Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Watch out, ruck and scrum laws may be moving again! by David Clarke
January 25, 2010, 4:41 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby News | Tags: , , , ,

News from the Super 14s and Tri Nations

Here is something from the New Zealand RFU on the latest rulings on the ruck:

SANZAR reviews rucks and scrums – attackers favoured

Both the rights of a tackled player and scrums will be subject to changed conditions in 2010, after meetings with SANZAR officials ensured that the focus on the ruck and the forward engagements will be policed to allow a cleaner game.

The new changes will ensure that the attacking side has the advantage at the tackle area. Essentially the tackler will no longer have carte blanche to steal the ball, and the ball carrier more rights to enable his support to recycle.

It has been agreed that often the tackler wins the penalty in a ruck situation, which is going against the premise of promoting attacking rugby.

At scrum time, poor techniques, questionable tactics and repeated resets have led to a huge increase in time spent on what has become in the eyes of many a vexed set piece.

The International Rugby Board has assessed that 12% of an 80 minute match is spent resetting scrums. This is close to 10 minutes.

Offenders, namely in the front rows, will now be under the direct jurisdiction of the respective countries scrum coaches.

Mike Cron (NZ), Pat Noriega (AUS) and Balie Swart (SA) will now oversee their respective countries franchises/teams.

SANZAR referee’s manager Lyndon Bray spoke to the Dominion Post about making rugby a more open game, and ensuring that more time is spent with ball in play.

“We’ve agreed philosophically to change what the tackler can and can’t do,” Bray said.

“He is doing too much. We’ve allowed, in the evolution of the game, to let him remain in contact with the ball and ball carrier after he leaves his feet and he stays on the ball and jumps up and rips it away.”

This has seen the game develop into a situation where teams are afraid to move the ball wide, for if the ball carrier is isolated, it inevitably leads to a turnover.

“It looks great in the one-on-one scenario, but it’s actually against the law. It creates in the game a repetitive scenario where the ball carrier ends up with no rights because he can’t do anything with the ball.”

“The tackler inevitability gets the penalty which philosophically goes against what we are trying to achieve. We’ve agreed the tackler must release everything when he goes to ground and not hold on as he gets to his feet.”

This will give tackled players more time to place the ball, and will ensure that players not making a clean release after the tackle and getting to their feet will be penalised. However the infringement for holding on will still stand, albeit a potential scavenger needs to follow a specific process.

The days of specialists such as Richie McCaw holding onto a tackler or ball and essentially using that as a counterweight to swing to their feet and attack possession may be over.

Last year referees and coaches met, and planted the idea that the game would benefit with different approaches to key areas.

Key amongst this was ensuring a defending team did not have more rights.

Secondary was ensuring that the scrum was a set piece platform, and not a time consuming minefield that could ultimately deter fans from watching the product.

“We came up collectively with the fact that we had to create a greater ownership for changes in behaviour and essentially that was around the technique used at the tackle and at scrum time,” Bray said.

“We agreed that if we carried on doing the workshops we had in the past and came up with decisions on the run that the onus always came back to the guy in the middle with the whistle. We decided that wasn’t going to cut the mustard for 2010. We said we had to listen to the criticism of where our game is at and we have to produce a cleaner and more attractive spectacle.”

“If our reason for existence is to have one of the best competitions in world rugby then we have to recreate time and space on the field and recreate the attack with confidence that we used to have in Super 14 … it means more control from the ball carrier and more control for the attacking team.”

Changes in the scrum will take a more direct tact.

Offending players will be scrutinised and approached. If they cannot remedy their approach, then they will essentially be publically exposed.

“If the Hurricanes scrum for example have poor technique or use a poor tactical technique in week one to disrupt the scrum we will be going in privately and saying you have a problem and we will use Mike Cron to deliver the message, which gives it teeth,” Bray said.

“We will expect a change of behaviour from them. If they don’t deal with it then we have the right and permission from teams to go public.”

