"With the return to rugby, I’m really worried that my team (U13s) will have forgotten lots of things about rugby. In particular, I’m trying to work out when and how to introduce contact and tackling." This question came from a coach in Gloucester and is typical of lots of concerns around this area of the game. It is true that the players will have "forgotten" lots of skills. Here's how I would approach this situation. On the next page are two tackling exercises to support training. MORE
My first session back after lockdown’s lifted
In designing my first session back after lockdown, I need to understand my focus, principles and my team’s current state.
What is my focus for this return to rugby?
- I want the players to enjoy their return to rugby and I want to run sessions that allow for plenty of social interaction that they have probably missed.
- I need to be empathetic to the fact that they will have done a varying amount of exercise in the last few months.
- I do want to use the next few months to re-enforce my own principles of play for my backline players and build on the skill levels and understanding that will underpin that.
What are my backline principles?
- Run hard and fast onto the ball
- Identify and attack the edges of the defence
- Work hard off the ball to create numbers and width
It’s called our Rules of Engagement as I’m experimenting with a Top Gun theme at the moment.
BEFORE THE FIRST SESSION
I will be communicating with my players to encourage them where possible to build up their levels of exercise so that the return to training is not a complete shock. We have been sharing HITT sessions and things like yoga workouts to support the boys.
We have been holding regular online sessions to challenge players thinking around the game and to keep a level of engagement.
I will re-share the principles with them in the week leading up to the session. We have this as a document but also highlight videos that show them delivering on those principles.
Finally, I will remind them what the purpose of the sessions are over the next few months. It is not a really long pre-season: it is a chance to enjoy playing the game, improve where we can and, importantly, support the club to get back up and running and a hub of the community again.
A version of the 10 pass game.
- First team to 10 passes gets a point.
- Can move with the ball.
- Pass any direction.
- An incomplete pass is a turnover.
- Defence is non-contact but can intercept or disrupt a pass.
Progress this into a “banking” game. This is something we’ve done before, so I would suggest that if it is new concept for your team, it might be kept for later on in the season.
- First team to 30 points.
- The team can call “bank” at any point to secure that number of passes but must give up possession to the other team. For example, the attacking team make 10 consecutive passes and call “bank”, they now have 10 points.
- If the attacking team make an incomplete pass then they get no points for that sequence but would still keep any previously banked points.
- Most of the pressure we feel in this game is usually false. The defence can do very little to stop us. Players should take their time, move to create space and pictures they want to see and then make accurate passes.
- If a defender knocks the ball out of the air, they will get possession regardless of whether it is a clean intercept or not. Focus is on attackers to complete potential scoring opportunities. In a game we want to complete a 2v1 for a try, not receive a penalty because the defence disrupted the ball.
- In the banking game players need to consider the tactical element of what they think they can achieve and what they think their opponents are capable of when deciding when to call “bank” and give up possession. This might relate to how we use kicking in a match situation. “ Where are we happy for the opposition to have the ball?”
We will play Ready4Rugby.
It’s a game our players are very familiar and comfortable with as we played a lot before Christmas. I’d give it a Six Nations theme and allow each team to choose a tactical challenge to play with.
SKILL ZONE: RONDO
Have seven attackers and three defenders. Any variation of an overload should work if you set the right size pitch.
The game is based on Rondos.
- Aim to score as many tries as you can in a specific time limit (3mins)
- Run, kick, pass all available.
- Have six attackers on at any one point. If a mistake is made in attack the game carries on but one player must take accountability and drop out the back to be replaced by the spare player.
- If an attacker is touched in possession they pass and then drop out to be replaced.
- If a try is scored the ball is thrown back into the playing area immediately and all defenders must get back to the tryline before coming forward again.
- Work hard off the ball to maintain width and to be an available option for the ball carrier.
- Can we recognise and attack and 2v1 opportunities? These could be created in the middle of the field as well as on the wings.
- Challenge players on their understanding of how to “fix” defenders and their timing of pass.
GAME 2: FIRST PHASE ATTACK GAME
Purpose: Allow players to explore how to attack from set piece. Recognise how to use their own strengths and identify potential opportunities in the defence.
- Points based game – no time limit.
- Attacking team choose a lineout or scrum on the halfway line. You don’t need to have a lineout or a scrum just set up the appropriate distance away.
- If a team scores off first phase they get 5 points and get to attack again.
- The game continues beyond the first phase and any score with a kick in the phase is 2 points. Any other score is one point.
- If the defence get the ball they have one phase to score. If they succeed it’s three points.
- Once that passage of play has broken down it becomes the other team’s ball and they choose the set piece on the half way.
- Any additional players can act as forwards at 1st phase.
- What do teams need to do differently when they have 10m (scrum) of space in front compared to when they have 20m (lineout)?
- Is starting depth to our line important or can we time our runs to create depth once the play has started?
- What are players roles at first phase and can they think ahead to how the defence might look if we don’t score from first?
- How well do the players apply our three backline principles into this game?