Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching


Three players, three lapses, three tries by David Clarke

When the Lions look back on the second test against the Springboks, they will rue three crucial moments in defence.

1. Luke Fitzgerald: He was covering the 12 channel from the lineout and failed to step inside as Paul Wallace stepped across. Wallace was in the 10 channel, stepped into take Fourie du Preez peeling around the edge of the lineout. A gap opened up and JP Pieterson raced through. It was a defensive system failure because they needed to communicate and move across together.

2. Brian O’Driscoll: O’Driscoll is a very good defender, but also tends to race up. And so he did for the second try from South Africa, creating a dog leg. A defensive system error, and with Bryan Habana racing onto the ball, fatal.

3. Ronan O’Gara: When Jacque Fourie barrelled towards the line, the admittedly dazed O’Gara, crumpled under the tackle. An individual defensive error.

As one of my coaching colleagues said to me, that was school 1st XV stuff. Tough analysis, but unfortunately at the top level, it is the difference between winning and losing a test series.

Better Rugby Coaching

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Simple truths still win rugby games by David Clarke

An international delight of rugby this weekend!

I must say the game that caught my imagination was the Super 14 final between South Africa’s Blue Bulls and New Zealand’s Waikato Chiefs. I know that the rules are achanging, but once again the pace the game is played at is quite breathtaking. The Bulls blew away the Chiefs in the end 61-17.

Here are my thoughts on the key elements, and beware the Lions, because the Blue Bulls had some key test players.

1. Play with width, but come from depth
You can spread the ball across the field, but the ball carriers must interest the defenders with their pace onto the ball and some straight running, however far away the defence is. Both teams spread it wide, but only one team attacked with speed, the Bulls.
2. You must win your set piece cleanly
The Bulls were masters of disrupting the lineout. This led to the Chiefs throwing risky throws. Lineout defence is therefore crucial. The scrums were more solid for the both sides, but again a significant “charge” was made when the Chiefs needed good ball. Good first phase allows teams to develop patterns of play. Defences will have the upper hand otherwise.
3. Sealing is dead
A sealing play stops at the ball and scrum half finds it more difficult to clear the pass. At Super 14, it is more likely that the player “falls” beyond the ball. They key is: keeping the ball clean and if the ball is sealed, then the attacking side will create quick ball. Teams that coach sealing next year will not progress.
4. You must vary your point of attack from 2nd phase
Both sides passed the ball from the base of the ruck close, wide, off 9, and off 10 to keep the defences guessing. This created defensive gaps around 10 and then around 13. Teams cannot cover the whole pitch.

Simple truths we must continue to remember.

And mauling is back! The Lions and the Royal XV benefitted from the return to mauling. More on that as the week goes on.

Better Rugby Coaching



2009 will define the 2011 Rugby World Cup winning coach by David Clarke

The next couple of months will shape the coaching staffs for the major World Cup teams. The governing bodies know that two years about the minimum time a coach can make a real impact. Of course some have had immediate success: Warren Gatland for Wales and perhaps Robbie Deans for Australia. The jury is still out on Pieter De Villiers of South Africa, and Martin Johnson not really the coach for England.

The Six Nations will tell us something about the ambitions of the teams. The Lions tour will define some of the possible stars of the World Cup.

But for me, 2009 will show us how the shape of the game has changed at the top table. The ELVs and breakdown protocols have now filtered through. Referees are becoming more consistent in their interpretation. Players have adpated on field and coaches off field. I don’t see much new after the middle of 2009 and into the Tri Nations.

The competition will revert to the most skilful, best prepared side winning; a mix of the talent available and the coaching expertise to manage those resources. I cannot see the World Cup winning coach not in place at the end of this year. The big four, that is the only four winners of the World Cup, are still in the box seats today, but the hopefuls, that is Argentina, France and even perhaps Wales and Ireland, need to get 2009 right if they want to be in the final mix.

The coaching challenges remain the same, at all levels. This year will define the personnel.