Rugby coaching tips to improve game planning

Before match day get mind and body right

Remind each player of the following: "What is your opposite number doing this week to improve his chances for the game? Can you be doing more?"

If a rugby coach can convince a player they are working harder than the player they are playing against, then there is a greater chance of them feeling confident in their skills and ability. Of course physically if they are better prepared (no late nights, and so on) then there is an advantage as well.

Rugby tips for warm ups

Warm-up drills can give away a lot about a team and its match tactics and skills, such as who plays where and what size they are. So don't show off your best moves and skills to the other side. Sometimes it is worth practising rugby warm-up drills across the pitch before a match, so the opposition cannot see your lines of running or lineout variations as clearly.

In the changing rooms be careful what you say as "walls have ears". So, talk tactics on the pitch as well.

The kick off – have a plan and be calm

Focus on what is going to happen in the first few plays. The first lineout, first backs move. Players can then move quickly into position in the helter-skelter of the first moments of the game.

This is the moment to ensure players are not over heated, so they are less likely to charge off, giving away penalties from over zealous play. Whether you are receiving the kick or kicking off, a course of events should be mapped out with each player clear in their mind their exact roles.

Mental rehearsal just before kick off is fantastic, with players imagining what they are going to do. There is enough scientific evidence to suggest that the mental preparation and a reduction in the players' levels of excitement ("arousal" to scientists) will make their first few minutes of the game far more effective.

Set the rhythm and move at your pace

Set the rhythm of the game by the way the team approaches the restarts. Slow things down by moving slowly to a set scrum or lineout, but then change the tempo later in the game by being in position before the opposition arrive, shouting the systems or calls to make the other team hurry up.

Rhythm can also be set by the nature of your kicking game or quick tap penalties. Kick long to change the pace of the game, making their forwards move to places they have not been to yet. Run every penalty to keep the opposition moving. backwards, even from your own 22m area.

The game breaker(s)

All sides have one, if not more players, who are more likely to make the crucial breaks to score tries or set up tries. Set up plays which disorganise defences, then use the gamebreakers. In other words, teams will be geared up to stop the best players, but they will find it more difficult when they have been forced out of position.


Winning teams are often patient teams. They have confidence in their plan and their ability to carry out the plan. Not every move will break through, but constant attrition will eventually wear down a side and produce the opportunities to score.

The decision makers in the side need to be aware of this and keep to the plan until a collective decision is made to change it.

The referee

Rugby referees, good or bad, are vital to the way a game is played. To win games, it is important to bend and compromise, learning the way that the referee wants the game to be played.

The key areas are the tackle, lineout and scrummage. The captain needs to ascertain quickly where players are going wrong and endeavour to make sure they don't get penalised for the same actions again.

An important rugby coaching tip is to remember that, ultimately, complaining or disagreeing with the referee does not cut much ice, whatever the level you are coaching.

This article is taken from the Better Rugby Coaching e-newsletter. Click here to sign up and get free rugby drills, tips and skills twice a week. 

Click here for contingency planning tips to help you cope with last-minute team changes.



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