Six Nations comment: Stop wasting time focusing on cups and records – just learn from the game-moments

Another pulsating Six Nations came to an end with a fascinating weekend of rugby. For anyone with any national allegiance in their blood – your heart will be looking forward to some time off.

Unfortunately, in the wash-up, there’s a media frenzy to pick “winners”, “best ofs” and “now legends”. What a waste of time.

The table tells us that Wales won the Grand Slam. End of. The brilliant news is that we do it all again next year. The bad news is that we must listen to cobbled together analysis of why, this time around, Warren Gatland has done better than the other coaches. Last year, it was Joe Schmidt, and the previous year, Eddie Jones.

If I remember rightly, it’s a team game. In the case of any international team, those involved number above 50, if you include all the support staff. Coach Gatland would be the first to admit that Wales didn’t win just because of him. In fact, he knows can be about such small margins, and that it could have all been over for Wales but for a stray pass in France.

And that last sentence should sum up why we shouldn’t focus on cups and records. We should, instead, look at the amazing ebb and flow rugby creates. Sometimes it’s a physical arm-wrestle, other times, the balletic movement of players and ball mesmerise us.

So, let’s not get bogged down in blaming coaches and their selection policies. Let’s not pick players of the tournament, or the best tries. Let’s focus on what we can learn for our teams:

  1. Defence needs connection
  2. Attack needs collective imagination
  3. Running straight preserves space
  4. Quick ball doesn’t wait for the scrum half
  5. Listen to the referee

Here are ideas to work on to improve these ideas

  1. Defence needs connection

Train in threes in defence. That means that there should be inside and outside communication from at least one player and wider awareness from two.

Here’s an exercise that works well with tag. You can easily upgrade it to full tackling.

  1. Attack needs collective imagination

Set up attacking scenarios in a carousel of four situations. The players have a go at each scenario once, then move to the next. You then repeat it. In between each go, the players will be thinking of how to improve or change. Because the scenarios will be similar though not exactly the same, it gives a chance for a conversation around the options.

Here are three scenarios to start you off.

  1. Running straight preserves space

Play “lump” touch rugby. If you shout “lump”, two defenders must carry two other defenders over the gain line. If they don’t within three seconds, then the defence have to drop two players out of their team until they concede a try or there’s a turnover.

  1. Quick ball doesn’t wait for the scrum-half

Play three second and away touch rugby. On being doubled touched by the defence, the ball carrier goes to ground and presents the ball. The attacking team must commit one player over the ball and the ball must be passed away within three seconds. Too slow, then it’s a turnover.

  1. Listen to the referee

In a training game, add in a twist to a rule around the tackle or the breakdown. For example, the defending team must be more than 2m back from the breakdown. Penalise the team hard for infringing, with yellow cards and one minute sin-bin for frequent offenders.

However, don’t tell the teams the exact ruling. They have to react and work it out for themselves. And don’t be afraid to be inconsistent – to add extra frisson to the game.


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