Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Day in the life of a top rugby player by David Clarke
September 29, 2009, 7:55 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Fitness, Rugby Skills | Tags: , , ,

Openside flanker Tanuerau Latimer, or “Lats”, gives us an insight into some of the training he does with the All Blacks.

I have followed Lats’ career with special interest after I coached him for half a season when he came over on a rugby exchange at the school I used to teach at. He was only 15, but his playing ability and strength was outstanding. He didn’t look big on the pitch, but few will forget being tackled by him.

What impressed me most about him:
1. His dedication to his personal health and welfare.
2. His constant strive to find better ways to win at the breakdown.
3. His demeanour on and off the pitch. He was calm and yet ruthless.

He loved playing rugby. He inspired others around him. I can only say that I facilitated his development in the short time I was coaching him.

Better Rugby Coaching


Tackle shield drills and ideas by David Clarke

Here is a clip from a company who make tackle shields called Centurion.

There are some interesting ideas on how to utilise bags for tackling and rucking drills.

Better Rugby Coaching

Coaching is sometimes sudden by David Clarke
September 24, 2009, 8:30 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Coaching, Rugby Training | Tags: , ,

I work hard to be planned for every session. It helps that I write about rugby coaching all the time, so I am in an ideal position to consider my sessions. I also know that I need to do it to write about it. Not every goes to plan though.


As the session goes along, you know that there are “controllables” and “uncontrollables”. A controllable might be timing of the exercises, equipment, your input. Uncontrollables could be the players’ reactions, the weather or injuries.

Reacting to the uncontrollables is a defining part of being a coach. You assimulate the information, and choose how, or even whether to intervene. That intervention can be crucial. “Stop” might be appropriate in a safety issue. It might also be inappropriate in a learning environment. Let the player identify the consequences.

Coaching is sometimes sudden because you have not planned or considered the possible uncontrollable. It is a reaction to a question or action that surprises you. For instance, “Why do I have to do that?” or an attack session turns into a defence session because your defenders cannot be effective enough.

This suddeness is exhilarating. Or scary. Or both. In my mind, it picks the difference between an experienced, balanced coach and someone still learning the ropes. The former might not come up with the best answer, but they will do so far more regularly.

Better Rugby Coaching

Coaching kicks the natural way by David Clarke
September 23, 2009, 12:31 pm
Filed under: Better Rugby Blog Guests, Dan Cottrell | Tags: , ,

A piece taken from the BBC Sport Website

Williams takes Bath kicking role

Bath have appointed Welshman Rowly Williams as their new kicking coach.

Williams was previously with Wasps and Harlequins. He has also worked in Rugby League with Wigan Warriors.

“I’ll be doing some individual profiling then finding out what their needs and concerns are,” Williams told BBC Radio Bristol.

Head coach Steve Meehan added: “Rowly’s a welcome addition. He has been involved with winning teams. I’m sure that will rub off in a positive way.”

It’s the guys out there doing it. It’s my role to create an environment that allows them to get the best out of themselves

Butch James, Nicky Little, Olly Barkley and Ryan Davis will all benefit from Williams’ knowledge and experience.

Williams intends to develop and improve the individual styles: “I am not some one who believes ‘one size fits all.’

“There is too much going on in the individual dynamic of each player to force him to kick in a particular way.

“I just get them to concentrate on their process so they kick correctly. I will work around the player.

“The credit will always be the players. It’s important to recognise it’s the guys out there doing it.

“It’s my role to create an environment that allows them to get the best out of themselves.”

Better Rugby Coaching

Busy rugby five days and what have I learned by David Clarke

From Wednesday through to Sunday, I coached, watched and refereed rugby every day. Not unusual, but I thought I would draw breath to reflect on the three things I learned over those days.

1. Competitive nature is a force on the edge of good
2. Coaching is sometimes sudden
3. Refereeing is a thankless task, despite the thanks

Train as you play is a motto of a number of coaches. It adds pressure and motivates players to work harder. Older players may find themselves “cheating” in training to gain an advantage. How far you go to stop that is an interesting ethical debate.

More worrying, the over competitive child, who cannot control his edge. It can make him win the 50:50 possession, break a tackle, drive over to score. However he can find it difficult to accept losing. This manifests itself in arguing over decisions, whether they are right or wrong.

