Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

If you wanted to win the league, who would you coach? by David Clarke

Imagine you had any team or any player to choose from. Money was no object. Your only aim, to win the league you are in, or even, the World Cup.

Who would you coach? Who would you want in your team?

It would be interesting to pick a World XV now. Ok, there may be problems in gelling a team, but let’s say you had the Argentinean front row, the South African locks, the All Black back row, the Welsh half backs, the Australian midfield and the French back three. You would probably think you might beat any other team.

Looking at it another way, having the best players makes it easier to coach and to win a cup.

If that is true, then perhaps we should focus our coaching more towards coaching our players to be the best they can be, rather than spending lots of time on tactics and plays.

A balance has to be struck. Some coaches would say they don’t have the time or resources to develop players. Others with say that better players will emerge from the normal training processes anyway.

However endless team run throughs, and hours going through preplanned moves will not, in my opinion, develop what you really want: players reaching their personal potential. Your players playing at their utmost will achieve more.

Better Rugby Coaching

Will this be the way the Lions win in 2009? by David Clarke

Here are some of the key points drawn from the statistical analysis of the 2009 Six Nations tournament. It will be interesting to see if the Lions follow the success of the Irish team and adopt their tactics.

The full text is available at this link.

From the report by Corris Thomas, IRB:

This year, IRELAND won the Grand Slam for the first time in over 60 years and they achieved it by bringing a distinctive approach to this year’s championship.

Gone was the high passing team, low kicking team that characterised Ireland’s play in recent years and in came a far more controlled pattern of play that exerted constant pressure on the opposition. The following extracts from the following report illustrates the extent of this approach:

¨ Far from being the highest passing team as in the recent past, Ireland were the lowest both in number of passes and rate of passing
¨ In one match they made just 82 passes
¨ Very few Irish passing movements contained more than 3 passes. Only 1 passing movement in every 38 contained 3 or more passes, this compared to 1 in 15 for the other 5 teams.

The Irish effort was far more concentrated on tight play as the following illustrations show:

¨ They were among the highest rucking team and kicking team with the most successful ruck retention rate
¨ They were turned over only 7 times in almost 500 rucks and mauls, a ratio far better than any other team
¨ In a tournament of few mauls, Ireland mauled far more than any other team
¨ Of 7 maul turnovers, 6 were achieved by Ireland
¨ They conceded only 3 tries none of which started inside their own half
¨ Their forwards were the least likely to pass the ball – and often significantly less likely. Their back row, for example, passed the ball on only 13% of occasions while the back rows of the other 5 teams passed on no less than 35% of occasions.
¨ They kicked almost all restarts short thereby maintaining constant physical pressure on their opponents
¨ They were the most successful team in gaining possession on opposition lineouts and 75% of their tries came from lineout possession

This approach was complemented by other major factors
¨ 11 of their 12 tries were converted, making tries worth an invaluable 7 points
¨ They were the least penalised team
¨ They obtained more possession than their opponents in 4 of their 5 matches.

Better Rugby Coaching

Present your rugby coaching in the best possible way by David Clarke

You might have the best ideas or greatest knowledge, but if you don’t know how to present it, it can all be lost in translation.

Here are some fantastic ideas on presentations which you can adapt for your own coaching.

Better Rugby Coaching

The most vital coaching area with the lineout ELVs by David Clarke

The most important lineout ELV has changed back to the old law of matching numbers.

The other lineout ELVs, which are here to stay, removed the anomalies from beforehand. The player standing in the traditional defensive hooker position cannot lift, the receiver has to stand two metres from the line until the ball is thrown in and lifting (as if it wasn’t before) is allowed.

So we will have a return to shortened lineouts and all the variations they provided. Some teams at the top end of the game were using them anyway, despite the opposition being able to have any amount of players in the lineout.

The principles of good lifting and throwing remain, but there are lots of opportunities to win the lineout AND to use the rolling maul from the lineout.

And I think it is the last prospect that makes winning the lineout well even more interesting. You cannot maul from poor lineout. You have to win the ball cleanly and so it is good to get into space to make an uncontested catch. Then you have to transfer the ball away from the catcher before he is pulled over.

