Pre-season | Week 4: Battle hardness


Get players back up to match speed by improving their battle hardness. Prepare the players mentally and physically like on match days, then play rugby.

It is time to get the players “game fit” and in rugby-match mode. That means working in bursts just as you would on match day. But often it is easy to forget the match starts with 20 minutes or even more of a pre-match warm-up. Think what you would like put into a pre-match warm-up and try it out now, as the warm-up to this session.

Approach for this session

You will be starting with your regular pre-match warm-up. This is a good time to experiment with what works.

However, the next part of the session will not be a game, but some contact work. It will be a shock to the system, just like in a match when the players have to make their first tackle or drive into their first ruck.

Once you have done some contact work, move on to a contact game so that you can imbed some of the skills.

Finally, finish with a semi-team run. Depending on the numbers it should be about two-thirds as attack v one-third as a defence, and then vice versa. The amount of contact will be up to you.

Session time plan

Session time 85 mins (including breaks for feedback and water)
20 mins Your normal pre-match warm-up
15 mins Contact skills
20 mins Full contact games
20 mins Team runs



Run a typical pre-match warm-up. Remember to include some handling, contact, tackling and unit skills to switch the players on. Talk to the players as you would on a match day, reminding them of why they are warming up in this way. When you come to your first match, the players will be concentrating more on the match than what might happen next in the warm-up.

Contact skills

Because the players should be ready for a match, you can work them quite hard physically.

Do some technical work on ball placement, offloading in the tackle, tackling, rucking and mauling. Give some feedback on technical points, but remember to keep the session moving at a brisk pace.

Full contact games

With a short break for water, move on to 5v5 full contact games. Restart from the side of a 20m box, or an area that might represent the side of a ruck. It has to have game-like restarts. Stipulate how many players are allowed into a ruck (say only one from each side). Again this will be intense and tiring. Have a couple of 30-second breaks and keep mixing up the players in each team.

Team runs

The aim of the semi-team run is to put the players into a situation as close to a real match as possible. It does depend on the numbers you have at training. If you can play up to 12v12, then great, but otherwise overload the attack or the defence. Put the players into situations around the field. For instance, clearing their lines, a scrum in the opposition 22 and so on. Let the players play and then offer some feedback on solutions.

↔Semi-team runs need structure and you don’t want to be wasting time or momentum during training working out moves or plays. Instead, gather key influencers before training. Ask them or decide with them how to play, what to use and when. Then, as the semi-team run unfolds, these players will be making the sort of calls that is expected of them.


Time for water
Use this session to remind players when they can take on water during a game. First, they should have a good slug of water before the training session starts. You should then make it clear that you will say when they can stop for water. In a match, players cannot just wander on and off the pitch to grab their water bottle.

Kickers and kicking

Another good fitness game is for the kickers and potential catchers (like wings) to play a kicking territory game against each other, say 3v3. One team aims to kick the ball over the opposition dead ball line. If the ball is caught on the full then the receiving team can run forward five strides. Otherwise they kick from where they gather it.

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