Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Day 28 of August pre season training tips: backline attack by David Clarke

August 28

Backline attack

Pre season is a good chance to clear the playbook of moves and start again.

Despite the desire to create or copy new moves, pre season training should be used to embed five or six core moves. Once they are in place, run them with lots of players in different positions. This helps players become more familiar with their own role and the roles of others in the moves.

I have a set of criteria to meet with all the moves:

B – break the tackle line
A – there must be a change of angle
X – eXecution must be 100%. Therefore it is no use using moves that cannot be executed at this level.
S – speed onto the ball for the penetrating player. Even if they are not going to get through the gap at least they challenge the defence.
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Day 27 of August pre season training tips: key laws by David Clarke
August 29, 2010, 8:47 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, ELVs | Tags: , , ,

August 27

Key laws

Most people know what a forward is, but dig down and you will find that many areas of detail of the game are lost in myth and mystery.

You need to be clear on all the laws before the season starts, so here is a little test for you…answers soon!

Do you know the following laws:
1. What is the correct binding for a loosehead prop on their opposition tighthead?
2. When can a jumper be lifted in the lineout?
3. What is a ruck?
4. What does the tackler have to do after the tackle?
5. If a defender is involved in a tackle, can they hold onto the ball in the tackle, even if they are on their feet?
6. When is a maul formed?
7. What can a player in front of his kicker do?
8. Can a player drag an opposition player into a ruck?
9. When is the ball out of the ruck?

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Day 26 of August pre season training tips: day of rest!? by David Clarke

August 26

Day of rest

You know you have a long season ahead. But your players will forget that as they throw themselves around in an attempt to be ready for the season.

Can you afford to have a day of rest? Well, unless you are a professional team, you are likely not to see the players every day of the week. But, you can still help them manage their levels of workload so they can be fit and ready for the season.

1. Honesty diary: have them write out their previous week’s activity. They should include any training outside club training, plus any other sporting activity. They should say if they have been out or had late nights. Frankly, some will lie (if not most!). But the focus helps them see the week in the context of playing a game.
2. From the honesty diary you can give them a fair idea of whether should up their training levels, and where they should be resting. The diary also gives you a better idea of their lifestyles.
3. A day of rest is a day when no training takes place and the players keep off their feet as much as their working/school lives allow them.
4. Publish a diary or schedule of events up to the first game of the season. This gives them a better idea of how to plan their week to make sure they have not done too much at the wrong end of the week.


Make sure you have a day of rest. If you are like me, then you will be so excited before the start of the season that you do not rest your mind from rugby. It is a long season ahead, and you need to keep your own rugby energy levels up.

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Day 25 of August pre season training tips: weights by David Clarke

August 25


I am not going to be giving specific weights programmes in this post. There are three good reasons. First, players have different access to gym facilities. Second, every player has different needs that require specific programmes to match their position. And last, weights should be used under supervision.

What I can tell you is this:
1. You need to encourage excellent habits when using weights and being in the gym. If you are not a qualified conditioner yourself, the players should be taking advice from someone else who has the team’s interests at heart.
2. You need to help plan when players use the gym. But don’t be rigid. I know top players who have done weights on the morning of the match! Obviously it did not fatigue them and it was a personal preference.
3. Pre season is a time when the players can lift heavier weights than during the season. They are in a “growing” stage of the year, whereas during the season they are in a maintenance stage.

And when can young players start lifting weights? As early as you want according to the research BUT under strict guidelines, which in the main help youngsters develop good techniques, and not lift heavy weights.

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Day 24 of the August pre season training tips: attack by David Clarke

August 24


Good attack requires good core skills. Your core skills also defines your ambition. Attack with your strengths.

Coaching attack means how you intend to take the ball forward. In pre season, split your attack training into three areas:

1. Attack through the opposition: using plays, moves and techniques to smash through the defensive lines. Training should be against an organised defensive line of players.
2. Attack around the opposition: training against a defence that has spaces on the edges. Reduce the number of defenders the players face in exercises to encourage more passing to spaces.
3. Attack to disorganise a defence: either by using kicks or quick rucks to break up the defensive line.

All attack exercises must be against a live defence as soon as possible to add realism and create the right circumstances.

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Day 23 of August pre season training tips: defence by David Clarke

August 23


Pre season is good time to set out your defence principles. Start with the basics at the key areas and then develop them as the season progresses.

