Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Why detail counts by David Clarke
January 13, 2009, 9:52 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Skills, Rugby Training

Rugby gripPassing out of the tackle

There is a debate in rugby at the moment about “skills” and “rugby” coaching. Too much spent on one means a deficit of the other. Some professional sides are spending so much time on skills they are forgetting how to play rugby. Too many amateur and youth sides are concentrating on rugby, and not building a base of skills.

I like to think that skills training is an investment in the future. Players will not grow in the long run unless they have a good understanding of the fundamentals. The full range of skills can also not be taught in a season. They have to be nutured over the player’s growth cycle, adding layers to a core.

But a player also needs to play at the weekend. The application of skills leads to playing experiences which shape decisions. It motivates the player, allowing him to justify the skills work and seek to learn more in the future.

Since the majority of us don’t coach full time teams, we tend to concentrate on the “rugby”, the plays and plans to win games. In fact, we should spend more time on the skills. And by this I mean: The detail.

Look again at this stunning action picture and pick out the detail of the contact skills by the ball carrier. As a skills coach I like to work from top to bottom, identifying the mechanical areas the player can control.


1. Head

2. Shoulders

3. Arms

4. Hands

5. Hips (core)

6. Knees

7. Feet

Then tie this into:

1. Balance

2. Force

3. Accuracy

Do the processes involved lead to the right or preferred outcome?

Of course there are other details to look for, but at least we have a good starting point.


1 Comment so far
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Assuming the skills have been adequately coached in the beginning; if the player(s) mis-performs the skill in the game once, then the fault lies with the player. If the failure is constant, then the coach picks up the baton, and revisits the skill. The problem for the coach is; did the player fail in the application because the skill is too difficult, or because the player did not apply the mental skills to perform the skill? Wayne Smith said he spends all his time asking players that very question.
But even superb skills will not win games if the mind and body are not in tune. Usually – almost always – the bigger stronger teams win rugby matches, and when they are equal, only then does the difference in skill provides the gap.

Comment by Steve Johnson

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