EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

Train how you play: mixing the right games into training

If you train in one particular way, then you tend to take that into the match. I mix games into all our training and keep to our game plan principles in all our sessions.

I have a few key principles that underpin all training:

TRAIN HOW WE PLAY

The intensity of training must eventually replicate the intensity of the match.

STYLE OF TRAINING EQUALS STYLE OF PLAY

The way we work in training is the way we operate on the field. Our modus operandi, our principles of play, are practised constantly in training.

GAMES PLAY A BIG PART IN OUR TRAINING

I want to replicate game situations, both physically and mentally. I will use 3 v 3s or 12 v 10s to build on our principles and work on specific aspects of our game plan.

WARM UPS ARE INTEGRATED AROUND OUR STYLE OF PLAY

I keep our sessions short and focused. This starts with the warm up, which will use our patterns and principles as a basis to prepare the players for the rest of the session.

THE WARM UP

Warm ups, which are ideally run by the conditioner, should take between 10 and 20 minutes. In this time you might have some break out groups to work on areas such as ball presentation, tackle technique, breakdown skills or body positions.

Though there may be some contact to work on these areas, I will try to avoid too much “bone-on-bone” contact through the use of tackle suits and pads. The players will not be flat out in this part of the session.

One area we might focus on in the warm up is the tackle contest. The players into the tackle have to release the tackled player before he or she is allowed to play the ball. You can replicate these movements with exercises in the warm up which can then be replicated under more pressure in the latter parts of the session.


TURTLE AND SNAP TECHNIQUE

There are a number of techniques we like to encourage our players to use, for instance, in the tackle area we like the ball carrier to land on the ball. This has two crucial benefits.

  1. The tackling team cannot get their hands on the ball immediately.
  2. The more subtle idea – is that the referee cannot see the ball and so cannot see that the ball carrier still has his or her hands on it. This gives us a chance to place the ball to our advantage with a bit more leeway.

The ball carrier, once on the ball on the ground, “snaps back” – that is, quickly turns and places the ball towards his team – whilst the support players clear past the ball.


USING GAME SENSE

Attack and defence are best practised in game situations. We want players to see and feel the reality of the match. We therefore use game sense exercises to work on technical aspects and build these into the game itself.

BODY POSITION

I use game sense to work on specific parts of the game. You need to use a different thought process to see how you can put it into a game sense scenario.

Ideally, you look at solving the problem by trying to avoid the issue before it becomes a problem. If I am working on body position in contact, I might start by working on avoiding contact by using games.

Avoiding contact means body position is not an issue. The team could play a game of touch rugby where the ball is turned over if a player takes a certain amount of contact.


THE CONTACT CONTINUUM

What happens in the contact area depends on different outcomes at each stage of the contact. We can work on each stage in our training.

Use footwork before the contact to win the momentum battle, if not break through the tackle.

Taking contact, does the ball carrier have the advantage? This determines what he can do next.

Offload out of the tackle if the ball carrier has won the contact.

Take the ball to ground. The ball carrier needs to assess his options. Can he ‘turtle and snap’?


For body position, you can break down the different situations based on the continuum of ball presentation. It starts with the footwork just before the contact and finishes with the ball carrier on the ground.

The continuum outcomes are based on the relative momentum of ball carrier. If the ball carrier has more momentum than the defender then he will get through the tackle and his body position will be different to a ball carrier who is going to be smashed back in the tackle.

Turning this into a game, you might now ask, if we cannot avoid contact then how can we work on the first part of the continuum, that is footwork before contact?.

You could use a 3 v 3 game in the warm up to work on this. You could then focus on an offload game and finally a game where the ball carrier is forced to go to the ground.

GAMES IN THE WARM UP

We have about half a dozen or more games to play in warm up. You should mix up which ones you use, to give variety and hold interest. There should be an element of fun and enjoyment. I always use a ball because I want players to be comfortable on the ball.

The warm up might have breakout groups which then work on specific skills. Here use drills to work on the specific areas that you have identified. I do throw in some stretches, because the players like stretching. Games should be an integral part of training and warm up to ensure players get a taste of what happens in real play.

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