Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Richie McCaw turns over a new leaf by David Clarke
February 2, 2010, 10:55 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Refereeing, Rugby Training | Tags: , , , , ,

Richie McCaw is apparently keen to clear up the roles in the breakdown. It will be interesting to see if this works out. He plays hard and as close to the law as he can. That’s his right to do so until he is penalised.

Here is a good article on what he is saying from Planet Rugby:

Crusaders captain Richie McCaw hopes referees will be consistent in their application of the new breakdown laws during the upcoming Super 14 season.

The All Blacks skipper and flanker has long been a master in one of the most troublesome areas of the game, but is looking forward to the new emphasis on favouring the side in possession.

“It’s going to reward players who are really accurate. Perhaps when players are almost on their feet, or getting up there’s a wee bit of grey area there and some refs would allow you (to play the ball) and some wouldn’t,” he said.

“They’ve said they’re going to be pretty strict on it so unless someone who is really accurate gets in and contests the ball, the team with it will keep it and be able to play.

“It’s all good in theory it will just be interesting to see how it goes.

“Technically, it would require the ball carrier to do everything right, and that should allow some good rugby to be played.

“Teams that are really accurate and figure that out how to get their breakdown right will be the ones that do pretty well.”

But McCaw also warned that teams will not be afraid to play a tighter game when the situation demands it, although he does hope to see plenty of positive intent when the season begins on February 12.

Better Rugby Coaching
“There’s times when that’s not possible (running the ball) but you have got to have other things up your sleeve. I think if all teams have that sort of attitude and I know all the guys in teams around New Zealand certainly want to play like that,” he said.

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

Simple truths still win rugby games by David Clarke

An international delight of rugby this weekend!

I must say the game that caught my imagination was the Super 14 final between South Africa’s Blue Bulls and New Zealand’s Waikato Chiefs. I know that the rules are achanging, but once again the pace the game is played at is quite breathtaking. The Bulls blew away the Chiefs in the end 61-17.

Here are my thoughts on the key elements, and beware the Lions, because the Blue Bulls had some key test players.

1. Play with width, but come from depth
You can spread the ball across the field, but the ball carriers must interest the defenders with their pace onto the ball and some straight running, however far away the defence is. Both teams spread it wide, but only one team attacked with speed, the Bulls.
2. You must win your set piece cleanly
The Bulls were masters of disrupting the lineout. This led to the Chiefs throwing risky throws. Lineout defence is therefore crucial. The scrums were more solid for the both sides, but again a significant “charge” was made when the Chiefs needed good ball. Good first phase allows teams to develop patterns of play. Defences will have the upper hand otherwise.
3. Sealing is dead
A sealing play stops at the ball and scrum half finds it more difficult to clear the pass. At Super 14, it is more likely that the player “falls” beyond the ball. They key is: keeping the ball clean and if the ball is sealed, then the attacking side will create quick ball. Teams that coach sealing next year will not progress.
4. You must vary your point of attack from 2nd phase
Both sides passed the ball from the base of the ruck close, wide, off 9, and off 10 to keep the defences guessing. This created defensive gaps around 10 and then around 13. Teams cannot cover the whole pitch.

Simple truths we must continue to remember.

And mauling is back! The Lions and the Royal XV benefitted from the return to mauling. More on that as the week goes on.

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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