Forwards’ coaches love detail

The best forwards’ coaches are often likened to nutty professors. Absolutely embroiled in the detail of lineouts and scrums, they find even the most mundane technique exciting.

But their enthusiasm and understanding is all for nothing if their sessions are not interesting and engaging for the players. Watch England’s former lineout guru Steve Borthwick, now with Leicester, at work and you will see he’s constantly looking for ways to make training as close to the game as possible. Mike Cron, who’s done so much with the All Blacks over the last decade, is the same.

In win lineouts on wet days, you will see a session that replicates their approaches. First, it focuses on a particular technique. If you were with them, they would be very keen that you would be getting that completely right. For example, for the lifters, it could be the initial body shape just before the actual lift. For the jumper, it might be the way the ball is delivered from the top of the throw.

I’ve found when I’ve run sessions like these, players can quickly relax their “shape” as they repeat the action. Research tells us that they will lose interest once they think they’ve replicated the skill well enough times, and that can mean only after a couple of goes.

That’s why you need to use two coaching techniques. First, you have to instil a culture of peer coaching. Each player helps the others look to improve. The problem arises where two players are good friends and instead of challenging each other, they are happy to accept average outcomes. Mix up the pairings or tell them straight that’s not good enough.

Second, you should put the techniques into game-related situations where they don’t know when next they will need the technique. That means, when the chance occurs to use it, they have very little thinking time to be ready and then perform. If they make mistakes, they will be motivated to train the technique harder when you split off again for the technical aspects.


1. Strong position: before and after
Though the players are concentrating on a quick lift, they have to start and finish the lift properly. That’s why the session focuses on the correct triangle shape between the two lifters.

2. Jumpers control the ball with their fingers
If the jumper thinks about fingertip control, they are more likely to spread their fingers and keep the hands “soft” to catch the ball. it’s then more likely to be a sympathetic pass “off-the-top” to the scrum half.

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