Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Switch plays with Shane Williams by David Clarke

Here is a video I shot with Shane Williams a couple of summers ago with Powerade.

It makes players work hard to cut angles before changing the direction of play with a switch or cut pass.

It can be done well in front of the defence, or right in front of the defence.

Better Rugby Coaching

Trials and miserations by David Clarke
July 13, 2009, 8:10 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Team Management | Tags: , , ,

I helped select the final 30 boys for this year’s Osprey U16 squad for the winter 2009 campaign yesterday.

The process is not quite over because we had a trial match which was videod, so that footage needs to be reviewed.

We all know the most difficult part of the process: telling the boys who didn’t make the selection. No amount of the good words and advice can quite remove the disappointment felt.

Deciding on the marginal players is the most taxing part of the selection meeting. The good ones take little time to decide on. It is the “third” hooker or scrum half who vexes minds the most.

We are lucky this year. We have been coaching these boys since January. They have already been through one trial match, plus an intensive six week training programme. Another trial match yesterday confirmed a number of things, plus just tipped the balance for some others.

However, we must not forget that it is game. The pleasure of human movement, of the contest, and the camaraderie is delicately intertwinned in all this. If these players stop smiling then I am not sure it is all worth it.

Better Rugby Coaching

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!

Better Rugby Coaching

How to take command of a rugby training session by David Clarke

Who is the most difficult audience to deal with?

Here are some factors that can cause you problems:

1. The players are tired.

2. The players have already been “coached” during the day.

3. The players have a low concentration span.

4. The players are not playing at the weekend.

5. The players are young.

And so the list eventually leads to my under 9s team! And having to coach them last night.

Having worked with two groups of elite players in the last few weeks in my roles at U16 backs coach for the Ospreys and now an attached coach with the Welsh Women, a blustering late Wednesday afternoon is a little different on a damp parks pitch.

How did I take command?

With the agreement of the other coaches, after the warm up, we split as usual into three groups, did seven minute segments of skills and then went into a game.

And we shut up! It was hard. We only gave small doses of praise and bit our lips. No shouts of “Pass”, “Tackle”, “Get lower” or “Run straight”.

After each try or big breakdown, we gave some feedback, asked some questions and let them play.

It was strangely eerie. But what it did allow us to watch and observe and reflect. One observation is that we are going to make the teams smaller in practice games to make sure all the players are more involved.

So to take command of a rugby training session, here are two suggestions:

1. Break up the training into manageable segments and the same with the groups.

2. Say less, watch more, intervene effectively.

Blast your team before the game to blast away the opposition in the game by David Clarke

Canadian Team Warm Up

Canadian Team Warm Up

Players need to get to near the same intensity in the warm up as they would in the match, says top sports fitness expert Chris Jones. That means the same physical battering and exertion. His thoughts are backed up by Huw Bevan, formerly conditioning coach with the Ospreys and now a high level fitness consultant.


Activate the brain and muscles


This blast of hard work is short-lived, and does not use up too much of the energy needed for the game. The anaerobic energy is restored with a short break before the start of the game, supplemented with energy foods and drinks.


The workout engages the brain and muscles together so they are working in unison in readiness for the match.


In an series of articles in next month’s Rugby Coach Newsletter, I will explain how Chris Jones’ research, based in part on the Gold Medal winning success of our athletes in the Olympics, can be used for your team’s benefit. Also Huw Bevan will show you how to put this into practice with your own team.


It will give you key ways to:

          manage your team’s warm up,

          use food and drink to restore the right energy levels prior to the match,

          understand what gets the players ready the quickest,

          know what to avoid in the warm up.


I have tested these methods in the last month on my own teams, and I can testify that the first 15 minutes of the performance has been excellent, well above normal expectations.


For further information on Chris Jones and his high performance techniques, click here.

Osprey Coaching Conference Materials by David Clarke

Yesterday I spoke at the Osprey Coaching Conference at Llandarcy Academy Sport just outside Swansea, Wales. It was an excellent day with presentations from some of the current Osprey players (front row), the region’s skills coach, a top Welsh referee on ELVs and finally a brilliant talk by Sean Holley, the new supremo at the Ospreys.

My 40 minute slot was on coach development. It took the focus away from thinking about coaching players and onto developing the person in front of me.

I discussed the continuing desire to improve. One way to improve is to improve our listening skills. In the main this means overcoming barriers to listening.

Another way to improve is to listen to the thoughts of others BEFORE we coach a session. It is a method called “feed forward.”

Finally I introduced a philosophy of a US baseball coach, Gagliardi. He talks about the power of “No”.

The presentation and some notes can be downloaded by following this link to the Rugby Coaching Forum.

J’Accuse YOU by David Clarke

Let me start with some good news in rugby coaching.


With all the appointments for the new season flying around, internationally and domestically, perhaps one great appointment has gone under the radar.


One of Better Rugby Coaching’s editorial advisory board, John Schropfer, has been made the new national coach development manager for the Welsh Rugby Union. The role means searching out and nurturing the best coaching talent in Wales, so the next Welsh coach is indeed Welsh. 


John is one of the prime movers in the UK coaching development circles and a key part of the coaching courses produced for Welsh, English and Scottish coaches. His energy and vision will invigorate the development process in the Principality.


Coaching development has been ignored for too long


Coach development has long been overlooked by the most important people in rugby.

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A Tough Rugby Week Ahead for Some by David Clarke


It is going to be tough time for 40 boys in the Osprey region (Wales) next week. The Under 16 and Under 18 squads need to trim their numbers by 20 each after trials over this weekend and the start of next week.


It is not only the boys who suffer, but also their parents who have invested time and travel expenses ferrying their sons to and from the training sessions.


For both squads it has been an intense four weeks, with three evenings a week of fitness and skills (some of these from me!). The players are fitter, stronger and more attuned to a higher level of rugby. But for some it will feel that the dream ends now.

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Rich Pickings from the Feast by David Clarke


A bumper rugby weekend on the international front, with matches in every corner of the world. Full tests in the Southern Hemisphere, an A team tournament, Under 20s World Cup, IRB Nations Cup and the Pacific Nations Cup. Chuck in some women’s sevens and you could easily have sat in front of the television all weekend and not ventured outside.


ELVs or not, there was plenty of scintillating rugby on show, and no sign that international games are turgid, or indeed one-sided affairs.


But we don’t just watch the games for “our team”. We want to take something away with us, a little titbit to take onto the training ground for next week.

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What Everyone Ought to Know about a Bad Drill by David Clarke


I watched three different rugby sessions today.


And I cheated.


All the sessions were all online. Two were from Youtube and one was from an email I got sent by a rugby coaching business. As you know, I am a magpie for all things to do with rugby coaching, so I looked at them carefully. I came to one unfortunate conclusion.


But before I tell what the conclusion is, I want to tell you about something I observed last night at another training session.

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