Three physical decision-making training games

Using games in training is acknowledged throughout the coaching profession – from grassroots to the top of the professional game – as one of the best ways to improve rugby skills and tactics. Here three games, “power passing”, “no-go zones” and “one pass” to develop your players.

Crucially, all these games are competitive, with clearly defined objectives and scoring systems to replicate match-like conditions and intensities.


Passing out of contact can devastate an opposition defence. The receiver can get behind the defensive line and the ball is kept available for the next phase of the attack.

This game works on your players keeping the ball alive, by driving through contact and then passing out of the tackle.

What you tell your players the game is about

  • Developing the power to break through tackles.
  • Offloading out of tackles.
  • Developing the passing technique and control with the wrists and fingers.

The game

  1. Set up a 4 v 4 game on pitch about 15m wide by 20m long.
  2. Tacklers have to grab the ball carrier by the waist and hold on to make a tackle.
  3. Once held the ball carrier can drive forward but has to pass within four paces.
  4. If he can’t pass to a supporting player or the pass goes to ground the ball is turned over.
  5. If a ruck or maul develops, the ball is turned over.
  6. More than one tackler can go for the ball carrier.
  7. Score one point for a try.


This game is fun and easy to set up. It works your players’ footwork and conditioning.

What you tell your players the game is about

  • Improving your agility and core stability.
  • Improving your evasion skills.
  • Improving your vision and decision making.

The game

  1. Set up an 8 v 8 game on pitch about 40m wide by 30m long.
  2. Add several “no-go zones” on the pitch where neither team is allowed to go. This will create a game of strategy and tactics, as well as developing agility and evasion skills.
  3. Turn over the ball if a player steps out of the pitch or into a no-go area.
  4. Make sure the players always re-start using a tap and pass
  5. Use touch tackles at first, before developing with full-on tackling.
  6. Score one point for a try. 


Your team needs a range of tactics to improve the presentation of the ball at the point of contact. This game can help them understand what works for them in different situations.

One method for quicker ball presentation is the “speed post”. See “Jargon busting” below for more details.

What you tell your players the game is about

  • Improving your ball presentation at contact situations.
  • Improving the speed with which the ball is produced from a breakdown, such as a ruck.

The game

  1. Set up a conditioned game where only one pass is allowed before contact is made.
  2. The defence can use pads, suits or live tackling.
  3. Score one point for a try.

The game may be a bit slow at first, with lots of mauling. However, reinforce the need for quick dynamic play (for instance, encourage the “speed post”).

You are looking for your players to pass the ball to team mates in space, and not just near to the break down. You also want your support players to move onto the ball quickly and then to take it forward.

These actions will create more space for the players to exploit.

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