This will also apply to referees.

In summary


The ruck will favour the attacking team

The tackler’s rights will no longer be deemed as being unlimited.

A tackler must released the tackled player and ball and get to their feet before scavenging.


Offenders will be approached by the country’s scrum coach

Teams, players and referees will be made aware of the issue

Media will be made aware of the repeat offenders

Better Rugby Coaching

The IRB strength and conditioning website by David Clarke
December 3, 2009, 5:29 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Fitness | Tags: , , ,

IRB launch free strength and conditioning guide

From the IRB:

“On this site, you will learn about the basics of Health and Safety, Exercise Instruction, Gymnasium Induction & Environment and via our online learning system you can start on the pathway to achieving Strength and Conditioning accreditation, as recognised by the IRB.

This exciting format connects basic exercises to the dynamics of the Game. The learning process uses the written word along with video demonstration and real time international game footage, as shown opposite and below.

Modular additions will logically be provided on a quarterly basis followed by the Level 2 qualification in September 2010.”

You need to complete the Rugby Ready strength and conditioning course.

The link to visit is here.

Better Rugby Coaching

Tackle laws confirmed by David Clarke
December 1, 2009, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, ELVs | Tags: , ,

Just to reminder of the laws that have been confirmed.

An interim meeting of the IRB’s ruling council on Tuesday 1st December 2010 agreed the current application of the rulings relating to Laws 15 (breakdown) and 16 (ruck) would be adopted into law with immediate effect:

– 15.4(c): The tackler who has gone to ground can, when back on their feet, play the ball from any direction

– 15.6(c): The tackler who stays on their feet has to release that player and then only play the ball coming from the direction of his own goalline.

– 16.3(f): Players must not use their feet in a rucking motion with players on the ground.

Will this be the way the Lions win in 2009? by David Clarke

Here are some of the key points drawn from the statistical analysis of the 2009 Six Nations tournament. It will be interesting to see if the Lions follow the success of the Irish team and adopt their tactics.

The full text is available at this link.

From the report by Corris Thomas, IRB:

This year, IRELAND won the Grand Slam for the first time in over 60 years and they achieved it by bringing a distinctive approach to this year’s championship.

Gone was the high passing team, low kicking team that characterised Ireland’s play in recent years and in came a far more controlled pattern of play that exerted constant pressure on the opposition. The following extracts from the following report illustrates the extent of this approach:

¨ Far from being the highest passing team as in the recent past, Ireland were the lowest both in number of passes and rate of passing
¨ In one match they made just 82 passes
¨ Very few Irish passing movements contained more than 3 passes. Only 1 passing movement in every 38 contained 3 or more passes, this compared to 1 in 15 for the other 5 teams.

The Irish effort was far more concentrated on tight play as the following illustrations show:

¨ They were among the highest rucking team and kicking team with the most successful ruck retention rate
¨ They were turned over only 7 times in almost 500 rucks and mauls, a ratio far better than any other team
¨ In a tournament of few mauls, Ireland mauled far more than any other team
¨ Of 7 maul turnovers, 6 were achieved by Ireland
¨ They conceded only 3 tries none of which started inside their own half
¨ Their forwards were the least likely to pass the ball – and often significantly less likely. Their back row, for example, passed the ball on only 13% of occasions while the back rows of the other 5 teams passed on no less than 35% of occasions.
¨ They kicked almost all restarts short thereby maintaining constant physical pressure on their opponents
¨ They were the most successful team in gaining possession on opposition lineouts and 75% of their tries came from lineout possession

This approach was complemented by other major factors
¨ 11 of their 12 tries were converted, making tries worth an invaluable 7 points
¨ They were the least penalised team
¨ They obtained more possession than their opponents in 4 of their 5 matches.

