Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching


Choosing the best rugby defence by David Clarke

Having sat in a couple of planning meetings recently on rugby defensive structures, it is clear that defensive tactics are not clear.

It makes for interesting debate and so I point you to one of the most popular posts on the Better Rugby Coaching forum, the Huddle for some good and detailed discussion.

No doubt someone will ask me to summarise the arguments, but the development of the debate adds a different dimension to the your own thought processes perhaps.

So if you want more on: the height of the best tackle, up and out, out and in, drift, blitz, how to train tackling, jackling and more then click on this link.

Better Rugby Coaching



How NOT to coach drift defence by David Clarke

Defence coaching focuses on technique and systems.

The drift system shifts the players across the field as the ball moves across the field. The tackler will probably be making a side on tackle in the drift system.

When is the drift system employed?

When attack team is aiming to pass the ball out wide. The tackles are likely to be made from 10m and beyond the side of the ruck or lineout, unless the opposition cut back in. From slow ruck ball, the defence will be spread across the field, so the drift is minimal. It is more likely from a scrum, some lineouts and quick ruck ball.

How NOT to coach drift defence

The game picture must be reflected in the training picture. Here are the pictures that don’t work so well:

1. Running and shifting to make a front on tackle.

2. Running at static bag holders.

3. Running at bag holders who are less than three metres apart.

4. Running up less than five metres.

5. Covering less than 10 metres laterally  in a drift defence exercise.

Better Rugby Coaching



Rugby vision: test yourself by David Clarke

Looking at this picture, you can see a defensive line.

What is their focus? What can we tell from their body language?

A defensive line

A defensive line

 Now watch this video and count how many passes the white shirted players make and write down the number of passes?

How many was it?

Now think carefully about your observation skills and what you really need to look for…

For a similar type of observation experience try this:



Turning defence into attack by David Clarke

Here is an exercise I use to get rugby players to think quickly about changing roles, from defending to attacking or the other way round.

The video clip shows a fairly low intensity start to the rugby session, where is there is plenty of feedback on what to do and how to do it. I asked the players to offer the solutions, emphasising the need to push and pull defenders with angles and footwork before contact.

Also, when making the transition, the attacker should accelerate into the gaps, not waiting for supporters, otherwise the defence can quickly reorganise.

This was the first time these boys had used this exercise, but they were a skilful bunch of u18 club players. Subsequently, one has become an academy player (the Ospreys) and four have signed for local semi-professional sides. The rugby drill can be run for levels of player though and I have used it from u10 upwards.