Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Is it the drill, the players or the coach? by David Clarke
August 31, 2009, 8:31 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Skills, Rugby Training | Tags: , ,

Watch this drill. If it was shot for a commercial video, it would look slick and fast.

However, it is six minutes of pain!

Is it the drill? Well, it is a nice looking drill that is well executed when the right skills are used. But it breaks down easily if they are not executed well. It just takes one bad domino not to fall the right way for things to grind to halt.

Is it the players? The drill comes from Youtube and the comments make for interesting reading. A centre or 10 would be happy with this type of drill. A flanker less so. This set of players are patently not up to this skill at this stage of their development.

Is it the coach? I don’t know the coach, but he knows his technical stuff. In front of an audience, the heat is on. You have to give the coaches something a little different to what they see normally. Unfortunately things don’t work out. I have some sympathy for this. One of my own Level 3 sessions was filmed. One of the drills I used went completely wrong and it felt terrible. Mind you that was back in 1998!

What do you think?

Better Rugby Coaching

Breaking down the breakdown by David Clarke

Here is a session plan for coaching the breakdown.

1. Warm up
Prepare players for contact with wrestling and low impact contact games.
2. Stage 1 breakdown
Split the players into three groups. In each group, the players will practise the front, side and rear tackle.
Put a pairs of players in a 5m box with the starting points dependent on the type of tackle. Starting a jogging pace, the ball carrier moves across the box, and gets tackled. The tackler must recover his feet to gather the ball. Increase the pace. Rotate the boxes.
3. Stage 2 breakdown
In each box, put a third player at one of the corners, who is on the side of the ball carrier. Once the tackle is made, he can join the breakdown.
Again rotate the groups between the types of tackle.
Finally change the third player from an attacker to a defender.
4. Stage 3 breakdown
Bring all the groups together. Mark out a 10m box around one of the 5m boxes. Put an attacker with a ball and defender inside the 5m box and two more of each on any of the corners of the 10m box. Adjusting the ball carrier’s position, make the defender perform a side, front or rear tackle. On your signal release the other players.
Rotate and swap players.
5. Breakdown game
Split into groups of six. Put two groups inside a 30m box. Make them play touch rugby (any version). On your whistle, the game becomes “live”. The team that scores, or doesn’t infringe stays on, and the next group comes on.

For more detailed sessions visit the Smart Sessions website.

Better Rugby Coaching

Attack into defence by David Clarke

Here is a rugby drill I did about three years ago. It is easy to set up and works on players making the transition from defence to attack. It is a Smart Session.

Better Rugby Coaching

Aggressive players come from aggressive coaches by David Clarke

Research in a leading sports journal suggests that an aggressive player in youth sport is likely to come from a team that is aggressive.

If it is the norm for the team to do it, so will the individual. The research also highlights a positive link between the nature of the coach and aggressive behaviour.

It suggests that the team member can take on some of the personna of the coach. If they have a tendency to aggression, this excerbates any agressive behaviour already in the player, perhaps making it worse.

Individual, Team, and Coach Predictors of Players’ Likelihood to Aggress in Youth Soccer
Graig M. Chow, Kristen E. Murray, Deborah Feltz
pages 425–443
Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology
Volume 31, Issue 4 (August 2009)
Better Rugby Coaching

Do you know what you can do at the maul by David Clarke
August 19, 2009, 8:37 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, ELVs, Rugby Refereeing | Tags: , , ,

Here are the guidelines set out by the IRB from their website.

An excellent link,
it shows videos of what is happening at the maul.
Here is another video from the IRB to look at as well.

In summary from their PDF:
The maul must be formed so that the opposition can contest the maul at the formation; this includes
the formation of the maul at a lineout and from a maul formed after kick-offs or restart kicks. (Match
Officials were instructed to apply this from May 2009 – a DVD was circulated to all match elite match
officials and Referee Managers.) Mauls from open play should be refereed in the same way as mauls
formed at lineouts or from restart kicks.
A player may have both hands on the ball and be bound into the maul by other players involved in the
If a player takes the ball in a formed maul and detaches whilst the players in the maul continue going
forward, they are obstructing the opposition if that player continues moving forward using the players
in front as a shield.
If the ball carrying team in the maul is moved backwards at or immediately after the formation, Law 17
(d) and (e) should apply :
“(d) When a maul has stopped moving forward for more than five seconds, but the ball is being moved
and the referee can see it, a reasonable time is allowed for the ball to emerge. If it does not emerge
within a reasonable time, a scrum is ordered.
(e) When a maul has stopped moving forward it may start moving forward again providing it does so
within 5 seconds. If the maul stops moving forward a second time and if the ball is being moved and
the referee can see it, a reasonable time is allowed for the ball to emerge. If it does not emerge
within a reasonable time, a scrum is ordered.”
If the maul is moved backwards, match officials currently do not apply Law 17 (d) at the maul formation. If they did so
it would only allow one more movement forward and it may encourage the non-ball-carrying side to commit to the maul
at its formation.
Match officials also permit mauls to move sideways and do not apply 17 (d) and (e). Strict application may assist.
If the referee says “use it” the ball must be used and restarting the maul is not an option.
The concern about ‘truck and trailer’ is not about the ball being one or two players back from the ball
carrier when the maul is moving forward, as that replicates a scrum. The concern is about the player
‘hanging’ on the back of the maul. Strict application of the definition of a bind may assist in resolving
this issue:
“Binding. Grasping firmly another player’s body between shoulders and the hips with the whole arm in
contact from hand to shoulder”.
If the ball carrier player does not bind in this way, the maul is considered to be over match officials insist the ball is
used. If the player rejoins and binds on the players in front, the team should be penalised for obstruction. This may
encourage players to bind appropriately.
Better Rugby Coaching

Middlesex Sevens by David Clarke

red card
There was only one red card at the 2009 Middlesex Sevens. Wayne Barnes, the All Blacks’ favourite referee, showed no mercy to a young lady who had decided to run the length of the pitch.

