Using Rondos for positive environments

We have been adapting to the new way of working with Covid and trying to create a positive learning environment. I believe the environment you create is far more important than your tactics and complicated game plans.

I will show you how we set up and extended Rondos as a game, plus the feedback the players told me afterwards.


Above is the mini version of the game of Rondos, made popular by the Fijian team coached by Ben Ryan. The video is from Nick Hill, who hosted a session from Ben. For more from Nick, visit

  1. For a larger game, set up a 20m by 25m rectangle.
  2. Use a heavily overloaded attack (8v4, 8v5 or 9v5) as this gives the players the space to explore the attacking area.
  3. Alternatively, as above, you can do this on a small scale 4v2, 5v3, 3v4.
  4. The aim of this activity is to score as many tries as you can in a minute. I always encourage the players to set a target within their teams.
  5. The teams start on their own try lines.
  6. When the attacking score, they immediately restart by throwing the ball back to one for their team mates inside the playing area. If they make a mistake or go into touch, they simply recycle the ball back to a team mate in play.
  7. If a ruck or maul forms, restart the game in the same way, perhaps with another ball.
  8. If the defence intercept or gather the ball, they throw the ball to attackers’ start line.
  9. While it rarely happens, if the defence “cheat”, then talk about the positive environment you are trying to create.
  10. While it is best played with full contact, a grab touch version works well.


Usually, the first few mistakes will be linked to running the ball into contact and not having the confidence to attack the space. If this happens, I always allow the players to learn from this experience themselves.

Then, if no peer-to-peer coaching happens, I will intervene. I will ask the question: “Tell me what it looks like out there” and then guide my players using other questions to get to the solution. The solution for this would be “Use the space and be creative”. It’s important to guide the players to an answer on this one.

For me, coaching is not just about what is right and wrong, it’s exploring decisions made by players. For, example, why did they pick the long pass over attacking space?

If we find out the “why” (psychological) we can analyse the players’ decision making and help change it.

The “what” (technical) is the easy part to change. That’s developing better passing and catching skills for example.

Sometimes, it can take a couple of goes for the players to start to display their inner Fijian skills, but once they see success with this activity they are usually flying high on a wave of support and off-loading.


On the short sides of the rectangle, I always set out a 5m extension. This is an additional level.

If the players hit their scoring target this extra opens up and they have a pre-agreed extension target.

At this point, we did not add additional defenders in. The reason for this is to see if the players use the additional space. In my experience, this isn’t always the case and this is a great conversation to have in regards to space and utilising what you have.

Of course, if you want to add more defenders in you can, but that wasn’t our focus.

Over the two months we worked on Rondos, we had started to see players really challenging themselves to exploit space and also making the most of the space available to them.

We usually undertake this is in three five-minute segments (15 minutes in total).


This is what the players fed back to me after the sessions:

  • Extremely hard work. In both defence and attack. Time lasts forever.
  • Great at reiterating the importance of realigning and running onto the ball at pace.
  • Starting with a thin grid and then subsequently going out to a wider grid works really well. Amazing how much easier it seems (to score a try) once the grid is slightly extended.
  • The focus on basic passing skills but then the increase of difficulty and creating chaotic/different scenarios in which you have to keep performing them really starts to determine how well you can perform under pressure and also the ability of the player to keep his focus on the basic principles. Of course, it has naturally improved my ball passing ability but on top of that, it has definitely improved my decision-making skills and also the ability to scan the field before making any attacking decision.
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