What does a backs coach do?

There’s a lot more to being a backs coach than telling the three-quarters to practise a few moves. So when you split the squad into forwards and backs, what are the essentials that you must cover?

Although the backs have less “set piece” to cover than the forwards, they do have lots of decision-making skills that need working on. To be better decision-makers, they must be able to execute their skills at the appropriate level.

A backs session should start with work on the core skills. It then moves on to decision making before concluding with attacking and defensive organisation.

Eight core skills

Above and beyond the generic skills that all players use, when you have charge of the backs you need to concentrate most on the following areas:

  1. Medium and long passing
  2. Running angles
  3. Switches, loops and miss passes
  4. Taking a pass at pace
  5. Side-on and chasing tackles
  6. Kicking and catching a high ball
  7. 1 v 1 rucks
  8. Evasion in the open field

As you can see, plenty to get through!


In both attack and defence, players must know how to react to the opposition. So, set up lots of scenarios for players to work on.

Start with a basic 2 v 1, with a defender coming in from different angles, right through to 4 v 2s, 5 v 4s and even, say, 3 v 4s.

Your challenge is to let the players work out what’s best for each scenario. Because the situations are so dynamic, it’s difficult to be too prescriptive.

Even in a 2 v 1, just saying that you should attack the inside shoulder might not be enough if the defender is running an unusual line.

Set plays

A backs coach shouldn’t spend more than a third of his time on set plays, especially set-piece plays. Instead, the plays should be built around the blocks of skill that players are working on.

However, moves should still play an important part of training. Practising a flashy move can be quite motivating and satisfying if it comes off.

But too much time spent on lots of moves might lead to confusion and less work on the fundamentals.

Blending skills

In the first section of your backs session, work on two skills together.

For instance, try a simple passing movement – such as a switch – and finish with a 1 v 1 ruck (like they’d do if they were isolated in a game).

The 9 is a different breed!

South Africa’s Faf de Klerk is tackled by Argentina’s Agustin Creevy

A 9 is a half back – both a forward and a back. So he should spend some time with the forwards when the units split up. This is best done when you work on the passing and running-angle skill sets which don’t require a 9 pass to initiate the movement.

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