Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Coaching cut backs by David Clarke
December 19, 2008, 12:08 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby News | Tags: ,

With the news that the New Zealand rugby board is cutting back its spending across a number of areas, should the community game be worried about coaching cut backs?

As a percentage of total spending, community coaching is not a large chunk of the most unions budgets. In which case it might be hoped that other cuts might be made.

Recently the National Governing Bodies have been investing resources into coaching the coaches. Will this momentum be halted? Await some belt tightening measures in the new year.

Rugby art by David Clarke
December 18, 2008, 11:35 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell | Tags: , ,

Romania rugby

This is a picture by an American artist called Paine Proffitt. It was part of a set of pictures produced for the World Cup and was on display in the Twickenham rugby museum.

This particular piece represents Romania, a team who at one stage stood on the cusp of entering the Five Nations tournament in the 1980’s. Unfortunately many of their players were lost in the awful internal conflicts that then occurred. They did make it back into the World Cup for 2007, but they are not the force they promised to be.

Should I let my players over indulge this Christmas? by David Clarke
December 17, 2008, 2:04 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Fitness, Rugby Team Management | Tags: , , ,

A Christmas feast

Oooh, the temptations of Christmas…just putting in this picture made my mouth water. Luckily I am only the coach, I don’t need to watch my waistline in quite the same way as my players.

This is a difficult time of year for senior coaches though. Fitness regimes become clouded by parties and feasts. Alcohol is just one of the enemies. Piles of food worse.

Players will ignore draconian rules on how much of food they are allowed to eat. When their mother/partner/boyfriend/mother-in-law has lovingly slaved over a hot stove then it is hard to say no to plate full of food.   

Many years ago I used to play on Boxing Day and New Years Day in front of paying customers! It was a nightmare. Did I get stuck in or not? One New Years Eve I spent all night on a river boat surrounded by goodies and in the end drank three shandies. The next day I played in a game where we beat a 1st division team for the first time in years (and I scored a try, and it was on the local TV!)

But I have learned not to use stories of “in my day” to tell players what to do. Let them discuss the options, make their own resolutions and then sit back and see.

A little known way of powering up your front row by David Clarke
December 16, 2008, 9:58 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Coaching, Rugby Skills | Tags: , , , , ,

Most props will bind tight to the hooker. It makes sense. The opposition will want to isolate the hooker so he cannot strike for the ball as effectively. The opposition tight head (or right side prop) with his hooker will pressurise your hooker.

To counter this, the props will grab a great lump of their hooker’s shirt or shorts, normally under the arm and pull in the hooker.

But this is counter productive.

Many of your props will do weights. Ask them whether is easy to lift dumb bells with wide arms or with the elbows bent, thus pulling the dumb bell into the shoulders. The bent elbow method is easier, because the prop’s arms are stronger through this range.

In which case, the prop should use the “short arm” method, with a bent elbow, probably gripping the number on the hooker’s back.

Your props will be squarer and your push and protection stronger.

I mention this method because Andrew Millward, one of the main contributors to Secrets of the Front Row and now academy manager at the Ospreys reminded me about it last night.

It ties in nicely with Doug McClymont’s explanation of the Total Impact Method of scrummaging he developed with All Black scrum guru, Mike Cron, in this month’s Rugby Coach Newsletter.

Daniel in the Tiger’s den by David Clarke
December 15, 2008, 10:26 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Coaching | Tags: , , , ,

Dan Carter against the Tigers

Dan Carter’s arrival at Perpignan had so many biblical analogies you could have been written a whole new testament book. There is already a book of Daniel, though in the Carter version he arrives at the palace as a king already.

His first game was not miraculous, but it was pretty solid. He kicked, passed, tackled and managed the game well, with few mistakes. And remember that the Leicester Tigers are never tame and never respect any opponent, legend or otherwise.

From a coaching point of view, the game plan for Carter was simple. Play simple rugby. Do the basics well. Don’t force the game.  The constant coverage from every angle showed how well Carter performs the core skills. He passed accurately off both hands. He tackled well, and in one case showed how important it is to get your leading foot close to the ball carrier when making a tackle.

