Using games like Dobble to improve scrum outcomes

Scrums have always been one of my passions. I enjoy the challenge it gives us and the feeling of working together to achieve a shared goal is unbelievable.

My coaching at Gravesend focussed first on body positions.

I always approach developing a scrum philosophy from the foundations up: They are built on strong body position, working together and a strong core.

But, it is also built on players using their brains to outwit the opposition scrum. The danger is you might “hit a scrum” and not have a plan of what you are going to do.

You need to ask the question: What will you do if it is successful and how do you get to that point?


Firstly, I always use Silverback Harnesses when coaching players (and it can be used with other positions too) – they are worth every penny.

I always explain and share pictures with the players of what we want to see from their body position in the scrum. This enables the players to see what I am looking for and through discussions between us, how they can achieve it.

In this video, you can see the players are already in a basic engaged body position.

The aim of this activity is to get the players core working under resistance. This would include the basic “Tower of Power” (with some tweaks) that we have seen in many scrum set ups and scrum courses. However, this activity has some added extras.


The players extend and lock out their legs and takes the tension from the Silverback Harness.


The tennis ball is placed by the feet as a marker to indicate the starting point.


The players then take steps out using one foot at a time, whilst remaining connected with the ground (sometimes this is called “catch up”). See 8 seconds into the video about


Once the players are “fully extended and locked out” we then initiate the Dobble game. This is 28 seconds into the video above

The two players have to battle each other at Dobble whilst maintaining an extended body position (an extension to this task would be to put additional pressure on the players by pushing the side of their bodies. But they must always try to fight against this pressure.

Whoever wins the Dobble game gets a point and whoever had the strongest body position gets a point too. It is worth mentioning that you can use alternative games here – for example you could use rock, paper scissors, snap or even 21s.

As the game carries on the body position can starts to drop in quality. At this point, it is vital to put more pressure on the body (slight pushes) and also deliver direct feedback to the player (specifics around the body position).

The aim of this was to be in the locked-out scrum position for as long as possible, whilst engaging in the game of Dobble. In a “real time” scrum you wouldn’t be playing Dobble, but you would be using your executive functioning skills.

Executive functioning is something we are all born with the potential to develop.These skills help us with a number of actions we do on a regular basis, for example: planning, self-control, perseverance, memory and meta cognition. Sometimes, it is referred to the air traffic control system of the brain.

Practising these skills will enable us to be effective performers within our own potential. However, one of the most important parts of this process is holding the pressure from the opposition and identifying their weaknesses.

Once you have identified them, for example a second row lifts one foot off the ground and doesn’t drag it, you would attack that. In this example, hold until the foot comes up.

Bear in mind scrums rarely last for more than 10 seconds, which means these decisions are made quickly.


Why make these players work on their body position and using their executive functioning skills to outwit the opposition?

Scrums can be very fluid in approach and they can also be very structured. What your scrum looks like is based on your and the players agreed philosophy. Always design your approach to scrummage with your players and identify your strengths and weaknesses.

Once you identify your strengths build your scrum around them. This should mitigate the weakness. For example, if you have a lightweight set of forwards which are physically fit and strong, you might decide to build your scrum around a good feed, strike and getting the ball out swiftly.

I always say to the forwards that you should break each section of the scrum process into sections and think about what we can do in each section. This enables us to play to our strengths.  You can see this in these videos – more importantly can you work out the groups of forwards strengths?

The videos you can see are the very basic level 121 scrum work I undertake with players. As the season progresses we would start to use the practice time to really put the players under pressure. Before games, I always have the Silverback Harnesses out for the players to use in their warm ups.

During training I try to stick to live scrums, using lines on the floor as markers and also sometime using squares for scrums to move too. For example, if we are looking to move to the blind side of the pitch I would have a line under the centre of the scrum for the players to push over, this would give 1 point and a destination “square” this is heavily weighted with points too.

I always encourage players to offer feedback to each other after each scrum. This can cut down the “practice time”. However, there is no better teacher than your opposite number, by working out a mistake and then telling you in a positive way.

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