That she was wearing no top didn’t prevent the young English referee sending her to an early bath.

I was there at the Sevens as a guest of the Samurai International team, who eventually lost in the final to London Irish. The Irish fielded their best international team. Sevens will be getting bigger in the next few years because it is only one step away from the 2016 Olympics and there are rumours that it might make an appearance as a demonstration sport in the London Olympics.

Some exciting news coming from Better Rugby Coaching in the very near future.
Better Rugby Coaching

Body angle and placement drill by David Clarke

Western Force, a Super 14 franchise in Australia, have produced an excellent series of videos on their website.

Here is an exercise which can be used as part of a contact session. I think it will take you about three minutes to use in the session as it is, but you can then develop it with more defenders and attackers.

Better Rugby Coaching

Fitness for rugby is overrated by David Clarke
August 12, 2009, 8:45 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Fitness | Tags: , ,

You are constantly facing a dilemma at training. Unless you are working with a semi-pro or fully professional team, it is unlikely you have any direct supervision over the players’ fitness training. So you have to either trust that fitness will be done outside training, or make fitness a part of your session.

Some coaches will swear by a vigorous fitness preseason, where the players spend more time running and pushing than working on skills. The hybrid coach will have more skills work. And any other coach is just a fool?

Personally, I have been through a number of regimes. There are hills on the outskirts of Bristol that I never want to see the bottom of.

However I was superfit at the start of some of the seasons, injury permitting. And yet the first couple of games were excruciatingly hard work on the lungs. My legs felt like lead and it seemed that no amount of training had been effective.

Then someone said to me that I didn’t run up hills on the pitch, or run backwards and forwards constantly for five minutes. As a winger I probably did about 20 full on sprints, made about 20 contacts and some other bits and pieces, plus some running to get into position. Easy work in comparison to the forwards of course, but their conclusions were the same

I am still saying there is value in aerobic conditioning or weights programmes. However, and this is the key, all the programmes have to be specific to the player’s position and the player in question. If you are going to be using training for some or all of your fitness, make it individual. Or put it another way. Make any unit skills session highly intentive and game related. Then the players will be replicating what happens on the pitch, skills and fitness wise.

Don’t get the players fit for rugby, get them rugby fit.

Better Rugby Coaching

Should we pity the rugby referee? by David Clarke
August 11, 2009, 8:30 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, ELVs, Rugby Refereeing | Tags: , , ,

rugby referee
First, before I even start, we need to remember we are all in this together. Without each constituent part of the game, we would not be able to even venture onto the pitch.

Does that mean that refereees should be free of criticism? Of course not, and I don’t know many who would say otherwise. On the other hand there is a time and place for criticism, just as there is with the players.

I feel a certain amount of pity for referees at the moment. The new season in the Northern Hemisphere is almost upon us and watching the New Zealand club competition, I see plenty of interpretation.

There are new laws in place, and emphasis on others. The referees at all levels are under pressure to get these areas correct AND the normal laws of the game whilst the players and coaches are conspiring to outwit both the opposition and the referee.

In fact some referees will admit that some laws will be refereed hard in the first few months and then things will revert to the old ways.

That is not the only problem. Speaking to some coaches over the weekend, referees at the lower level are not so well informed. So whilst the coach and team might be playing to the current rulings, the poor old (and young) referee is struggling to cope with the old set of laws.

I suppose patience is a particularly useful virtue. It is a tough dish to swallow when you are losing a spicy game to some rotten decisions.

You can score backs tries from lineouts by David Clarke

It is often said that defence wins rugby games. South Africa’s win against Australia this weekend in the Tri Nations goes along way to prove that point.

Ironically, Australia scored more tries, but they could not break the Springbok defensive stranglehold. There was simply no room for the Aussies, and they made handling errors, gave away penalities and had three yellow cards. The Springboks played a terrority game, kicking into the corners and pressurising the Australians into running out towards an agressive defensive line.

However, there was a good example of how teams can score tries from first phase lineout ball. Against the much vaunted South African lineout defence, throwing to anywhere but the front of lineout can mean lost ball. Front ball is not such good attacking ball.

BUtthe Wallabies did throw to the front. Instead of passing straight out to the backs, 9 passed to 7 (George Smith) who had dropped off the back of the lineout. He attacked the backline, acting as a sort of 9 and a half. Using a simple backs move to hold the midfield, the ball was spun out to allow a one-on-one for the full back. His momentum and good footwork took him over the line. Watch in the first few minutes of this clip.