Good luck to him. The other French teams will be on his case now and he will be interesting how he survives in their maelstrom of rugby.

Rugby coaching top tips: #3 by David Clarke
December 12, 2008, 2:50 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, top tips | Tags: ,

At half time, as you are walking towards the meeting point (on the pitch or inside), ask at least two players how they feel the game is going.

Their response will give you a flavour to gear your team talk and advice. Answer their needs and you may well address many more in the team.

Comments like “The backs keep dropping the ball” or “The forwards won’t give us the ball” give an interesting message!

Rugby coaching caption competition by David Clarke
December 11, 2008, 2:37 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell | Tags: , , , ,

Add a caption to this picture of Martin Johnson and Graham Henry in their recent meeting when the All Blacks beat England in November.

Johnson and Henry

Is every rugby representative selection bias? by David Clarke
December 10, 2008, 3:18 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell

I have often writing about being fair minded and balanced in the face of seemingly adverse conditions. I spoke to Jim Love today for some articles in future issues of Rugby Coach newsletter. He said he always looks to himself first. “What can I do differently” should be your first question.

However I must say I was a little frustrated to find that of the 60 boys selected from five regions for the U16 Welsh squad, only 5 came from the Osprey region. Ok, we were not the best side but we were only outplayed twice out of the nine matches so far and won nearly half of our games.
What I think made me most annoyed was last night we played a team with 16 boys in the squad. This was a team we had beaten comfortably earlier in the season and last night we lost to 16-7. It doesn’t seem quite right.

Rugby coach under arrest? by David Clarke
December 9, 2008, 10:05 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby News | Tags: , ,

Here is a picture of Guy Noves, the Toulouse head coach,  being led away by two Scottish policemen in April of this year. Can you remember what his crime was?


The top 20 rugby books of all time not written by Stephen Jones by David Clarke
December 8, 2008, 10:06 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell | Tags: , , ,

Here is an excellent list of books compiled by Stephen Jones of the The Times.

There is one coaching book in this, by Jim Greenwood. Is it on your shelf?

1. Winning! By Sir Clive Woodward

You may laugh at the idea of Sir Clive being top of the book charts. But before you do, read this outstanding account of the way that the driven, talented, off-the-wall genius put together England’s world champion team, tapping a thousand sources and experiences. Then compare it to the way other Test teams were run and are being run in other nations, and in England. And weep. Winning

2. The art of coarse rugby By Michael Green

These days it reads hopelessly, helplessly outdated, but when Green’s brilliant, funny and devastatingly charming and perceptive memoir of plodding through muddy fields in the Extra B team came out in the early 1960s, it changed rugby for ever. People realised for the first time that they were plodding along in a giant and magnificent freemasonry. Two years ago, its sales reached 250,000.

3. Goodbye to glory By Terry McLean

Tour books are ten a penny, and McLean, the doyen of New Zealand sports writers, tended to be happiest when his lads were winning and the ref was opting for the men in black. But this outstanding account of the 1976 All Blacks on a vivid, violent, politically incorrect and momentous tour of South Africa is the tour book supreme.

4. Total rugby By Jim Greenwood

Powerhouse. As the manual for coaches, unsurpassed. In fact, nothing has come remotely near it. The wise old Scot’s coaching manual has gone through decades of different editions but the clarity is still wondrous. No coach of merit does not know it by heart. Total rugby by Jim Greenwood

5. Stand up and fight By Alan English

Only 80 minutes of a dull Munster day in 1978, when the local heroes beat New Zealand. But what a literary feast that win gave rise to. This classic re-wrote the manual for rugby books by mocking the drive towards unsatisfying surface rubbish. It is of supreme depth and colour and after reading it you will finally grasp Munster, and working-man rugby passion.

6. Rugby: body and soul By Bill Samuel

Uneven and probably not as sustained as the picky reader would wish. But this memoir by Gareth Edwards’ mentor and saviour opens with the some of the greatest chapters ever written on Welsh rugby and rugby itself, and of eras passed in sport and life.

