3 Curious things about Rugby Training

I am publishing this because it's been in the Drafts folder for too long and I think it can help more Coaches once shared rather than publishing it because it is a polished article. 

Below are 3 curious things about rugby training and some suggestions on how to improve them.

Random, Chaotic & Intense

At a recent seminar I presented, the above three adjectives were thrown up to describe Rugby.

The question posed to the delegates was: If those are the three words you'd use to describe the sport, what words would you use to describe your practices?

What would your answer be?

Do you practice the same skill over and over until your players get it right?  In a match, how many times do they get to 're-do' a skill?

How many options, stimuli, distractions and decisions are they making or receiving in your practices? Do those numbers compare to those in every second of the match?

READ MORE: Dear Former Athlete

Often, we see training that is well organised (drilled might be a better term), repetitive and fairly low on the Chaos scale - in other words training that is inadequately preparing players for the game.

As a percentage of your training, how much time is spent at 'game pace' and how much is 'going-through-the-motions' pace?

What you can do: PRICC

Make sure you're assessing your games, challenges and activities against this acronym:

  • Pressured - think: time, opponents, space, etc.
  • Random - never the exact same skill twice in a row
  • Intense - think: Game speed
  • Competitive - is there a winner and a loser; or, is there at least a consequence to the actions?
  • Chaotic - multiple stimuli (& add in some distractions)

Allocate a 1-10 scale to each of the above; where 1 is basically the lowest level and the Rugby World Cup final.

Assign your level of rugby matches a 7.

READ MORE: 17 Dos & Don'ts for Parents

Every training activity that is less than 7 means the actual match will feel harder. Every training activity that is above 7 means the match will feel easier.

Now ask yourself: how do I want my players to feel in a match?

Train v No One (this includes the scrum machine)

Is there another invasion sport in the world that spends a greater time practicing against no opposition than Rugby (legitimate, not rhetorical, question)?

Lineouts against no one... Starter plays against no one... Team runs against no one... And don't forget scrumming against an oversized sled!

When questioned, the Coaches often defend the training with something along the lines of 'we need to get our structures right first...'

Training against no one is great preparation for playing against no one.

Once Coaches understand the mantra 'Context is King' it becomes essential to have some form of opposition in almost everything we do.

What you can do: 3 Levels

Introduce 3 Levels of Opposition into EVERY activity:

Level 1) The Opposition (not tackle bags) are passive and fairly static. They're there to create some context and not to disrupt the activity. E.g. The Opposition lineout can work on their triggers, reading the attacking team and perhaps even jumping for the ball, but at no stage do they try steal the ball.

Level 2) Opposition are actively competing to win the ball or take up space. They're there to win the activity/game/challenge.

Level 3) This is where you want to get to! The aim here is to take the 'make Kindy harder than School' or matches feel less intense, pressured, chaotic, etc. than training.

For example, lineout jumpers are double-teamed for extra pressure or perhaps told where you're going to throw; the defence are allowed off-sides; fewer Attackers against more Defenders... Anything that makes the match feel easier.


It can convert pressure into points; turn a defensive position into an attacking position; cause indecision & confusion amongst the opposition; relieve territorial pressure; add two extra points to a try; change your 2D attacking options into 3D options with grubbers and chip kicks....

Yet, as a percentage, how much practice time is dedicated to improving the kicking of your players?

READ MORE: Q&A with former Wallaby Clyde Rathbone

Across the board, there seems to be an imbalance between what good kicking (including decision making) can do for a team and the amount of time & energy expended to improve this aspect of the player's skills.

  • Do you have a Kicking Coach? (Not just a former player who used to kick...)
  • Do you allocate time to specifically improve this aspect of your players?
  • Can your backs regularly chip/grubber & regather?
  • Do you have at least two players who can put a drop over (worth 3 points!!) from 30m out?
  • Can your players accurately place a ball that puts the opposition under immense pressure?
  • Can the majority of your backs kick with both feet?

If you're not answering yes to most of the above questions, it's time to change things up. Players just kicking with whoever happens to turn up early isn't good enough.

What you can do: Dedicate Personnel & Time

First up, get a real Kicking Coach. Someone who, at the very least, is organising time with the players to improve their kicking.

Secondly, block off time during (not just before and after) training to build these skills. It can easily be incorporated into fitness games, opposed team runs and any other skill work you prescribe.

READ MORE: How's your Coaching Congruency?

Lastly, appoint a coach to monitor & track kicking during matches so players are receiving reliable feedback on their progress. Remember, what gets measured gets done.

There! Published! 

Grant Jenkins is a Physical Performance Coach who is hopefully making fewer mistakes than before. Catch him on Twitter (@Grant_Jenkins) or on Facebook (facebook.com/propelperform).

About Grant