6 tactics for wet weather rugby

It’s not brave to try expansive rugby in foul conditions, just foolish. That’s why the most successful teams like to keep things simple when the rain comes down. What can we learn from them?


Coping with poor conditions in rugby is a fact of life. Rather than bemoan them, see driving wind and rain as a chance to gain an edge over opponents who might not play the conditions well. A Championship game between New Zealand v Argentina in Hamilton provided an exacting test of the players.

What lessons can be learnt from this match? Watch the video to view the early minutes.

The key points are:

ONE: Get your restarts right

If you get trapped in your own territory in bad weather, it can be difficult to get out again. On your own restarts, kick the ball deep and in play. On your receipts, make sure the first touch is secure.

Juan Martin Hernández fails with the kick-off, putting it straight into touch on the full @0:05. The Puma forwards get the kick-off receipt @6:37 right, with good handling securing the ball.

TWO: Build around your set pieces – and compete hard on theirs

To be efficient in bad conditions, it’s necessary to both contract around the strength of your set pieces and compete more heavily for source ball (lineout/ scrum/restart/early breakdown). The scrum is particularly important as there will be a lot more of the handling errors which lead to scrums.

At 1:55 the Pumas know they have a strong scrum, so why make another play? They gain a penalty and make the ensuing phases risk-free. At 3:25 they forget their own rules and call a risky throw to the back of the lineout. The All Blacks compete and steal the ball.

THREE: Play north to south, not east to west

Minimise the handling risks by keeping the play vertical. After winning the scrum @1:55, the Puma 9 goes straight upfield from the base, and 14 picks and goes from the base on the following phase @2:10-2:20.

Work on these tactics with Eamonn Hogan’s exercise.

FOUR: Increase your defensive line speed

In poor weather, you can afford to take more chances on defence and increase your line speed to pressure your opponents’ handling. At 4:33 the All Blacks try to move the ball east-west with the Pumas defence already playing 6m behind the advantage line. A mistake duly results in a try for Argentina.

FIVE: Target known weaknesses with your kicking

At 4:28 Argentina launch a high bomb onto the All Black wing Julian Savea, who at one stage had a dubious reputation under the high ball. Savea takes it well, but it was still an intelligent decision by the Pumas.

SIX: Expand your game when the risk is minimal

The Pumas only expand their game and move the ball through the hands when the referee has already awarded a penalty advantage @2:25. Expand only when there’s a clear opportunity to do so. Work on your basic tactics and wet weather techniques with Sean Holley’s session.

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