Defence is how your players align themselves from a static situation like a set piece or breakdown. It is also how they move once the ball is released.

Here is the running order of importance:
1. Ruck defence. There are more rucks than any other static situation. You need to decide how to cover the fringes of the ruck and then how line up from there. More time should be spent on this organisation than all the other defence areas put together.
2. Scrum defence. Probably there will be more scrums than lineouts, so this is the next most important area. Things to consider: where does the scrum half go, what are the roles of the back row, where does the 10 stand in relation to the scrum, where should the wingers go.
3. Lineout defence. Here you want to think about the connection between the back of the lineout and the 10.
4. Kick return defence. When your team kick the ball, apart from the chasers, how will you cover the backfield.
5. Maul defence. If there is a maul close to your line, then how will you defend?
6. Red zone defence. If they have the ball in your 22m area, will your ruck and set piece defence change? For instance, will you bring your wingers up?

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Day 22 of August pre season training tips: our team by David Clarke

August 22

Our team

Pre season is a good time to bond the team as a unit. Here are five ways you can do this.

1. Put players into groups of three or four training buddies. They can encourage each other to turn up, warm up and look after each other off the field. One of the players could be a senior player and another new player.
2. Outline your principles from the start of pre season, and then reiterate them throughout the pre season period. Keep your behaviour to your principles and so keep consistency.
3. Let the players add a principle a week, which is realistic. For instance, turning up on time or being ready for training. Remind them of the principles each week.
4. Set targets for the “way we play” rather than winning or losing. Players can control improvements in strength, speed and skill, but not whether the opposition are any good or not.
5. Be clear when players need to switch onto training hard, be more light hearted or rest. The players can work together to increase the intensity when they need to increase it, and you need not have to shout at them to do so.

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Day 21 of August pre season training tips: selection by David Clarke

August 21
Selection in pre season

There is a dilemma in pre season over running moves and plays as teams. Do you give everyone a fair chance by rotating the players, or do concentrate on your strongest players.
My experience is this:
1. Players respond to challenges. Therefore it is better to mix up the teams and units and become familiar with different levels of competency.
2. Better players can develop weaker players. Plus, given some responsibility to do this, help develop their own understanding of the game.
3. Players get injured. You have more chance of building confidence in potential replacements in pre season than in the hurly burly of the main season.
4. Mixing players up does cause execution issues of exercises. If a weaker player cannot perform certain functions, it can lead frustration and the exercise falling apart. If this is happening, modify the exercise to suit this player, but ask better players to perform more complicated actions.
5. Be honest and open when you are going to try out potential “A team” combinations. Players will have to get used to each other at some stage. It also provides motivation to try harder for those players who believe they should be in the combination.

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Day twenty of the August pre season training tips: warm down by David Clarke

August 20

Warm down

Pre season is a good time work on helping players maintain good habits. After each session, though the temptation will be to jump in the car and go, it is important to have some form of warm down.

Think of warm down as part of the recovery process towards being in better shape for the next session. There are several ways you can help your players warm down effectively.

1. Finish the session with “static” stretches to the large muscle groups. Static stretches are held extensions of the muscles. The large muscles groups are mainly the legs and back.
2. Use some gentle jogging.
3. Encourage the players to take a cold shower. Use an ice bath set up, if you have one (and if you do, you will have an understanding of the timings involved).
4. Ask the players to invest in some compression tights.
5. Encourage the players to be off their feet as much as possible the day after a very heavy session.

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Day nineteen of August pre season training tips: water by David Clarke
August 21, 2010, 9:16 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Fitness | Tags: , , , ,

August 19


15. Water

Whatever the weather, players must drink. However too much water and they can reduce the effectiveness of the energy systems in their body.

A player who has not drunk enough water will be more tired and less speedy than a properly hydrated player.

Here are five tips for you and your players in pre season to be in tune with hydration.

1. Weigh the players in their pants before and after training. Note down the weights before and after to note the percentage loss due to sweat. Too great a loss and not enough water is being taken on.
2. Players should start drinking water long before training starts. They should be thinking they need to have had a couple of large glasses of water before coming to training.
3. Players should start the day with a couple of large glasses of water, but then spend the rest of the day sipping water.
4. A good guide to hydration is that a player’s urine is pale yellow (not clear).
5. It is okay to drink tea and coffee. However, since these are diuretics, that is enhance dehydration, so an equal amount of water should be drunk to balance this.

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