Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Tale of two coaches (part five) by David Clarke

Doug finds himself worried about recruitment.

Click on A tale of two coaches in the TAGS for previous episodes…

Doug was left in a dilemma. He wanted to recruit one of his son’s mates who was the best player at the local rival club. He was about to call the boy’s father when he thought about the telling off he got from Sandra about shirt sponsorship.

He ponders whether to call Sandra and ask her now, rather than go ahead and then face an embarrassing climb down if he has got it wrong. He sits at the kitchen table and outlines his problem aloud.

“That’s very reflective of you”, says Doug’s wife, Julie.
“What?” replies Doug.
“I said that you are thinking about the consequences of your actions and considering the possible outcomes based on…”
“Wait, wait, wait” interrupts Doug. “Is this some of your management course talk again? I don’t know why the tax payer has to shell out for this mumbo jumbo. It doesn’t make any difference.”

Julie, who works as a staff nurse at the local hospital, has started to carve out her own career. Having been on a number of management courses, she has begun to embrace a more inclusive leadership style, plus reflective practice. She has had a number of discussions (or arguments as Doug would call it) about how to treat the workforce.

Doug has built up a very successful tiling business and now employs around 15 people. He knows his style, he knows he has made some good money, even in recessions.

He says to Julie “Look sweetheart,” (Julie hates it when she calls him that) “I know my workforce. If I pussyfoot around, they will take the mickey and get away with not working hard enough. Last week, Rollo was late for work for the third time this month, so he ain’t going to do that again. I sacked him. If the boys know that they can get away with slacking, I will be losing customers, losing money.”
“Tell me you are not scared of Sandra”, says Julie.
Doug laughs, “You are joking?”
“Why are you worried about calling up Tom’s dad then?”
“Because I know the problems we had with the sponsorship.”
“That’s never stopped you making your own decision before.”
“Right, I am going to call now,” says Doug fumbling for his phone.
“Why not ignore Sandra?”
“Who’s making the decision here?”
“You are scared that if you make a mistake on this one, you will lose face”
“No I won’t, I’m not scared of Sandra.”
“So you don’t need to speak to her”
“Look sweetheart…”
“Don’t you ‘sweetheart’ me. You are so easy to wind up and now you are winding me up. You can’t ring Sandra and give her two barrels about this. Whether you like it or not, you are scared of her. But I think she wants to help you. Forget Tom’s dad for a while and ring Sandra in the morning.”

Put it this way, Doug is not going to agree with Julie. The “discussion” continues for a good half an hour before Doug walks away knowing he has lost, but not admitting to that to Julie. Julie picks up his dirty washing out of the laundry basket and takes it out to the utility room. She smiles as she put his sports and work kit into the machine and watches them intertwine. She wonders whether she is the washing powder or the washing machine.


“Sandra, its Doug from the Under 9s.”
“Hey Doug, I was going to call you today. How’s Harry? Did he enjoy the holiday camp?”
For next five minutes, Doug tells Sandra about how much Harry had enjoyed the camp, it was great to get him away from the video games and that he had wished he had been able to do things like that for himself.
Sandra replies: “I think we all want the best for our kids and that’s why the Under 9s are lucky you have taken on the job this year. Now, I need you tell me who might be helping you with the team this year. You need a manager and an assistant coach. Have you got anyone in mind?”


When Doug gets home from work, he looks around for Julie. His son, Harry, is in the living room watching cartoons and his 17 year old daughter from his first marriage is glued to Facebook. They give out their usual one word greeting and one word summary of their busy and eventful days.

He finds Julie out in the utility room sorting out the washing. “Good day?” she says, still in her work uniform, folding away Doug’s work sweatshirt. She can sense he is excited about something.

“Yes, I spoke to Sandra”
“And…did she bite?”
“No, don’t be soft. We had a good discussion.”
“You never discuss anything…what did you tell her”
“I didn’t tell her anything, in fact, we never got onto the subject of recruitment”
“Go on”
“She has decided that I need a match manager. Someone who is organised, keen and will be at every fixture. I know the perfect person…you!”
“No way.”
“It’s decided. I said you would be ideal. And with all your management courses and your ability to wash kit…”
Doug swerves too late to avoid the sweatshirt hitting him square in the face, but is nimble enough to make it out of the utility room as the washing basket follows.

A takeaway curry and a bottle of red wine later and Julie has agreed to be manager. She has reservations because she sometimes does shifts on a Sunday morning. However, she wants Doug to succeed in this role because she knows it will be good for him and more importantly good for Harry. She still thinks he is a sexist, stubborn pig at times. Nevertheless, she knew that when she married him.

Better Rugby Coaching

A tale of two rugby coaches (part one) by David Clarke

Two coaches started out in junior rugby at the same time. Both had similar rugby backgrounds and teams, but one is still coaching, whilst the other gave up. One not only won more than he lost, he has increased the number of players in his squad. The other found he was constant coaching fewer players.

