Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching


Super rugby will be showcase for World Cup by David Clarke
September 16, 2010, 10:40 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby News | Tags: , , , ,

Super rugby, the competition for the top 15 Southern Hemisphere regional teams, has announced a new format for next season. There is one new team for this year, the Melbourne Rebels, and there will be a three conference format.

This means that in the regular season each team will play 12 of their 16 games in their home country, with home and away fixtures, before moving to a play off system. This will boost crowds and reduce the debilitating effects of travelling abroad.

In a World Cup year, there are fears that the international players might be asked to do too much, with Tri Nations games following straight after the competition. This will require careful management of playing time, but it is unlikely that the All Blacks will risk resting players in the way they did in 2007.

I think this new format gives Sanzar national selectors the best opportunity to look at a broad range players. Certainly the standard of rugby is improving. Will the Heineken Cup be able to match this?

After watching the Tri Nations tournament, I think the answer is no. Even though the South Africans have had a poor tournament by their high standards, they were kings of the Super 14 last season. A few selection tweaks and they might be too far ahead of their European counterparts.

The English teams need to go into a similar tournament as the Super 15, with the top sides from the Six Nations battling it out. The Welsh regions could go down to three teams, the Irish three teams, and the French could have four. Italy and Scotland two. If the English had four teams, then that would make 18 teams. A conference system could mean 14 week season, with a play off. Then into the Six Nations, with the normal clubs going into their own competition.

Radical I know and would not happen because of all the politics concerned. It is interesting to speculate who would make up the regional teams. Here is my selection:
England: Bath (west country), Leicester (midlands), Wasps (south london), Saracens (north london)
Wales: Ospreys (west wales), Cardiff (central wales), Newport (east wales)
Ireland: Munster, Ulster, Leinster
Scotland: Glasgow, Edinburgh
Italy: Aironi, Treviso
France: Paris, Toulouse, Bairritz, Clermont

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Creating 2 v 1s in the Currie Cup by David Clarke


Here are two examples of how the Golden Lions and then the Blue Bulls create a 2 v 1 from potentially a 3 v 2 situation.

Look in at 0:45 and 1:55.

It is simple, effective and leads to tries.

Better Rugby Coaching



Dangerous rugby tackles: get real by David Clarke
July 26, 2010, 8:18 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, rugby defence, Rugby News | Tags: , , ,

Three hours after the Jacques Fourie and Quade Cooper received yellow cards in the Australia v South Africa international, I watched one of my players being taken to hopsital after a tackle. I am happy to say the player was able to travel home that night.

Don’t be misled by the immediate reactions to the Fourie and Cooper incidents, and the Jean de Villiers and Rene Ranger tackles of the previous week. Let’s put tackling into its true context.

First, a tackle in rugby law is the only legal method of preventing the progress the ball carrier in open play. The tackle can be made anywhere on the body, but not the neck or head. The tackle must be made with the arms (hands), and the ball carrier cannot be pushed. If the legs of the ball carrier are lifted above the hips, this is judged to be a dangerous tackle.

Second, tackles are a mental tool to impose pressure on the attacking team. A strong tackle plants the seed of doubt in the mind of a ball carrier. A very physical tackle does this more. This has always been the case.

A player who is braced for a hard tackle is different to a player who is the act of passing or is twisted by a previous contact. “Tip tackles”, which are a slightly less dangerous version of the “spear tackle” are most likely on the “unaware” player. A tip tackle has the ball carrier tipped onto his shoulder, whereas the spear tackle drives the ball carrier into the ground.

Work your way through the circumstances for a tip tackle and you will see it does not need to happen. Basically it is a cheap shot. Watch the two tackles in the clip and neither are particularly aggressive tackles. The tackled player is not braced for the tackle because he has passed the ball.

Recommendation: Yellow Card
Why? Because if players know that they will spend 10 minutes in the bin for this action, then they won’t do it.
Suspensions as well?
Why not…for the same reason.

Better Rugby Coaching



Turnover ball must be wiped out by David Clarke

Juan de Jongh dives in for a debut try for South Africa this weekend. It was a close game, with the Boks beating Wales 34-31.

Neither team were at full strength. And that is in physical terms as much as player availability.

The difference between the two teams was clear though: accuracy of execution. Despite some flashes of magic and never-say-die endeavour from Wales, they simply made more mistakes than their opponents.

South Africa won turnovers in the set piece and in the contact area. Gary Gold, writing in his blogs and on rugbyiq.com has made no secret of the deisre for turnover ball. Turnovers happen because the side in possession are inaccurate in the contact area or with their handling. South African Super 14 teams have forced turnover situations this season and are very adept at creating the opportunity to steal the ball.

Here are the key areas to work on to reduce turnover ball:
1. Stay on the feet in contact and keep going forward.
2. Fighting the last few inches to the ground to make sure the defence has less time to compete for the ball.
3. Isolation is the fault of the support players. Some might say that the ball carrier needs to go back to his support. Actually he needs to seek space, and if he has to take contact, then he fights until the support arrives. Support players must read one step ahead of the ball carrier and be there.

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Is Graham Henry any good? by David Clarke

Here is an excellent piece from Voxy, a New Zealand website.

All Blacks Need ‘Full Monty’ Not Marvin The Robot Home

Dave Griffith Monday, 14 September, 2009 – 13:48

What has Graham Henry got in common with Marvin the Paranoid Android and General Montgomery? He is all ‘Marvin’ and no ‘Monty’.

