Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

NZ thrill for Sevens Commonwealth games title, but don’t biggest cheer by David Clarke

The biggest cheer at the Commonwealth games sevens came when the charismatic Indian sevens captain, Nasser Hussain scored their only try in their first game.

Indian rugby is not a world force. But sevens can offer a way in for smaller nations to compete. Samoa and Fiji have been able to express themselves on the sevens stage as equals whereas they often struggle in the 15-a-side game.

The game is just as physical, so it makes sense to use sevens as part of your training regimes and not just some “fun” when the sun comes out. It might a good change from rugby drills or rugby fitness training.

In the end, the Commonwealth Games sevens was won by New Zealand. They have not been at their strongest this year and Australia and ran them close. But great rugby to watch. If I can find some highlights, I will post them soon.

Bring on the Olympics!

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Too clever, not clever and funny rugby skills by David Clarke
October 1, 2010, 5:51 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Skills, Rugby Training | Tags: , , ,

The Aussie Super 15 the Brumbies show little respect for the video tricks of the All Blacks. Both great videos though.

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How to coach a small team at international level by David Clarke

All Black legend John Kirwan, who also coached Italy, reveals how he aims to make Japan more successful on the international stage, despite their relative size disadvantage.

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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.

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Is Graham Henry any good? by David Clarke

Here is an excellent piece from Voxy, a New Zealand website.

All Blacks Need ‘Full Monty’ Not Marvin The Robot Home

Dave Griffith Monday, 14 September, 2009 – 13:48

What has Graham Henry got in common with Marvin the Paranoid Android and General Montgomery? He is all ‘Marvin’ and no ‘Monty’.

In the North African desert during the Second World War, the British 8th Army was on the verge of collapse. The Germans and Italian Afrika Korps under Rommel had driven them back to the Egyptian border. The 8th Army’s men and equipment were as good as the Africa Korps, but they were weak in leadership. None of their previous commanders could outsmart Rommel, and troop morale was low. Plans were already being made to retreat down the Nile River.

The British commanders did a better job of talking up Rommel than Goebbels did, which was quite an achievement. How were soldiers supposed to win when their commanders at all levels kept praising the opposition?

In stepped Montgomery. He wasn’t the first or second choice for the job, but in he came. Immediately he announced that there would be no more retreat. The army would stand and fight where they stood at El Alamein. He set about getting better equipment from the Americans and trained his men in his simple battle plan. Knowing the attack would be renewed soon, he had to get his army to hold the line, and hold it they did. This gave self belief. More men and equipment came in and when the 1000 gun barrage opened up on the Afrika Korps three months later, the 8th Army drove them back all the way to final defeat in Tunisia.

They were not as tactically brilliant as the Afrika Korps, but they played to their strengths and that was good enough to grind out a win. Monty had his faults but his men loved him for believing in them and guiding them to victory.

Douglas Adams gave us Marvin the paranoid android, the ever depressed comical presence in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Marvin’s problem was that he was so smart that he got depressed that he only got to ever use a fraction of his intellectual capacity.

Graham Henry used to be a bit like that. He always gave the impression that he had super intelligence when it came to rugby coaching. Being forced to explain his plans to the media and grass roots rugby fans in terms we could understand was an unnecessary hardship for him. How could mere mortals hope to understand his brilliance?

Graham backed up his ‘superior airs’ with results. Four years ago the All Blacks were the undisputed masters of World Rugby. Then came rotation and conditioning in abundance. Critical voices were swatted away. The Quarter Final exit at the 2007 World Cup should have spelt the end for Henry but he was reappointed. Now two years down the track the All Blacks find themselves comprehensively knocked off the top perch.

Graham has allowed himself to slide into a Marvin like state of fatalistic depression. It took Marvin thousands of years to perfect his depressed state. Graham has achieved it in less than a year. Previously it took Graham months to admit that there was the possibility he had got something wrong. Now he is admitting it at half time in a test match. When it gets to that stage it is no wonder the All Blacks have no confidence left in the game plan. They were out their trying their hardest and the white flag was already being raised.

Faced with defeat the All Blacks threw out the plan and had a go. They almost pulled it off too. I have seen that before in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. The Welsh team coached by Hansen claimed they had no faith in the game plan and went out and had a crack at the All Blacks as a team, only losing in the last 10 minutes.

The All Blacks have the talent but they have been over drilled and tied up in knots. The coaches and Captain spend more time talking up the opposition than ever before in our rugby history. When the focus is on the opposition then we are stuffed before we start.

