work in. Bill and his co-coaches are rightly proud of their boys. This pride manifests itself in pride and desire in the boys.

My initial reflections are:

1. Got to keep asking, what is the worst they can say?

2. Be proud of your team, they will return your trust.

There was some video of the session, so with any luck I might be able to post some next week. Then you can see whether I taught them anything!

IRB referee’s supremo talks about the impact of the ELVs by David Clarke

Paddy O’Brien is interviewed on the IRB’s Total Rugby programme today.

Here are some of his answers taken from the IRB website.

For two and a half months the global game has been played under the Experimental Law Variations. The Southern hemisphere was first to experience the ELVs and still include the laws governing sanctions, but what happens when those same players switch to the Northern-style ELVs for the November tests?

Is there a problem on the horizon, or are these issues merely a storm in a tea cup? Questions Total Rugby Radio put to IRB referee manager Paddy O’Brien.

Total Rugby: Looking at some the founding principles behind the ELVs, has the game been ‘given back to the players’?

Paddy O’Brien:”The players would certainly say that it has. On the statistics we’ve had back so far, on 80 to 90 percent of the ELVs the players say they strongly support them, so despite all the myths out there that people don’t like them, the people who play the game, who are at the end of the day the most important people, they’re telling us yes they love them.”

TR: What about making the game more entertaining – there’s a lot of kicking in the North at the moment..

P O’B: “I think there’s a bit of a myth out there that one of our objectives was to make the game more entertaining, which was not the case. That’s up to the players. As for the kicking, the stats show that kicking is no more than it was at Rugby World Cup 2007, in fact it’s down. There’s an average of 51 or 52 kicks in a game and if you go back to the semi finals and final of the World Cup there were 87 kicks per game, so there is a lot of misinformation out there.

“Sure, there is a lot of kicking and that is down to other reasons. Until the referees really get harsh at refereeing people on their feet at the tackle players will not commit to the breakdown and the only way to break defences is by kicking the ball. The fact that there’s a lot of kicking in games at the moment shouldn’t be put down to the ELVs.”

TR: We’ve currently got different Laws being used in the South and the North. Could this not be a problem with IRB World Ranking points and Rugby World Cup seedings potentially at stake?

P O’B: “People get a bit emotional over it but the only difference between the two hemispheres at the moment – and a reminder the NPC and Currie Cup are being played under the 16 ELVs whereas up north it’s 13 – is that instead of being a penalty it’s a free kick as a sanction. That’s the only area.

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