In the North African desert during the Second World War, the British 8th Army was on the verge of collapse. The Germans and Italian Afrika Korps under Rommel had driven them back to the Egyptian border. The 8th Army’s men and equipment were as good as the Africa Korps, but they were weak in leadership. None of their previous commanders could outsmart Rommel, and troop morale was low. Plans were already being made to retreat down the Nile River.

The British commanders did a better job of talking up Rommel than Goebbels did, which was quite an achievement. How were soldiers supposed to win when their commanders at all levels kept praising the opposition?

In stepped Montgomery. He wasn’t the first or second choice for the job, but in he came. Immediately he announced that there would be no more retreat. The army would stand and fight where they stood at El Alamein. He set about getting better equipment from the Americans and trained his men in his simple battle plan. Knowing the attack would be renewed soon, he had to get his army to hold the line, and hold it they did. This gave self belief. More men and equipment came in and when the 1000 gun barrage opened up on the Afrika Korps three months later, the 8th Army drove them back all the way to final defeat in Tunisia.

They were not as tactically brilliant as the Afrika Korps, but they played to their strengths and that was good enough to grind out a win. Monty had his faults but his men loved him for believing in them and guiding them to victory.

Douglas Adams gave us Marvin the paranoid android, the ever depressed comical presence in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Marvin’s problem was that he was so smart that he got depressed that he only got to ever use a fraction of his intellectual capacity.

Graham Henry used to be a bit like that. He always gave the impression that he had super intelligence when it came to rugby coaching. Being forced to explain his plans to the media and grass roots rugby fans in terms we could understand was an unnecessary hardship for him. How could mere mortals hope to understand his brilliance?

Graham backed up his ‘superior airs’ with results. Four years ago the All Blacks were the undisputed masters of World Rugby. Then came rotation and conditioning in abundance. Critical voices were swatted away. The Quarter Final exit at the 2007 World Cup should have spelt the end for Henry but he was reappointed. Now two years down the track the All Blacks find themselves comprehensively knocked off the top perch.

Graham has allowed himself to slide into a Marvin like state of fatalistic depression. It took Marvin thousands of years to perfect his depressed state. Graham has achieved it in less than a year. Previously it took Graham months to admit that there was the possibility he had got something wrong. Now he is admitting it at half time in a test match. When it gets to that stage it is no wonder the All Blacks have no confidence left in the game plan. They were out their trying their hardest and the white flag was already being raised.

Faced with defeat the All Blacks threw out the plan and had a go. They almost pulled it off too. I have seen that before in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. The Welsh team coached by Hansen claimed they had no faith in the game plan and went out and had a crack at the All Blacks as a team, only losing in the last 10 minutes.

The All Blacks have the talent but they have been over drilled and tied up in knots. The coaches and Captain spend more time talking up the opposition than ever before in our rugby history. When the focus is on the opposition then we are stuffed before we start.

The High Command at NZRFU needs to admit that the current coaching set-up is no longer working. They need to have the courage to appoint a ‘Montgomery’ style coach. He was a nobody plucked from ‘left field’ who transformed a beaten army into a winning one by believing in them, giving them a battle plan that played to their strengths and training them to carry it out.

Peter de Villiers for all his theatrics has done just that. He has created a good team environment, with a game plan the players believe in, and the results have come.

There are good coaches in New Zealand rugby who would do a better job than the current set-up. It is time one of them was given a chance.

Playing Donald out of position at second five echoed past position switch failures like Christian Cullen at centre in the 1999 World Cup and Leon MacDonald at centre in the 2003 World Cup. Steven Donald wasn’t experienced enough for the second five role. There are a number of good second fives in kiwi rugby, but instead we put in a player out of position. This gave the Springboks an instant weak link to exploit – which they did.

Graham, when I listen to you and all I hear is Marvin the robot telling me how great the Springboks are and what the All Blacks failed to do. It signals that its time you went and coached Italy.

For the All Blacks fans we need to see the ‘Full Monty’. Give us a coach who believes in his players and the core values of All Black rugby. We don’t care if he hasn’t coached Wales before, we just want someone who believes they can win and has got a plan to achieve it. Like the players we will follow. Win or lose it has got to be better than this.

Better Rugby Coaching



You can score backs tries from lineouts by David Clarke


It is often said that defence wins rugby games. South Africa’s win against Australia this weekend in the Tri Nations goes along way to prove that point.

Ironically, Australia scored more tries, but they could not break the Springbok defensive stranglehold. There was simply no room for the Aussies, and they made handling errors, gave away penalities and had three yellow cards. The Springboks played a terrority game, kicking into the corners and pressurising the Australians into running out towards an agressive defensive line.

However, there was a good example of how teams can score tries from first phase lineout ball. Against the much vaunted South African lineout defence, throwing to anywhere but the front of lineout can mean lost ball. Front ball is not such good attacking ball.

BUtthe Wallabies did throw to the front. Instead of passing straight out to the backs, 9 passed to 7 (George Smith) who had dropped off the back of the lineout. He attacked the backline, acting as a sort of 9 and a half. Using a simple backs move to hold the midfield, the ball was spun out to allow a one-on-one for the full back. His momentum and good footwork took him over the line. Watch in the first few minutes of this clip.



South Africa produce the best passers by David Clarke

The best passers of the ball in world rugby are South Africa, according to Lynn Evans. The former Oxford University coach and well respected coach educator around the world, says that he thinks the World Cup winners have the best skills.

“They are extremely well drilled and rarely do you see a dropped ball,” he says, speaking in August’s International Rugby Technical Journal.

This example of great handing shows backs and forwards shift the ball quickly across the field before Bobby Skinstad performs a wonderful one handed pass to the openside flanker to race in to score.

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