Better Rugby Coaching

New ruling on the tackle area by David Clarke
May 13, 2009, 8:07 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, ELVs, Rugby Refereeing | Tags: , ,

Here is the latest ruling on the tackle area from the IRB:

Ruling Request from the NZRU and ARU Laws 15 and 16

Law 15 6 (b) states:
After a tackle any players on their feet may attempt to gain possession by taking the ball from the ball carrier’s possession.

Law 16.1 (b) states:
How can a ruck form? Players are on their feet. At least one player must be in physical contact with an opponent. The ball is on the ground.

Law 16.4 (b) states:
(b) Players must not handle the ball in a ruck.

When a player has complied with Law 15 6 (b), is on his feet and playing the ball after a tackle and is then joined by an opposition player on his feet so that the situation outlined in 16 1 (b) occurs, can the player who has complied with Law 15 6 (b) continue to play the ball with his hands or at what point does he have to release the ball? This does not appear to be covered by Law.


Law 15 6 (a) states: After a tackle, all other players must be on their feet when they play the ball.

Law 15.6 (b) reads: After a tackle any player on their feet may attempt to gain possession by taking the ball from the ball carriers possession.

Law 15 5 (e) states that: If opposition players who are on their feet, the tackled player must release the ball. This indicates that after a tackle a player on his feet may play the ball.

Law 16 1 (b) states: How can a ruck form? Players are on their feet. At least one player must be in physical contact with an opponent. The ball is on the ground.

Law 16.1 refers to a player from each side in physical contact over the ball and implies that the ball is not in the possession of any player.

Providing a player from either side on their feet after a tackle comply with all aspects of Law 15 and have the ball in their hands prior to contact with an opposition player on his feet those players may continue with possession of the ball even if a player from the opposition makes contact with those players in possession of the ball.

Any other players joining the two players contesting the ball must not handle the ball in accordance with Law 16.4 (b). If the ball is not in possession of any player after a tackle and a ruck is formed players may not use their hands in accordance with Law 16.4 (b).

The Ruling is effective from May 23 for the start of matches in the June window and after the close of any domestic or cross border competitions

Better Rugby Coaching

ELVs next stage on 13 May by David Clarke
May 1, 2009, 8:10 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, ELVs | Tags: , , , ,

This week, the ELVs came closer to becoming Ls.

The IRB rugby committee has ratified which laws it thinks should come into force and which shouldn’t. It is now up to the IRB council to confirm these on 13 May. It is likely they will become law for the start of the 2009 Northern Hemisphere season.

What’s in:
All the lineout laws EXCEPT any numbers.
5m at the scrum and the scrum half offside line.
Quick throw ins going backwards.
Passing into the 22m area invalidating the kicking compensation out of the 22m.
Corner flags not being part of touch.

What’s not in:
Pulling down the maul
Sanctions for rucks and mauls (that is free kicks for certain infringements)

What might be coming in:
Rolling subs in the community game
U19 scrum laws in the community game (that is the wheel and pushing distance laws)

Penn State Rolling Maul vs. Standford @ 2007 Nationals

Better Rugby Coaching

Perfection not necessary to win by David Clarke

James Haskell, the England forward, said this week that England needed to lighten up. He was looking at the way the Southern Hemispshere teams approach their rugby:

“Sometimes when you are a team and things aren’t going well you work very hard on developing each player and spend a lot of time developing a gameplan and you forget there is a game of rugby, to go out and play with some confidence and get a smile on your face.

“I noticed in the autumn with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa that when they crossed the line there was a lot of camaraderie, a lot of good spirit and they weren’t too worried about the errors.

“Everyone makes mistakes and yes England have made more than most, but together we have to play with confidence and that is what we tried to do.”

All Black try celebration

As rugby coaches, perhaps we should look at success and not perfection. Lee Smith, writing in this month’s edition of Rugby Coach, outlines how you don’t need be perfect. In fact it could stifle your team’s chances of winning, says Smith, one of the IRB’s top coaching development managers and former director of NZRU.

