Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching


Learning from other sports (5) by David Clarke

American Football and Aussie Rules

Amercian Football

I have put two “national” sports together because they are not widely played elsewhere in the world. I know there is an American Football League in Europe and there are pick up games of Aussie Rules played in places like London, but the reality is that these sports are very closely associated from their countries of origin.

Each game has a strong cultural bias and most of the key thinking comes only from those countries. In that sense they lack a global perspective. It does not mean that rugby cannot learn much from their coaching processes and techniques.

Enough of why I put them together, what can we learn from them.

Aussie Rules

Aussie Rules

Kicking. The game’s main means of transferring the ball and the only way to score points is through the use of the “drop punt”. This kick is dropped onto the striking foot so the end is kicked and there is no spiral. The result is a straighter kick than a spiral kick and an easy ball to catch. Remember these players are aiming for their team mates to catch the ball.

Catching. I think that Rugby Union is beginning to employ the hands above style of catch used in Aussie Rules more and more. For kick off receipts, it is the method most commonly used by second rows. For cross kicks, it helps the jumper reach the ball before his opponent. The height of the jump and style of jumping is a key element in this.

American Football

Tackling. Despite the “padding”, tackling in American Football still needs to be as technically efficient as a rugby tackle. Though the ball carrier rarely offloads the ball, the tackle has to bring the player to the ground. It is well worth looking at the footwork required and head position. For some further thoughts see Philip Copeman’s Iron rugby site.

Footwork. Avoiding contact and making effective contact needs footwork which was way ahead of the game of rugby for many years. We are catching up, but could still learn more. Better body shapes for contact come from a strong base.

Kicking. The punting style in American Football was adopted by Dave Alred who then coached Jonny Wilkinson, plus other top kickers.

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