What made the difference?

Let us call one Phil and other Doug. They both has sons who were playing rugby and found that when the game moved to full contact that they were “persuaded” to help out with the coaching.

Phil had played a good standard of rugby up until college days, but had left rugby behind to concentrate on playing squash and his studies. Doug played through college and eventually played a couple of years in senior rugby before, like Phil he decided to put his energies elsewhere.

Both enjoyed going to watch rugby, though neither found they had the time to go more than a couple of times a year, and an international match was a luxury. But come a major international or the Lions games, then they would be both at the bar with their friends, cheering on their country.

Phil and Doug settled down to family life and when their sons were old enough, they took them down to their local clubs. Tag rugby had its frustrations, but the boys were good at rugby and became key players in their club side.

At the end of their last Tag season, Phil and Doug found that the Tag head coach was standing down. Both knew how much their sons loved the game and were chomping at the bit to play contact rugby. They were a little flattered that their respective clubs asked them to take on the role of head coach: “You have played the game and your son is one of the best players…you would be ideal.”

This is where their journeys begin to part…

Defence line speed drill – technical tips by David Clarke
June 21, 2010, 11:23 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, rugby defence | Tags: , , , ,

Ian McGeechan’s Smarter Rugby series has got some simple drills. The key is the technical precision he is looking for.

Here is a common defence line speed drill, but look at the key points carefully so you can replicate them in your sessions.

Better Rugby Coaching

Saying “listen” is the last resort to get others to listen by David Clarke

I am currently writing an article on the one of the most difficult jobs for a junior rugby coach: getting players to listen.

In my research I have watched coaches struggle to get their young charges to stop, shut up and take in what is being said.

Sound familiar?

Gaining the “listening attention” of any player is an acquired art, perhaps even a science. Rugby coaches are not always trained teachers. And some teachers are not able to make it happen all the time themselves.

If you are saying “listen” then you are several stages beyond the state you want to be in.

Here is a quick tip: call in the players, be silent and wait for the players to be quiet. Demand silence before you start speaking. Stop speaking (giving instructions for instance) if there is any noise.

ELVs – the never ending experiment by David Clarke

Rugby coaches around the world are pouring over their tactics and working out whether the new laws have made a significant difference to the game.

In the Northern Hemisphere, two complaints have made most of the headlines: more kicking and inconsistency at the breakdown.

Just a moment…

Inconsistency at the breakdown? That is not talking about an ELV. It is a directive from the IRB for referees to stop “bridging and sealing”. However referees are not controlling this area in the game in the same way. Recently criticism has been aimed at Jonathan Kaplan, the well-respected South African referee in the way he dealt the ruck area in two separate Tri Nations games. “A free for all” said one coach about the last game after he had been very harsh in the previous match. Continue reading

Coaches in Action (1) by David Clarke

play role!, originally uploaded by reportergimmi™.

The first in series of photos of rugby coaches in action from around the world.

It is not just about the national and professional coaches, but those of us who have to train in all circumstances, weathers, pitches and players!

What do you do in the rugby opposition’s 22m when they have the lineout throw? by David Clarke

The reason I ask is that I recently found this clip, highlighting a great tactic the Italian national rugby team (and others) sometimes use. I’ve now posted it at The Huddle, the online forum for rugby coaches.

Dan also wrote about the tactic in last year’s Rugby Coach, his monthly magazine about rugby coaching. To help me better illustrate what the Italian’s are doing, he’s agreed to let me reproduce it here and in this week’s Better Rugby Coaching.

Instead of competing for the lineout ball in the air, instead of driving into the jumper when they reach the ground, instead of pulling the jumper to the ground before a maul forms… the Italians do nothing!

As expected the opposition catch the ball and, as they’ve practised frequently, quickly form a “cluster” of players around the jumper. A team mate rips the ball from the jumper and moves it to the back of the “cluster”, where, under usual circumstances, it would be safest.

Crucially, however, because the Italians aren’t engaging there’s no maul. This means their hooker can whip around behind the opposition “cluster” and tackle the ball carrier at the back. Since there’s no maul, there’s no offside – just confused opponents.

If you’re planning to coach the tactic or try it out at your next rugby match make sure you:

Tell the referee about your plans before the game. It will look unusual and any referee who is caught unawares may not see it in the correct light and penalise you.

Ensure your players make no effort whatsoever to compete for the ball at the lineout. Even better they should step away from the opposition. This avoids any chance of contact.

Consider whereabouts on the pitch you’ll use the tactic. It’s generally best performed in their 22m area. You will lose ground, but should cause enough confusion to give you an advantage.

Spread your defenders in the lineout, so any efforts by the opposition to perform a peel (where the jumper pops the ball to a runner) can be thwarted.

Let me know how you get on!

Toby Curthoys, Better Rugby Coaching Publisher