IRB meeting today on development by David Clarke
November 20, 2008, 12:55 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, ELVs, Rugby Coaching, Rugby Team Management | Tags: , ,

The IRB meet annually to discuss the game. This year’s meeting takes place today and is at the Lensbury Club in London. 

The IRB conference is focused on “development”. This list of topics makes for interesting reading:

  • The effect on the Participation by the Game going open (professional) in 1995 
  • Union strategies used in developing mass participation of the Game
  • Two aspects of development: Growth in participation versus Developing quality participation
  • Should there be a consistent set of Pathway Laws and at what age should IRB Laws be global?
  • The age when a player becomes eligible to play senior Rugby
  • The ideal age for players to commence contact elements of the game (e.g. scrums) and competitive matches
  • The effect the Experimental Law Variations have had on the participation level of the Game
  • What are the arguments for the development of Laws for High Performance/Performance Rugby separately to that of the participation level of the Game?
  • The most effective and consistent way to determine player numbers
  • Key health and safety issues for the participation level of the Game
  • What are the benefits of weight versus age pathways?
  • The inclusion of Rugby Sevens in the Olympics and participation
  • What role should the IRB perform in the areas outlined above?
  • At what age should age grade players be allowed to play professional rugby, and what criteria should be used to determine this entry?

    Mark Egan, the IRB’s Head of Performance and Development is leading the forum.

    “This forum will explore and debate a broad range of issues and challenges faced by the Unions on the ground. Ultimately, the participants are the practitioners, the people at the coalface of development; the people who help Rugby grow all over the world.”

    “Blueprints will emerge from the debate and some optimal forms of action will be identified. In addition there will be seminars on legal and judicial matters, the Laws of the Game and Playing Regulations, on playing surfaces and clothing, on tournaments and competitions, on training and education, medical as well as development funding.”

    The multicultural world of rugby by David Clarke
    November 19, 2008, 9:12 am
    Filed under: Dan Cottrell, ELVs, Rugby Coaching | Tags: , , , , ,

    Yesterday I read a piece about all the great New Zealand coaches who are not coaching in New Zealand. Robbie Deans and Warren Gatland would be the two highest profile names on that list.

    The same could be said of former All Black players in the rest of the world. Hundreds of top class players leave New Zealand every year.


    Nick Evans, former All Black half back, playing for English club, the Harlequins

    Though the All Blacks nearly lost to Munster last night, their reign as THE number one rugby nation continues. These leakages are not terminal nor in the long run, the end of international rugby. 

    The key to all this is nothing to do with national teams. It is about playing rugby. Top class rugby bears little resemblence to rugby in the parks, on the sides of hills or in the dusty flats just out of town.

    However, despite all the training and pressure, the majority of international players are no different to the guys and girls who run out on a Saturday afternoon in all weathers. They have a laugh and a joke like the rest of us, and want to win for themselves as much as for their team.

    What makes things more interesting is the mix of cultures from around the world. No longer are we entrenched in a narrow ways of thinking. Different strokes bring different thoughts. It is fresh, it is vibrant and rugby will grow because of it.

    Having access to this wealth of differences makes my job of writing about rugby a constant joy. The interpretations and changes fashion cause debate and provoke new ideas.

    I welcome this “smaller” world of rugby, and hope that the IRB does not split us into the Northern and Southern Hemispheres with the rule changes.


    Sealing and bridging: profit and loss by David Clarke


    Last week I posted the IRB reminders on the interpretation of the law about “bridging and sealing”. It is not explicitly stated in the law book but here are the rough definitions:


    Bridging: forming a bridge with your legs or knees and hands or elbows over the ball.

    Sealing: securing yourself to the tackled player, preventing the opposition grabbing the ball and if driven back, taking the tackled player and ball with you.


    Since, in the spirit of the game, players are meant to stay on their feet, any attempt by players who are not on their feet to prevent the ball being contested is illegal.


    Market forces have prevailed though. Coaches and players are always seeking ways to profit from the laws.

    Continue reading