Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching


Two things you must watch out for in the Six Nations 2011 by David Clarke

As teams shape for the World Cup, there is the little matter of the Six Nations and Tri Nations to sort out.

With the Six Nations starting this week, here are my predicitions for each team and then two things that we can watch for and apply.

England – they should win overall. They have an all court game that didn’t exist two years ago. Perhaps still a couple of centres short, they will be the front runners. Watch out for how they use runners off the fly half.
France – probably second favourite. Plenty of talent available, but can it be melded? Will we see a pragmatic approach, with lots of set piece, or will they let loose?
Wales – could beat England or France but unlikely to win both. Struggling with key injuries to their front row. I will be looking to see if they will continue to play to the touchlines before opening up.
Ireland – sleeping giant. Leinster and Ulster are looking so strong, Munster a shadow of themselves. Which province will reflect Ireland – I can’t see Grand Slam confidence seeping through at the moment. I will be looking out for their defensive structures. Will they drift from second phase?
Scotland – jock in a box team. Cleverly marshalled by Andy Robinson, they are more than a kicking outfit. How will they create try scoring opportunites?
Italy – still the poor relations. As the other teams accelerate, can Italy make a real impression? Unfortunately, it is down to a couple of key players having big games, and hiding some of the weaknesses.

And the two things:
1. Ruck defence: will teams send in players to compete at the ruck after the first defender and where will the players line up for semi quick ball.
2. Kicking out of the 22: will they or won’t they. Teams are running more…will England and France especially let loose their flying full backs from this deep?

Better Rugby Coaching



How to tackle (and how not to tackle) by David Clarke

Here are some tackles and hits from the first weekend of the Six Nations.

Most interesting for me is the head position. The head should LEAD the tackle, because where it ends up pretty much determines the momentum of the body. I don’t mean the head “makes” the impact, but leads the rest of the body to the point of contact.

To get the head in the most powerful position, the feet should be close to the ball carrier and the eyes open.

Watch these tackles to see where it works and what can happen if it is mistimed!

Better Rugby Coaching



Will this be the way the Lions win in 2009? by David Clarke

Here are some of the key points drawn from the statistical analysis of the 2009 Six Nations tournament. It will be interesting to see if the Lions follow the success of the Irish team and adopt their tactics.

The full text is available at this link.

From the report by Corris Thomas, IRB:

This year, IRELAND won the Grand Slam for the first time in over 60 years and they achieved it by bringing a distinctive approach to this year’s championship.

Gone was the high passing team, low kicking team that characterised Ireland’s play in recent years and in came a far more controlled pattern of play that exerted constant pressure on the opposition. The following extracts from the following report illustrates the extent of this approach:

¨ Far from being the highest passing team as in the recent past, Ireland were the lowest both in number of passes and rate of passing
¨ In one match they made just 82 passes
¨ Very few Irish passing movements contained more than 3 passes. Only 1 passing movement in every 38 contained 3 or more passes, this compared to 1 in 15 for the other 5 teams.

The Irish effort was far more concentrated on tight play as the following illustrations show:

¨ They were among the highest rucking team and kicking team with the most successful ruck retention rate
¨ They were turned over only 7 times in almost 500 rucks and mauls, a ratio far better than any other team
¨ In a tournament of few mauls, Ireland mauled far more than any other team
¨ Of 7 maul turnovers, 6 were achieved by Ireland
¨ They conceded only 3 tries none of which started inside their own half
¨ Their forwards were the least likely to pass the ball – and often significantly less likely. Their back row, for example, passed the ball on only 13% of occasions while the back rows of the other 5 teams passed on no less than 35% of occasions.
¨ They kicked almost all restarts short thereby maintaining constant physical pressure on their opponents
¨ They were the most successful team in gaining possession on opposition lineouts and 75% of their tries came from lineout possession

This approach was complemented by other major factors
¨ 11 of their 12 tries were converted, making tries worth an invaluable 7 points
¨ They were the least penalised team
¨ They obtained more possession than their opponents in 4 of their 5 matches.

Better Rugby Coaching



Six Nations rugby still compelling by David Clarke

I have just watched some of the Super 14 rugby from the weekend. Some of it is breathtaking. The speed, power and pace is stunning in parts.

Does this put the Six Nations in the shadows?

The simple answer is no. Top level test rugby, where a whole nation of rugby supporters and press is watching over you tends to make it a vastly different encounter to top level regional rugby. Few can deny the passion of any team playing at their best, but with a nationalistic fevour, the stakes are raised.

The coach’s challenge is harness that desire, keep control and play to a pattern.

I experienced this in its own way on Saturday as attached coach to the Welsh Women. The girls are just as intense as the men about their rugby, just as focused. For the Welsh team, there is a particular passion since they have not ever beaten England at the 15-a-side game .

It was an exhilarating moment, standing in the changing room at half time, with only one score in it and our kicker having missed a sitter only minutes before. I will document the whole story in more detail at another time, because they are so many lessons to be learnt. However what I will say is this: Only the players can win or lose the game, but the coach can give them the belief, the plan, the way to win and the way to find the will to win.

The Welsh Women restarted 15-13 down with three minutes on the clock. The serious of drives and control led to a penalty. The kicker, Non Evans, struck the ball beautiful between the uprights to win the historic game. Many, many coaching sessions and meetings had led to that last three minutes, and I was privileged to be a small part of that process.

Jason Lewis, the head coach, and Rugby Coach writer, should take much praise for the progress of the team. Coaches still make a big difference.



Why Martin Johnson’s appointment provides you with the key to activate your rugby coaching by David Clarke

Few will disagree that it is sad that Brian Ashton is leaving the England rugby coaching set up. Given a pretty tough situation to start with, he is still able to show us two runner’s up medals: one from the World Cup and the other from this year’s Six Nations.

But change was always been coming and though the manner of the change has been ham-fisted, the transformation is important. Not just for England, but also for you as a coach.

Martin Johnson, the former England World Cup winning rugby captain, arrives with no formal rugby coaching qualifications or the experience of managing a team.

What he does bring it something you can use yourself to move your coaching output ahead.

Before I tell what it is, I want you remember the man in question.

He is big. He towers over most people and many players.

He never took a step backwards on the pitch and rarely off the pitch. This meant his word was the final word, to a team mate, opposition player or even the referee.

He led from the front and took on all comers, sometimes over aggressively. He would front the charge from the kick off, often beating the winger to the catcher.

So what can we all learn from “Johnno” ? It is that unswerving belief in yourself and your goals can carry you over many rough paths. It creates momentum, it pulls others with you and it doesn’t care about the setbacks.

I have just completed part II of a series on what we can learn from one of the world’s most success sports coaches, John Wooden, for the next Rugby Coach Newsletter. He would see Johnson as one of the main building blocks in his Pyramid of Success, based on his intention.

Do you have that personal belief? Can you reaffirm your goals with greater rigour? Then you might just find you have energised yourself and, as a happy consequence, your team.

I believe Johnson’s belief will do the same for the England rugby team.

Dan, Better Rugby Coaching Editor