Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Lineout training – it’s a crime by David Clarke

By Ian Diddams

If as a coach you were asked if you would give no input or coaching time to 25% of your side’s opportunities to win the ball, what would your answer be?

If I asked you if you would consider not bothering to practice opportunities to take ball legitmately from the oppostion, what might your answer be?

I would guess that you would be very unlikely to agree that these areas were worthy of consideration. I would imagine that you would answer that of course you wouldn’t ignore a quarter of opprtunities to win the ball, or ways to take the ball away from the opposing team.

So how much time at practice do you spend on your lineout development?

As coaches especially at child, youth and amateur levels our contact time with players is limited, often only 90 minutes a week, maybe double that if we are lucky over two sessions. It is especially difficult to achieve as much as we would like if we are the sole coach. These caveats notwithstanding however, it often seems that many sides spend little time on their lineout, and what does happen tends to be the forwards practising what they already do, compounded by little effort made to emulate a match day lineout with defending jumpers or time pressures.

The reasons, especially at age group levels, are understandable. Finding the time to fit in a session between warm-up, cool down, individual, unit and team skills is hard enough, not forgetting the pressing urgency at young age groups to also ensure that scrummage and post-tackle contest (ruck and maul) is practiced if only for player safety reasons. Allied to which may be the lack of understanding of the coaches themselves; if they never played in the forwards, are a convert from another sport or played when lineouts were very different how can they be expected to meaningfully coach this area?

It is not unusual to come across teenage age group teams that have no lineout plans, whether attacking or defending, and limited lineout skills. Jumping and timing with an accurate throw, options after the catch and defensive tactics are often not clearly in existence. Even at senior levels, it’s a case of “same old stuff” week after week.

So – when you are planning your next sessions for your squad, are you going to ignore, overlook or pay scant regard to 25% of your side’s chances of winning the ball? Or will you be thinking about your side’s lineout?

Better Rugby Coaching

Day ten of the August pre season training tips: lineout by David Clarke

August 10


Pre season for the lineout is about building a lineout for the season, and not the finished product. You will have more variations after three months and even more by the end of the season.

Here are five tips for pre season:
1. Focus on winning front ball first. This means a fast jump.
2. Can your players actually jump? Not just the “jumpers” but all the players. Jumping is explosive, so everyone needs to be able to do it.
3. Work on “throw-jump”. That is the hooker throws and then the jumper jumps. This will test both early on.
4. Play jumping games for the ball, so the players get used to competition for the ball.
5. Can your jumpers jump without “bouncing” first? If they can, it will help them beat their opposite number into the air. It also means the lifters (if you use them), will have to be sharper on the lift.

Better Rugby Coaching

New style refereeing for a fairer contest? by David Clarke
March 31, 2010, 9:44 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Refereeing | Tags: , , , , , ,

Writing in this month’s International Rugby Coaching, Paddy O’Brien, the IRB referee supremo, believes that rugby will be back to its old ways of a fairer contest.

He identifies five areas where he has got his referees to work harder at applying the law:
1. The maul at the lineout: no blocking.
2. Offside at the ruck.
3. Rolling away from the tackled played and/or releasing him to play the ball.
4. Better scrum engagement.
5. Keeping onside from the kicks.

Early evidence suggests that there is more space for attacking teams, but they are still adapting to the new regimes. Referees too are making a slight transition. The laws are not new, just being more heavily emphasised.

As Paddy says, one metre or one second of extra space and time can make all the difference in the game of rugby.

Better Rugby Coaching

Why the Boks won the Tri Nations by David Clarke

Here is a good summary of the Springboks success over the Tri Nations and, by association, the Lions. It comes from the sports blog, the Roar.