The High Command at NZRFU needs to admit that the current coaching set-up is no longer working. They need to have the courage to appoint a ‘Montgomery’ style coach. He was a nobody plucked from ‘left field’ who transformed a beaten army into a winning one by believing in them, giving them a battle plan that played to their strengths and training them to carry it out.

Peter de Villiers for all his theatrics has done just that. He has created a good team environment, with a game plan the players believe in, and the results have come.

There are good coaches in New Zealand rugby who would do a better job than the current set-up. It is time one of them was given a chance.

Playing Donald out of position at second five echoed past position switch failures like Christian Cullen at centre in the 1999 World Cup and Leon MacDonald at centre in the 2003 World Cup. Steven Donald wasn’t experienced enough for the second five role. There are a number of good second fives in kiwi rugby, but instead we put in a player out of position. This gave the Springboks an instant weak link to exploit – which they did.

Graham, when I listen to you and all I hear is Marvin the robot telling me how great the Springboks are and what the All Blacks failed to do. It signals that its time you went and coached Italy.

For the All Blacks fans we need to see the ‘Full Monty’. Give us a coach who believes in his players and the core values of All Black rugby. We don’t care if he hasn’t coached Wales before, we just want someone who believes they can win and has got a plan to achieve it. Like the players we will follow. Win or lose it has got to be better than this.

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Why great players make great role models by David Clarke
April 9, 2009, 12:31 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Team Management | Tags: , , , ,

Marty Holah
Sometimes a great player comes along and yet is still eclipsed by a true great. Imagine if you were the openside flanker who played in the same era as Michael Jones or Richie McCaw, two of the greats of All Black rugby. Well Marty Holah is one of those. He still managed to get over 30 caps, in spite of McCaw.

He now plays his rugby in South West Wales for the Ospreys.

I know him a little through my work at the Ospreys as a skills coach with some of the age grade players. His work ethic is outstanding. One would expect that though.

However I saw what makes him a great role model. My son’s U13 side had a presentation evening. It had a quiz, raffle, some of the boys played some songs in a band, speeches, cups and cabbages!

Marty, along with Ian Gough, the Wales lock forward, were there to help present the awards. They smiled, chatted, got involved and didn’t look to sneak off at the end of the evening. Their warm demeanour prevaded the whole clubhouse. They were down to earth and friendly.

Excellent…I have now have to follow that with my U9 presentation evening, under pressure from my other son!

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All Blacks’ preparation by David Clarke

Here is a little video with the All Blacks preparing for their match against Cardiff in 2008.

There are a couple of things to notice, like the movement in the lineout and formation of the scrum. Read Doug McClymont in Rugby Coach Newsletter on how the All Black scrums are formed and the jumpers lifted.

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Wayne Smith, All Black coach, inspires by David Clarke

Wayne Smith
Last night I was at a seminar at the Ospreys where Wayne Smith talked about decision making. Wayne is currently the “backs” coach for the All Blacks, though this title is vague in the sense of the range of work he does with the team.

His message is simple: decision makers have make their own decisions, so give them to power to make them.

He does this through a range of mediums, with questioning and games as the key pillars in his approach.

He is also a man who invites integrity and displays an outward calmness. His measured presentation recognised the difficulties that any team faces, even one as talented as the New Zealand team. It is not by talent alone that the All Blacks are regarded as the number one team to beat.

I took eight pages of notes.
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No more empty words by David Clarke
February 4, 2009, 3:23 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Team Management | Tags: , ,

I am bombarded with quotations on how to motivate players and coaches. Some work for me and others seem like a clever way of something that does not mean much.

Sometimes you have to read the line several times to see what it really means and then look at who wrote it.

Here is one such quote:

“People will rise to a challenge if it is their challenge”

It was said by Wayne Smith, the All Black backs coach. That gives it weight in the first place, but what of the meaning?

Rising to the challenge is motivational. A target set and a player striving to get there.

The key here is the word “their”, in terms of “their challenge”. It means taking ownership of what they want to acheive. They have either agreed with their coach or mentor what the challenge is, or set it themselves. Empowerment leads to responsibility and greater awareness of the goal. It should be more powerful.

No empty words, and real action should follow.

Rugby coaching caption competition by David Clarke
December 11, 2008, 2:37 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell | Tags: , , , ,

Add a caption to this picture of Martin Johnson and Graham Henry in their recent meeting when the All Blacks beat England in November.

Johnson and Henry