Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Back to blog – and so much coaching to talk about by dancottrell

Been away from the blog for a little while, though not stopped interviewing, writing and producing materials. This month alone I have been putting together articles with Brian Smith, Didier Retiere, Denis Betts, Russell Earnshaw, Tony Hanks, Justin Bishop and Richard Graham. Plus welcomed on board the Rugby Weekly Team two great new grassroots coaches who are coaching tutors and mentors.

Coaching wise I have been working with three teams, all with different cultures, ambitions and outcomes. Plus I have been speaking to lots of you about the ups and downs of coaching.

Look forward to catching with you over the Xmas period and writing about what is happening in the rugby coaching world.


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 fifteen of the August pre season training tips: warm ups by David Clarke

August 15

Warm ups

I am going to be a little controversial here. You don’t need to warm up.

There I said it.

Actually, you need to change the mindset to “preparing to train or play”. The mind and body need to be switched into action. That cannot be done immediately. Spend some time gradually building up the intensity.

What needs to be in your pre season warm up (last time I use that expression in this piece)

1. A game (like touch rugby or rugby netball) – this will get players onto the pitch quicker.
2. Some raising of the heart rate – this can be done in a game.
3. An increase in mental arousal – to put players in the right frame of mind (again can be done in a game).
4. Some movements and contact which start to replicate the exercises ahead.
5. A minute or two for players to “stretch” themselves if they want to. Players who are stiff or recovering from injury might use this time to activate their muscles. Others will simply run around with a ball.

Anecdotally, I used these activities before sessions most of last season when I was in charge of teams. I can report no pulled or strained muscles during the sessions.
Better Rugby Coaching

Day fourteen of the August pre season training: game plan by David Clarke

August 14

Game plan

Half way through pre season training and your game plan for the first few games should be taking shape.
Think of a game plan as a list of what you do and when. Instead of the players making it up on the spot, they know that from various parts of the pitch they will run certain moves.
There are many ways to design a game plan and even more game plans you can have.
However, you will want to start running through these plans on the pitch from now on in.

Here is a simple plan for you to develop:
1. Exiting the 22m area. How are we going to move the ball away from the 22m area and out of danger. Think about kicking, scrums (back row move?) and lineout calls.

2. Putting on pressure between the 22m areas. How are we going to use the ball between the 22m lines to gain ground or force opposition errors. Again, think about kicking, where to attack, what moves from set pieces. Some teams play “phase, phase, break or kick”. If they cannot break down the opposition defence after two phases, they kick deep.

3. Scoring in their 22m area. What are our killer scoring plays? Which lineout can we use for a catch and drive, a scrum back row move, and a backs move to split the defence.

4. How do we defend?

5. How do we counterattack?

Better Rugby Coaching

Day 2 of August training tips by David Clarke

August 2

Games for fitness

Players like to play.

If pre season is sprinkled with games, then players will be motivated to turn up.

Here are five points to make games worthwhile

1. Make it competitive. Select teams, keep scores and remember them.
2. Make it “rugby relevant”. Identify the rugby skills in the game.
3. Ensure consistent refereeing. Be a tough referee, so adding legitimacy.
4. Use small teams. Let the players have plenty of action and no place to hide. Play two games at once if possible.
5. Don’t have too many non rugby rules. Players will spend too long mastering the rules and not playing the game.

Better Rugby Coaching

Love the game, love the action by David Clarke

I have just had a fascinating week of rugby. I have spoken to some very interesting coaches, been inspired by the book I am reading (Bounce by Matthew Syed), been looking at laws affecting younger players in the game, watching the Tri Nations and gearing up to the Women’s World Cup.

I have enjoyed myself immensely. Yes, there are gripes and pains to deal with, but I realised that no game of rugby had been played in that week by a team I was directly involved or who I want to win.

It reminded me of something that Lynn Kidman, one of the leading lights of athlete centred coaching, said. Sport is about the joy of human movement: A great pass, a fine tackle, a deceptive step, a raking kick. Combinations of human movement, such as a soaring lineout, a quick witted backs move, a defensive blanket.

Yes, winning is enjoyable too. But more often we remember the style of the individual or unit than the team play.

This clip from a Super 14 shows it all. I don’t know who won…it doesn’t matter.

Better Rugby Coaching

Preseason handling drills by David Clarke

Though these drills/exercises can be done at any time of the season, this set of exercises are ideal as part of the skill development phase of your preseason training.

Taken from the Crusader R80 series.

Better Rugby Coaching