Rugby coaching tips to get a winning mental approach

Winning know-how

To win from a winning position should be easier than playing catch up. Your side should not be forcing the game and, therefore, less susceptible to errors as players become anxious.

However, it is also easy to lose a game by either being too confident or trying to “protect” the lead. Here are some key rugby coaching tips to help players retain their lead.


Keep to working tactics

If your game plan is working, don’t change it. It is easy to close up or open up once you have gone ahead. But keep rigidly to the tactics that are working and don’t waver.

A good game plan will allow the players to express themselves anyway, so you should have no fears of reducing autonomy on the pitch. For instance, the game plan should outline how to get into a position on the pitch from which to attack through your team’s strengths.

Make sure your players keep to the moves and plays that you want to use to reach that position. Once there, your play makers will be able to choose how to finish the attack.

Short-term targets

Keep focused by setting short-term targets on the pitch. A lead is often lost after half time by teams looking more to the final score rather than, say, the crucial first five minutes after half time. Straight after half time will also be a key time for the opposition.

Reassert where your team wants to be for the next five minutes. It might be that you want your players to target playing in the opposition third of the pitch, you want them to maintain possession or, even more important, not concede penalties.

Positive rugby coaching tips

When things turn the wrong way, perhaps having conceded a score, a number of attitudes can be taken. You might feel your side deserves a sharp word to refocus attitudes.

A better way of motivating your team might be to mix criticism with positives. Finish with words that focus on the team’s strengths – what they can do well.

Phrases such as, “you always do this when you’re ahead” or “snap out of it, otherwise you’re going to lose” are not going to give your players a clear idea of how to go forward.

Try saying, “let’s focus on the defence at the corners of rucks” or “push the ball down into their half and let’s close them down with our good defence”.


Field position

A side that is behind is looking to score points. This is more difficult the further the play is from the try line. A key rugby coaching tip to make opposition teams score from deeper positions is to kick long and defend deep.

That means kicking the ball into the opposition third and moving up in an ordered fashion. Have one or two players chase to pressurise an early decision. But otherwise, the rest of the team move up together, with three players behind the defensive line to guard the back field.

The set piece

If your game plan is based on “hurry up” at set pieces, then stick to it. This means getting into lineouts and scrums quickly to give the opposition little time to prepare – and don’t change the game plan if at all possible.

If you don’t play “hurry up”, then walk to scrums and lineouts. Your players can give themselves time to gather their resources. It also breaks up some of the momentum the opposition might want to build.

Key rugby coaching tips

  • Stick to the game plan rigidly when ahead.
  • Focus on five-minute targets.
  • Be positive in your criticism.
  • Try playing as far from your own try line as possible.
  • Change the pace of the set piece.
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