Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Can you live without tackle pads? by David Clarke

Coach carrying tackle pads

Tackle pads, bags and tubes all have a place in rugby training. (I am not sponsored by a manufacturer!)

But can you do a session without them? Some coaches are anti-pads. Andy Robinson MBE, the forwards coach when England won the World Cup in 2003, said to me at the time he hated them. England’s physicality in that era marked them out from other teams.

Since pads are something to run into, then that’s what players do. They are not great “avoiders” of the soft pads.

Of course, they are not to be avoid when making tackles, reducing the impact for the player, allowing greater repetition.

The trouble lies in their elasticity. Imagine how many fewer handling errors your players would make if it was a pillow they were catching and not a hard ball. A tackle pad has similar properties, allowing greater error of timing at the impact. The tackled player is not likely to have, or want to have, the same give.

You can live without tackle pads, because sometimes someone forgets to bring, you lose the key to the store room or the side cannot afford such luxuries. You can also live without them when you are training. There is some research to suggest that training aids that do not replicate the game very closely are a waste of time. (Brent S. Rushall February 1997)

Better Rugby Coaching


Rugby coaching caption competition by David Clarke
December 11, 2008, 2:37 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell | Tags: , , , ,

Add a caption to this picture of Martin Johnson and Graham Henry in their recent meeting when the All Blacks beat England in November.

Johnson and Henry

England’s lineout is saved by David Clarke

In a remarkable piece of good luck (and you can decide for yourself who was the lucky one) I bumped into Phil Vickery and Steve Borthwick yesterday.

I was on my way back from a meeting in Bramley with the Rugby Coach publishers and an old friend of mine asked me to meet up with him. He is a football fan (well he supports Chelsea anyway) and he said he would see me at Pennyhill Park Hotel.

On my way I remembered that the England rugby team were staying there but thought little more of it.

I arrived, walked into the hotel bar, and passed a serious looking Martin Johnson and his coaching team of Graham Rowntree and John Wells. Now in my bag I had my new DVD, “Everything You Need to Know For Coaching Rugby“. I decided this was not the moment to hand a free copy over to Johnson.

I caught up with my mate and we laughed at the coincidence. Then in walks Phil Vickery. Phil has just endorsed our Secrets of the Front Row report, plus given us some signed shirts from his Raging Bull business. I went over to him to say thank you. And also to give our new How to Win the Lineout book which I had as a spare copy in my bag. And in walks Steve Borthwick. Both are charming men and Borthwick jokes about the need for the lineout book, though it is safe to say that it is one area England can feel quite pleased with.

So after a brief light-hearted exchange, I return to my friend, leaving the book with the England forwards. So I expect the England lineout to be in good hands tomorrow!

The coincidences didn’t stop there, because when I arrived home, I had an email from Doug McClymont, who worked with Mike Cron, the All Blacks scrum guru. He has just sent me the methods that make the New Zealand scrum one of, if not the best set piece in the world. More on that in the next Rugby Coach Newsletter…

Lions XV v the Rest of the World XV by David Clarke
November 5, 2008, 12:30 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Team Management | Tags: , , , ,

The Autumn Internationals will gives us a glimpse of the world’s best outside the World Cup arena and a chance to pick the best two XVs. With no American players (North or South) on display, we will have to ignore them for this exercise.

I will select my own world XV after this weekend, but the Lions on form and starting for their country this weekend would be:

15. Lee Bryne (Wales)

14. Sean Lamont (Scotland)

13. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)

12. Gavin Henson (Wales)

11. Shane Williams (Wales)

10. Danny Cipriani (England)

9. Danny Care (England)

1. Andrew Sheridan (England)

2. Jerry Flannery (Ireland)

3. Matt Stevens (England)

4. Paul O’Connell (Ireland)

5. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)

6. Tom Croft (England)

7. Tom Rees (England)

8. Ryan Jones (Wales)

Hard work, but worth it by David Clarke

Last week, at last, my Power Plays video was released.

There is a clip up on Youtube:

The move shown was used a couple of weeks after shooting by the Barbarians against England (see 3.24 onwards):

I would like to thank the boys from RGS Guildford who helped shoot the video and Trevor the head groundsman who made me and the production very welcome.

Click here for more information on the DVD.

Do we need a charter for rugby parents? by David Clarke


The RFU have recently reissued their charter for parents. Worried by reports of abuse from the sideline, the English rugby authorities want to clamp down on aggressive and rude parents who might bring the game into disrepute.


Most of us would agree that rugby has a strong culture of mutual respect, where players will knock seven bells out of each other on the pitch and yet happily share a pint in the bar afterwards.

Continue reading

A million press ups for that by David Clarke
August 28, 2008, 8:11 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Coaching, Rugby Training | Tags: , , ,

1,2,3,4…no, proper ones

A familar call on the rugby training ground. A misdeamour of minor proportions, perhaps a dropped ball or a missed tackle. The result, press ups (or round the posts and back).

Don’t think for one moment I am going to say that mistakes should not be highlighted, pointed out or even commented on harshly. It is how they are then dealt with which causes an interesting debate.

“Punishment” is not a good word to use – I found this out very early on in the Rugby Coach Newsletter issues when the RFU quickly slapped my wrists for using the word (and the “punishment” mentioned).

In which case, you need a way to ENCOURAGE the players not to make the same mistake twice.

Continue reading