A third Tri Nations championship to the Springboks has capped off a year of achievement for South African rugby, writes Sam Taulelei for The Roar.
Coach Peter de Villiers and his assistants Dick Muir and Gary Gold changed their freestyle approach from last year and developed a more structured, playing strategy based upon pressure, pressure, pressure. A quote from NZ rugby columnist Marc Hinton succinctly sums up their season: “The reality is the Boks don’t beat you with their brilliance. They beat you with their resilience.”

By applying and sustaining pressure they strangled the life out of their opposition like a giant anaconda. They were dominant at the lineout, and used intelligent, accurate kicking, strong defence and relentless chasing. However it was the introduction of two newcomers to the side that had a dramatic effect on the Springboks fortunes in this year’s Tri Nations.

The enforced selection of impressive newcomer Heinrich Brussow through injury to Schalk Burger, proved to be an inspired and inspirational choice.
A large part of the Springboks’ success was a lack of serious injury; they were a largely settled squad and were able to establish combinations particularly in key positions.

Will their Tri Nations success automatically translate to a successful, unbeaten spring tour for the Springboks? This sees tests against France, Italy and Ireland, plus midweek matches against English Guinness Premiership clubs Leicester Tigers and Saracens.

Read more here.

Better Rugby Coaching

You can score backs tries from lineouts by David Clarke

It is often said that defence wins rugby games. South Africa’s win against Australia this weekend in the Tri Nations goes along way to prove that point.

Ironically, Australia scored more tries, but they could not break the Springbok defensive stranglehold. There was simply no room for the Aussies, and they made handling errors, gave away penalities and had three yellow cards. The Springboks played a terrority game, kicking into the corners and pressurising the Australians into running out towards an agressive defensive line.

However, there was a good example of how teams can score tries from first phase lineout ball. Against the much vaunted South African lineout defence, throwing to anywhere but the front of lineout can mean lost ball. Front ball is not such good attacking ball.

BUtthe Wallabies did throw to the front. Instead of passing straight out to the backs, 9 passed to 7 (George Smith) who had dropped off the back of the lineout. He attacked the backline, acting as a sort of 9 and a half. Using a simple backs move to hold the midfield, the ball was spun out to allow a one-on-one for the full back. His momentum and good footwork took him over the line. Watch in the first few minutes of this clip.

The most vital coaching area with the lineout ELVs by David Clarke

The most important lineout ELV has changed back to the old law of matching numbers.

The other lineout ELVs, which are here to stay, removed the anomalies from beforehand. The player standing in the traditional defensive hooker position cannot lift, the receiver has to stand two metres from the line until the ball is thrown in and lifting (as if it wasn’t before) is allowed.

So we will have a return to shortened lineouts and all the variations they provided. Some teams at the top end of the game were using them anyway, despite the opposition being able to have any amount of players in the lineout.

The principles of good lifting and throwing remain, but there are lots of opportunities to win the lineout AND to use the rolling maul from the lineout.

And I think it is the last prospect that makes winning the lineout well even more interesting. You cannot maul from poor lineout. You have to win the ball cleanly and so it is good to get into space to make an uncontested catch. Then you have to transfer the ball away from the catcher before he is pulled over.

Right then, back to the shortened lineout variations and developing the rolling maul.

Better Rugby Coaching

Why rugby union will never become rugby league by David Clarke
October 6, 2008, 9:08 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, ELVs, Rugby News | Tags: , , , , ,

A little piece of history was made on Saturday. The Bridgend Ravens beat Neath at the Gnoll for the first time since 1982. A Welsh Premiership match with bags of atmosphere, and a sizeable crowd for a wet and windy Saturday afternoon.


Bridgend are perhaps the least financially secure of a league with bridges the gap between the amateur and professional game in Wales. What makes their position even more precarious is news from the Super League. The Celtic Crusaders have won a franchise into Europe’s top level rugby league competition for 2009 and, for the first time, top class rugby league will be played on the fields of Wales.


Wait. Not the first time, because the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff has seen plenty of rugby league finals and one-offs. But now it will be regular games with all the razzmatazz and raw rugby that top league brings.

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