The first weekend of the Six Nations proved how hard it is to break down defences. Usually the defenders start narrow and then spread across. This means that they are squeezed together from the side of the ruck and then, as the ball gets passed wider and wider, they shift out.
One way to trouble this sort of defence is to employ the cross kick which rapidly sends the ball wide to where there may be only one or two defenders.
Make sure there’s a low trajectory from the kick, so the defenders have less chance to get under the ball. Today I have a drill for you that works on precision when kicking, so that when it comes to game time, your players can aim closer to the touchline.
Yours in rugby,
Head Coach, Better Rugby Coaching
Precision kicks closer to the touchline
By Dan Cottrell
Dealing with a kick that stops 5m from the goal and touchline is a nightmare for the covering back three players, especially when there is a good follow-up from the kicking team.
Being able to consistently kick the ball into this area demands a high degree of skill and precision.
A 25m x 30m box, several balls, cones.
What you get your players to do…
Use only your backs for this specialist exercise. Split the group into pairs: A kicker and a retriever, with one ball.
The objective is to kick the ball and get it to stop in the 5m square in the corners.
The initial activity works on the players coming to terms with what type of kick to use and getting a feel for it.
The kicker aims for the corner coned-off target area. The retriever gathers the ball and then kicks to the target area at the other end. K=kicker, R=retriever
Kickers are fed the ball and immediately kick it as they would in a game. The retriever waits outside the target area and recovers the ball. He then kicks for the 5m target zone at the other end with the previous kicker now the retriever. Players can kick the ball any way they want.
Different forms of kick: Spiral, ball rotating backwards or ball rotating forward.
A consistency to their accuracy and more importantly the weight of kick.
The ball is caught and kicked immediately to bring a little pressure to the practice.
Players regain the ball quickly and repeat the exercise.
Increase the size of the practice area to 30m x 40m.
Set up three attackers and make two passes to the outside player (following a pass from a feeder) who kicks for the corner area.
Develop the activity where passes are made to the wide player who kicks to the corner.
Develop this into a match-like 6v6 activity where any player can kick for the corner.
A 6v6 match-like scenario. The attacking team uses a kick to the corner once in every three attacks.
The first receiver can be the main kicker who aims for the corners, however, it can work much better if it’s a later kick from one of the centres, because the defensive winger will have started to move forward.
How to stop crowding at the ruck
A common issue for rugby coaches is dealing with crowding at the ruck. Use this game to get your players spreading out!
Run the game with three “positions”:
Wingers – self explanatory.
Nutters – basically think of them as flankers. Their job is to get the ball and, at first, you can set it so only the nutters are allowed into the rucks.
Tacklers or Killers – everyone else.
How to play
Only wingers can score and, only in the corners (that is, the ball has to go wide).
Only nutters can contest a ruck (be careful though, you need to keep it so the nearest player is happy to quickly pick up a ball and pass it – different from “contesting”).
The most important position is killers. They basically play zone defence across the pitch (which is where training in channels can help).
They are responsible for killing (tackling) anyone who comes into their zone and then getting back into the zone defence.
It may take a while for them to get it, but once they start to understand what nutters do you can also use it as a reward – that is, if you do your job as a killer well you can play as a nutter for a while.
So, play where only wingers can score on the wing, limit rucking to nutters only, and switch the positions regularly and after about three months you’ll start to get there!
If you have a game this Sunday, try going with the three positions and saying only nutters can ruck. If you make it a real “honour” to be the nutters, the kids will self-regulate and the nutters will ensure the killers and wingers stick to their jobs.
Scorpion stretch for flexibility
From Training Young Athletes
Each stretch to be performed for 30 seconds each side every day (after a warm-up).
Tell players to stretch the muscles and joint(s) to the point at which mild discomfort sets in (but not beyond). Breathe in and then out slowly as they relax into the stretch.
Tell your players to…
Lie on their front with both arms outstretched to their sides, hands level with shoulders, legs straight.
Tilt their head to the right, to look at their right hand then move right foot over their bum so that it touches their left hand.
Point their knee up to the ceiling.
Repeat on the other side. (NB: If they can’t reach their opposite hand, just go as far as they can, but look to progress.)
Tell your players to…
Stand with their back against a wall, feet shoulder-width apart and about 20cm away from the base of the wall.
Place their chin on their chest, hands on thighs, and slowly bend forward from top the of their spine.
Imagine that each vertebra is leaving the wall one by one. Try to keep the small of their back on the wall for as long as possible.
Stop when they feel mild discomfort in the hamstrings or lower back. Hold that position.
Return by trying to put the vertebrae back on the wall one by one in reverse.
Judgement vs. impact at the ruck
Winning rucks is not just about good technique, the key is to also know where to enter the ruck and what action is required. The arriving player has to scan the situation, weigh up the options and then take the right action.
What you tell your players this session is about…
Learning to make quick decisions at the ruck.
Improving body positions and angles when arriving at the ruck.
What you tell your players to do…
Look at the situation and decide whether you are going to drive through, protect or stay out.
If you are going to enter the ruck, go through the “gate”, not in at the side, to make a real difference.
What you get your players to do…
In the middle of a 7m square, set out four cones in the shape of a rectangle – three strides wide, by two deep. The cones represent the tackle “gate” and players cannot enter from the sides of this box.
Place a ball in the middle of the cone box. Split the players into teams of four and two and put them outside the square.
When you shout “GO”, both teams enter the square and try to win the ball. The team with four players has to work out how many players they want to commit to the ruck.
Developing the session
The training session can be developed as follows…
Add players to both teams.
Put two players from each team in the square and an equal numbers of attackers and defenders outside the square (and perhaps make the square bigger).
Develop second phase attacks.
A game situation
The session can be developed further by playing a 10 v 10 game (depending on how many players you have) on half a pitch. Use passive five man scrums, allow kicking, and if the ball goes into touch have a contested two man lineout. For penalty offences, have a free kick with the opposition standing 5m back.
Otherwise, normal rugby laws apply except you judge whether players are making a difference at the ruck. Blow the whistle and question players if necessary. Have any spare players shout judgements from the sidelines. Change the teams to involve all players.
By Dan Cottrell