Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Day eighteen of the August pre season training tips: cutting edge by David Clarke

August 18

Cutting edge

You can create a cutting edge in your team over pre season. In a previous blog, I talked about improving your speed of thought (Day 12). You want to be able to generate a team that can impose itself on other teams.
Here are five ways to “impose” yourself on other teams, and use pre season to start this process:
1. Become fitter in the areas where you have a strength. If you are a large team who likes set piece, work harder on upper body work. If you are a fast team who like to keep the ball alive, then work on speed and stamina. You might say “how about our weaknesses”? Well, be strong in what you can do first and then the other areas will start to fall into place as the season unfolds.

2. Develop and practise a few “killer” moves from set pieces and second phases. Have these as near to perfect as you can. Only then start on the next set of moves.

3. Work on “chunking” a game into segments of time. How do you play in the first five minutes. What you might do from 5 to 20 minutes if you are ahead or behind. How do you aim to finish the first half. Think about the fatigue elements. If players focus on these chunks of time, the scoreboard and all the psychological effects it can have on the players become less important.

4. Build a defence culture that celebrates success. If the ball is turned over, or the opposition has to kick, make sure the team acknowledge this and the opposition know about it.

5. Know what “tempo” wins you games. Does your side like to play with pace, use set piece and play close to the breakdown, or break the game up with kicks? Know this and then you can aim to capture that in the game. Pre season is an ideal time to work on the specifics of how the tempo of your game develops.

Better Rugby Coaching


Day fifteen of the August pre season training tips: warm ups by David Clarke

August 15

Warm ups

I am going to be a little controversial here. You don’t need to warm up.

There I said it.

Actually, you need to change the mindset to “preparing to train or play”. The mind and body need to be switched into action. That cannot be done immediately. Spend some time gradually building up the intensity.

What needs to be in your pre season warm up (last time I use that expression in this piece)

1. A game (like touch rugby or rugby netball) – this will get players onto the pitch quicker.
2. Some raising of the heart rate – this can be done in a game.
3. An increase in mental arousal – to put players in the right frame of mind (again can be done in a game).
4. Some movements and contact which start to replicate the exercises ahead.
5. A minute or two for players to “stretch” themselves if they want to. Players who are stiff or recovering from injury might use this time to activate their muscles. Others will simply run around with a ball.

Anecdotally, I used these activities before sessions most of last season when I was in charge of teams. I can report no pulled or strained muscles during the sessions.
Better Rugby Coaching

Day five of August pre season training tips: recovery time by David Clarke

August 5

Recovery time

In pre season, players must rest and recovery.

Here are five ways to recovery better.

1. Straight after training: light stretching, cool shower (not hot bath), stay off the feet, drink water and sports drinks.
2. Rest days: define a rest day for each week. That means no training. It has a funny psychological effect of making players think they should be training on the other days!
3. Rest injuries in pre season. A player should isolate their injury and work on other areas. Leg injuries – upper body work. Upper body, running or cycling.
4. Recovery can include recovering the mind as well. Play other sports.
5. Sleep! Encourage players to take early nights to help their recovery process.

Rugby fitness and pre season rugby conditioning

Better Rugby Coaching

Weight training for youngsters by David Clarke
January 19, 2010, 11:30 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Fitness | Tags: , , , ,

When can a young player start weight training?

There is no definitive answer, just read the debate in “The Huddle”

I think we can all agree that any training should take place in a safe and supervised environment, but what about the nature of what, how much and for how long?

I am no gym bunny myself though I can admit to an unhealthy obsession with a Concept 2 rowing machine.

However I did find “Rocket Rugby” helpful in explaining some programmes to players who asked.

Better Rugby Coaching

You must have fun playing rugby by David Clarke
June 26, 2009, 8:36 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Fitness | Tags: , , ,

On a long tour, certain characters make a real difference.

Here is a really interesting interview that Bryn Palmer, the BBC sports blogger had with Paul Stridgeon, a key conditioner with current Lions.

‘Bobby’ keeps the Lions in mint condition
Bryn Palmer | 14:44 PM, Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Cape Town, Wednesday

The Lions have embraced most of the challenges they have encountered on this South Africa tour head on.

The on-field ones might have escalated this week, but away from the rugby there remains one that no squad member fancies, despite encouragement from the coaches.

Forwards coach Warren Gatland and defence guru Shaun Edwards have both offered tempting bets to any player who can ‘bring down’ the squad’s physical conditioner Paul Stridgeon, a former freestyle wrestler who competed for England at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

At 5ft 8in and 76kg (12 stone) he is a good deal smaller and lighter than all of them and dwarfed by the “big beasts” in the party, but is proud of the fact that no rugby player has ever got the better of him.

This may have something to what happened to the Lions’ assistant forwards coach Graham Rowntree, the former Leicester and England prop, when Stridgeon started working for the Rugby Football Union last summer.

“Graham took on the challenge when I first started with England, and I killed him in front of all the lads,” he recalled. “They enjoyed that.”

Continue reading

A rugby coaching blog well worth following by David Clarke


In the last few weeks I have been following an excellent blog from an Irish conditioner called Mike McGurn.

As it happens, he works for the Ospreys, the club I am involved in. However I came across this blog myself.

What makes it so good is that it cuts through the jargon and the “gym is all” mentality, focusing on the individual and what he or she can do.

The stories about Gavin Henson, Brian O’Driscoll and John Hayes make for compelling reading. He has some good tips for amateurs as well.

Here is the link to his blog.
Better Rugby Coaching

The five best sports to learn from (3) by David Clarke

Greco-Roman wrestling

In the January 2008 edition of Rugby Coach I explained how Greco-Roman wrestling could be used in rugby training. Here are the reasons for using it in your training.

3. Greco-Roman wrestling

Fitness. A minute bout of wrestling is tiring and closely related to rucking, mauling and scrummaging in terms of the type of physical activity used. Try six rounds with your team over a period of ten minutes.

Conditioning. The methods used in Greco-Roman wrestling use similar muscle groups to those in the contact area.

Techniques. Body positions and grips can be replicated in rugby.

Mind. The domination of an opponent requires mental as well as physical prowess.

Discipline. It is not the angry wrestler that wins the contest, but the one who controls their aggression through strength and technique. Poor technique in a moment of madness can lead to penalties and misdirected moves, very much like rugby.

On Monday, I will look at golf.