Right then, back to the shortened lineout variations and developing the rolling maul.

Better Rugby Coaching

How to rise in rugby coaching by David Clarke

Toby Booth
London Irish did not win the Guinness Premiership final. But the story of their coach, Toby Booth, makes inspirational reading.

Most top teams have former internationals at the helm. Booth rose from the lower regions of the pro league system. He built his career through working in less glamorous roles before gaining a reputation in age grade rugby.

His story is told in a recent interview with The Independent before the final.

Choosing the best rugby defence by David Clarke

Having sat in a couple of planning meetings recently on rugby defensive structures, it is clear that defensive tactics are not clear.

It makes for interesting debate and so I point you to one of the most popular posts on the Better Rugby Coaching forum, the Huddle for some good and detailed discussion.

No doubt someone will ask me to summarise the arguments, but the development of the debate adds a different dimension to the your own thought processes perhaps.

So if you want more on: the height of the best tackle, up and out, out and in, drift, blitz, how to train tackling, jackling and more then click on this link.

Better Rugby Coaching

IRB ELVs in force by 23 May, you must read this by David Clarke
May 15, 2009, 7:38 am
Filed under: ELVs, Rugby Coaching, Rugby News, Rugby Training

Unless you are currently in competition, the ELV changes that have been ratified will be in force from 23rd May onwards. Watch it first on the Lions Tour apparently.

Here is the IRB press release below, but the crucial link that really explains everything is here.

This is an excellent document to get inside what is meant by each amendment, including the recent changes to the ruck and tackle laws.

IRB press release:
The International Rugby Board Council today ratified recommendations made by the IRB Rugby Committee and approved 10 of the 13 global Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) for adoption into the Laws of the Game.

The recommendations were unanimously approved and the integrated set of Laws will be implemented globally from May 23 or from the start of the next domestic season where competitions transcend the implementation date.

In addition to the suite of global ELVs, three Union-specific ELVs were also approved for integration into Law. These include the ability for a Union to implement a maximum 15-minute half time in matches under its jurisdiction.

“One of the recommendations of the ELV Conference held in London at the end of March was the universal application of one set of Laws that govern the Game as soon as possible after Council. This was recommended by stakeholders from the international Game, including some of the world’s top Coaches, Referees and Administrators,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.

“The implementation date approved by the IRB Council achieves that goal and represents the most suitable application date. All international matches from May 23 onwards will be captured, while domestic and regional competitions played across the implementation date will be played under the current ELVs until their conclusion,” added Lapasset.

“Today’s announcement brings to an end the extensive global ELV consultation and evaluation process which began with the Conference on the Game in Auckland in January 2004. The IRB would like to sincerely thank its Member Unions for their participation in what has been an unprecedented review of the Laws of the Game,” added Lapasset.

The IRB’s Laws of the Game will be updated and available to view online in a range of languages at from Thursday, May 15.

ELVs adopted into Law

The following ELVs are to be adopted into Law:

Law 6 – Assistant Referees able to assist Referees in any way the Referee requires
Law 19 – If a team puts the ball back in their own 22 and the ball is subsequently kicked directly into touch there is no gain in ground
Law 19 – A quick throw may be thrown in straight or towards the throwing team’s goal line
Law 19 – The receiver at the lineout must be two metres back away from the lineout
Law 19 – The player who is in opposition to the player throwing in the ball must stand in the area between the five metre line and touch line and must be two metres from the line of touch and at least two metres from the lineout
Law 19 – Lineout players may pre-grip a jumper before the ball is thrown in
Law 19 – The lifting of lineout jumpers is permitted
Law 20 – Introduction of an offside line five metres behind the hindmost feet of the Scrum
Law 20 – Scrum half offside line at the Scrum
Law 20 – The corner posts are no longer considered to be touch in goal except when the ball is grounded against the post

Union-specific ELVs approved by Council:

Unions may implement rolling substitutions at defined levels of the Game

A Union having jurisdiction over a Game may implement a half time interval of not more than 15 minutes, but not at international level

A Union may implement the Under 19 Scrum Law Variation at a defined level of the Game under its jurisdiction

Better Rugby Coaching

Fun rugby skills game by David Clarke
May 14, 2009, 9:12 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Fitness

Last night I played a game called “Ragger” with my team. We must have played for over an hour and still they wanted more!

