Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching


How to lose a game of rugby by David Clarke

By rights, the South African second string team should have beaten the Leicester second string team.

We can argue about the exact mix in each side, but neither team was the strongest available. So one might expect the international team to prevail. Yet as any international coach knows, a game where the international team plays a club side is fraught with danger. You are expected to win and anything other than a demolition of the other team is seen as a failure.

On the other hand, having spent a good deal of time talking to Gary Gold, the Springbok assistant coach, in recent weeks, you are also very wary of the fickle nature of the game.

Gary, who coached at London Irish in the early 2000s, is a realist. He will have known that the Leicester players will have sniffed an upset. Interestingly the game was won and lost up front, where big hearts can sometimes overcome big muscles.

I suspect that the South African coaching group tried their level best to convince their team that the Tigers would do what tigers do best when their backs are against the wall, come out all tooth and claw. It would have been different on the High Veld, but in front of the home supporters, the Leicester team were too determined.

An upset, yes. A complete surprise, no. Munster nearly beat the All Blacks last year and I watched the Osprey second string beat the Aussie a few years ago too.

What Gary would say is that coaching is as much about man management as it is about coaching the technical aspects of the game. Read more in the latest International Rugby Technical Journal, out today.

So you can lose the game because your mindset is not right. And the most frustrating thing is that the players are not always convinced of the magnitude of the task in front them!

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Deciding a semi final by David Clarke

Martyn WilliamsThe Heineken semi final between Cardiff and Leicester was decided on a penalty shoot out. Cardiff lost when the Tigers’ number Jordan Crane slotted over the seventh attempt in sudden death after the Wales and Lions openside Martyn Williams had missed his previous attempt.

Williams may become unique.

With all the clamour for the end of the “penalty shoot out”, high profile cup matches may finish in a different fashion. It won’t need a prop’s kick to decide the outcome.

It won’t be a toss of a coin either . However the mechanic will be just as contrived as the shoot out.

Whatever the decision on how to decide a tied game, I would seriously worry about adding more time to a semi final. By its nature, it is not the final game of the season. In fact, for Leicester, they have potentially three more intense games (the Premiership final and semi finals, plus the Heineken Cup final) ahead of them.

These players are running on empty by the final whistle. That’s how they are conditioned and then put themselves into the game. The risks of injury increase quickly with fatigue and they are not of the mind to hold back.

That might sound unrugby-like. What are these people? Men or mice? They are very determined, motivated, heavy, strong and fast. They have also got careers to think of and life beyond rugby. It was a cruel blow for Martyn Williams to miss that kick. If he had carried on a further ten minutes of rugby he could have damaged himself enough to miss the Lions tour.



Daniel in the Tiger’s den by David Clarke
December 15, 2008, 10:26 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Coaching | Tags: , , , ,

Dan Carter against the Tigers

Dan Carter’s arrival at Perpignan had so many biblical analogies you could have been written a whole new testament book. There is already a book of Daniel, though in the Carter version he arrives at the palace as a king already.

His first game was not miraculous, but it was pretty solid. He kicked, passed, tackled and managed the game well, with few mistakes. And remember that the Leicester Tigers are never tame and never respect any opponent, legend or otherwise.

From a coaching point of view, the game plan for Carter was simple. Play simple rugby. Do the basics well. Don’t force the game.  The constant coverage from every angle showed how well Carter performs the core skills. He passed accurately off both hands. He tackled well, and in one case showed how important it is to get your leading foot close to the ball carrier when making a tackle.

Good luck to him. The other French teams will be on his case now and he will be interesting how he survives in their maelstrom of rugby.



The coaching dilemma of dropping Henson by David Clarke
October 10, 2008, 1:45 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell | Tags: , , , ,

Gavin Henson seems never far from controversy and headlines.

This week is no different with the Wales and Lion star being dropped from the Osrepys for two games. Not just any old games, but key Heinken Cup games. The reason was that he was at odds with the coaches and it was decided that he had overstepped the mark.

If the Ospreys can do it, so can you. The team and its cohesive nature cannot be compromised. By all accounts, Henson has been a model professional on his comeback from injury. But that does not make him immune from censure.

Should Leicester be pleased with news that the Welsh star will not be facing them on Sunday? On these tough decisions, a match can turn. More on Monday!