Striking the balance, for young and old, is a tricky coaching dilemma. Better to be in that situation than have no edge. Hard to manage though.

More on points 2 and 3 over the next few days.

Better Rugby Coaching

Backline play by Eddie Jones by David Clarke

From the IRB Total Rugby programme, here is Eddie Jones, international coach formerly with Australia and South African back play.

“Well the basic difference in philosophy of backline play is the alignment that the backline sets itself. Generally speaking there are two types of alignment – the flat alignment which Australian sides and sometimes the New Zealand sides play and then you have the deeper wider alignment which the European sides have tended to play.”
On the aims of the flat alignment…
“Australian backlines have always traditionally preferred the flat line of attack where we attempt to fix the 10 and 12 defenders and make sure that they can’t drift quickly. We try to play the ball right at the line, our 10 and 12 have to be very good ball players and then we rely on making their 13 make a decision in terms of who he is going to defend against.”
On the aims of the deep alignment…
Most of the European sides use this. We won’t run it straight, we will tend to drift across the field on this play and what we are relying on is pace on the outside to get around the opposition. This sort of attack increasingly has become more difficult to execute because of the fact that defences are so good at drifting. So sides that have got really quick outside backs can play off a deeper alignment. New Zealand have played like that, where they have had a really fast 11, 13, 15 and 14 where they can actually gas you on the outside.”
On a classic move called the ‘Haileybury’ – one used by the Brumbies…
“What we are trying to do here is to fix the 10 and 12 defender. To make them make that decision. So we are going to take the ball right to the line. Sides over the last 10 years have used it pretty successfully – and South Africa scored a fantastic try against Samoa in their first World Cup game [last year].”
On a classic move called ‘Bulls’… “With the ELVs it’s created exciting opportunities from scrums with the defence back five metres. One of the particularly popular moves from a left-side scrum is being able to attack inside the 10. So here the eight will pick to nine and the nine will then go to the line and attack their 10 and have options off it. This play has got about four or five difference options we can use.”
“In the summer the All Blacks scored a try with Sivivatu off this play. Exactly the same play, chopping back on the inside of the 10, I think it was Hodgson at the time … it’s a very effective play.”
“The beauty of this play is that the base play looks the same, but we can play any number of options there and it’s about the skill of the players to be able to see what the defence is doing and then pick the best option available.”
On the most important element of back play…
“The important thing about backline play in rugby at the moment is to have a consistent philosophy – whether it be a flat line or a deep line – and then be able to execute plays, base plays that have a number of options and to make sure that those plays look the same all the time. The ability to play different options is up to the skill of the players and the decision-making of the players.
Better Rugby Coaching

More New Zealanders playing rugby by David Clarke


Community rugby is alive and thriving with a total 145,472 players signing up to play rugby in New Zealand – a four per cent increase on last year’s total.

The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) has today announced its player numbers for 2009. The total number of players in 2009 represents an annual increase of 5,193 players registered with New Zealand’s 26 Provincial Unions (PUs).

One of the biggest increases comes in the under 13 age group with a six per cent growth in this area. NZRU General Manager Community Rugby Brent Anderson welcomed the increase as a positive sign that rugby is continuing to have an important place in New Zealand communities.

“Following last year’s small increase, this year’s four per cent increase is great news after a year of many challenges. The increase is a testament to the initiatives in the Community Rugby Plan and the ongoing hard work of our PUs to deliver the game to their communities,” Mr Anderson said.

“Opportunities are being provided for kids to enter the game via our Small Blacks and Rippa Rugby programmes and the kids are availing themselves of these opportunities.

“While players in the 13-20 year age group are down slightly (down one per cent), players in the over 21 age group have increased four per cent and this highlights the ongoing need to focus on teenagers given the choices they now have. The increase in players aged 21 and over is great news for clubs around the country.”

Mr Anderson was especially pleased with the 23 per cent increase in registered administrators and volunteers.

“A concerted effort was made to capture the details of the many people who give up their time, so they can benefit from Rugby World Cup 2011 ticketing offers and more than a 1000 have opted to do so.

“Rugby at the community level has had a very strong feel about it this year, reflected in the reports of increased interest and spectators at schools and club games and evidenced by the pleasing increase in numbers.

“What is important now is that we build on this growth to ensure rugby at all levels is strong, positive and continuing to give New Zealanders a great experience,” Mr Anderson said.

Better Rugby Coaching