7. Nobody hurt in small earthquake/The boy who shot down an airship By Michael Green

Not strictly rugby books, but the first two volumes of autobiography by coarse sport author and thespian and journalist Green are full-on literary classics, on rugby, journalism, the war years, the lot. Diamonds both.

8. 100 years of Newport rugby By Jack Davis

The greatest rugby club in the world bar none, and the most appealing history by the South Wales Argus’s long-gone doyen.

9. The unbeaten Lions By John Reason

Polemical. This is the story of the 1974 Lions in South Africa. We all thought they were the greatest Lions. We all thought that there are no easy Test series wins in South Africa let alone one by 3-0 with one drawn. The acidic Reason thought otherwise.

10. Barbed wire Boks By Donald Cameron

The 1981 tour of New Zealand by South Africa, the last of the apartheid era, ushered dear old New Zealand into the 20th Century, with riots, civil disorder, police with tear gas and visors, families split down the middle of the argument, matches stopped by demonstrators. Cameron, a decent man and fine old-school writer, rubs his eyes in disbelief.

11. The greatest game ever played By Phillip J Grant

The game in question was the amazing Wales-New Zealand match in 1905 at Cardiff, around which a century’s worth of legends have grown. This is a fantastic, detailed and compelling life and times.

12. A rugby compendium: a guide to the literature of rugby union Compiled by John M Jenkins, literature reviewed by Huw Richards

Remarkable. Simply, this is a book listing and reviewing everything ever written about rugby – every kind of book, pamphlet and jigsaw, from the great authors to the humblest club century brochure. It is lively, too.

13. France – All Blacks, 100 ans de rencontres By Ian Borthwick

You have to speak French, because there is as yet no English translation. The French tend to fawn over the Kiwis like no other nation and this monumental production reports on every game between the two superpowers, with an account from every game from a key figure. Quite beautifully produced and handsome and well written by the Parisian Kiwi, Borthwick.

14. The history of the British and Irish Lions By Clem Thomas

Charming and bubbly and scholarly. The good news is that since the sad death of the much-missed old leviathan, Clem, the book is being revamped by Greg, his son.

15. The priceless gift: the international captains of Wales By Steve Lewis

Everyone to have lifted the chalice, sometimes poisoned, to his lips as Wales leader is profiled here. The busy author has also written One among equals, the story of all the England captains.

16. Change of Hart By John Hart and Paul Thomas

Most Test coaches would have you believe that they are touched by genius. Hart, the Kiwi coach when they won their first series in South

Africa in 1996, genuinely was and is. This is the story of his philosophy and the nest of vipers in which he had to work.

17. Seeing Red By Alun Carter

Brand new, odd and rather good. Carter was a long-time backroom man with the Wales team and is clearly a clever and decent man. There is good stuff here about Wales and parochialism, but also about the intrigue and tribulations and occasional nastiness of Wales under the reigns of Graham Henry, Steve Hansen, Mike Ruddock and Scott Johnson. You realise that the gagging order signed by Carter when he left the post and his natural charm have spared Hansen and Johnson a real going over.

18. Code breaker By Jonathan Davies and Peter Corrigan

This book made two appearances under different titles and reminds you of the horrible mess in Welsh rugby which Jonathan escaped when he left, unloved, for rugby league and also that Widnes, the club he joined, tried to play way out of their league. This man was a prince of Wales and is still vastly underrated. A true great and a solid tale.

19. Centre of excellence: the Jim Renwick story By Jim Renwick and David Barnes

Maybe it is not the greatest of all time but Renwick, the dazzling runner and a personal favourite of mine, brings back warm memories of a time of hard Border glories and a time when Scottish rugby knew what it was about. Today, post-Jimmy, it has no idea.

20. Gold, mud ‘n’ guts: the incredible Tom Richards By Greg Growden

A rather cheapskate effort by the publishers, with punctuation a disaster of seismic proportions. But Growden’s warm and loving tale of an Aussie war hero, Olympian and rugby great, all but forgotten, is superbly instructive about Richards and his era and his country.