It is a version of an old game which is similar to the game of handball.

We put two double sized ruck pads about 30 metres apart and marked out a three metre exclusion circle around each one. Only one defender was allowed in the exclusion zone at any time.

We used a tiny rugby ball, but you could easily use a tennis ball. There were no boundaries (other than the exclusion zone). A goal was scored by the ball hitting the pad (from any angle) with the ball, though it had to touch the ground first.

A player could run and throw the ball in any direction, but if he was touched he had three seconds to pass the ball, and that had to be underarm. A dropped ball was a free ball; there was no kicking.

If an attacker went into the exclusion zone, the ball went to the defender in the exclusion zone. If a second defender went into the exclusion zone, then the attack had an indirect free throw two metres outside the exclusion zone.

It took about five minutes for the rules to become clear, but after that it was a great runaround.

Better Rugby Coaching

New ruling on the tackle area by David Clarke
May 13, 2009, 8:07 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, ELVs, Rugby Refereeing | Tags: , ,

Here is the latest ruling on the tackle area from the IRB:

Ruling Request from the NZRU and ARU Laws 15 and 16

Law 15 6 (b) states:
After a tackle any players on their feet may attempt to gain possession by taking the ball from the ball carrier’s possession.

Law 16.1 (b) states:
How can a ruck form? Players are on their feet. At least one player must be in physical contact with an opponent. The ball is on the ground.

Law 16.4 (b) states:
(b) Players must not handle the ball in a ruck.

When a player has complied with Law 15 6 (b), is on his feet and playing the ball after a tackle and is then joined by an opposition player on his feet so that the situation outlined in 16 1 (b) occurs, can the player who has complied with Law 15 6 (b) continue to play the ball with his hands or at what point does he have to release the ball? This does not appear to be covered by Law.


Law 15 6 (a) states: After a tackle, all other players must be on their feet when they play the ball.

Law 15.6 (b) reads: After a tackle any player on their feet may attempt to gain possession by taking the ball from the ball carriers possession.

Law 15 5 (e) states that: If opposition players who are on their feet, the tackled player must release the ball. This indicates that after a tackle a player on his feet may play the ball.

Law 16 1 (b) states: How can a ruck form? Players are on their feet. At least one player must be in physical contact with an opponent. The ball is on the ground.

Law 16.1 refers to a player from each side in physical contact over the ball and implies that the ball is not in the possession of any player.

Providing a player from either side on their feet after a tackle comply with all aspects of Law 15 and have the ball in their hands prior to contact with an opposition player on his feet those players may continue with possession of the ball even if a player from the opposition makes contact with those players in possession of the ball.

Any other players joining the two players contesting the ball must not handle the ball in accordance with Law 16.4 (b). If the ball is not in possession of any player after a tackle and a ruck is formed players may not use their hands in accordance with Law 16.4 (b).

The Ruling is effective from May 23 for the start of matches in the June window and after the close of any domestic or cross border competitions

Better Rugby Coaching

Team building for rugby needs fresh approach by David Clarke


David Melville runs a team building business.

He knows a thing or two about building a team and a winning team at that. He pulled together a disparate group to come third in 2004 / 05 Global Challenge Yacht Race. This race is a truly unique event: 12 yachts, with 17 amateurs and one professional skipper compete to be the first to sail around the world against the prevailing winds and currents. There is nothing that the sponsor can place onboard to make the boats go faster – this 9 month experience is a fascinating test of leadership and teamwork.

I interviewed him yesterday for an article in the International Rugby Technical Journal. In light of the Lions team building experiences, he has a lot to say on what really works for sports teams. It could change the way you think about your coaching.

One snippet worth considering: how do you react to criticism? In a 360 review, jargon for an open feedback session where players and coaches can “appraise” each other, the coaches often find the process even more demotivating than the players!

Have a look at his website for some of the stories of how he built his team.

Better Rugby Coaching