Create leadership across the pitch

You need to be working hard even when you are winning. Here’s how to avoid complacency by developing leaders and looking to continuously improve.

You are always working hard to win and if you are winning you cannot be complacent. To combat this situation, concentrate on continuous improvement. Look at individual and unit areas to work on. The focus is always on a high quality performance.


When you lose, the whole group needs to take responsibility for the loss. As much as you would like to be on the pitch with the players, they need to play the game for themselves.

To build this understanding, be open to players bringing in their own ideas. For instance, once my 9 told me about something he had used when he played in New Zealand. It was a different pattern of play from the scrum. We introduced it into training and then used it in the next game. I am glad to say it was successful. However, we needed to work together to see if was right for the team.


I will pick players based their ability to make bold decisions on the pitch. Within this, you need to develop leaders within the game. That depends on the mix of players on the pitch.

This is a common theme in many top clubs. I will empower the players by giving them leadership roles on the pitch. They look after a defined area for a particular game.

For instance, a prop might be in charge of the scrum. Before the game, he will lead a short meeting for the scrum, outlining the targets for the game. During the game, he will deal with any on the field issues. He is also the point of contact for the coaches, so if we have any information about the scrum, we will pass this through him.


  • Scrum: one of the front row players
  • Defence: a flanker or centre
  • Lineout: a second row, main jumper
  • Counter attack: fullback or wing
  • Kicking: scrum half or fly half


Leadership roles mean that we are allowing the players to run the game. They have to make the decisions in real time and the more they are trusted with those decisions, the more likely they are to respond positively to our coaching.

Develop a culture where the players can make an input into the way you play. The pressure to improve and up the game comes from within. It is peer pressure that drives the players forward, not the coaches.

Taking this into the training environment, work hard on keeping your feedback to the players concise. Feedback is important, but the coaches’ feedback is kept to a minimum. You might say you have 60 seconds to feedback before we move on. Also make sure that certain players do not dominate the feedback.

Players know that anyone may be asked to make a point or offer a way forward. Implement that point in the next part of the session. Say you are doing a rucking exercise and you feedback in the middle, if a player says they need to use more leg drive, then that’s what I will be looking for in the next part of the exercise.

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