Tips for coaches and supplement advice.

Reflecting back on an exciting World Cup, it was interesting to note that one of the sides who most surprised us, Japan, surprised us in a most interesting manner.

While we all marvelled at the offloading skills of the top nations, the Japanese resolutely refused to pass out of the tackle. Eddie Jones, their coach, realised that they weren’t going to dominate the contact area. Instead, they concentrated on excellent footwork skills and passed before contact.

Simple agility practice

by Eamonn Hogan

Agility, or the ability to avoid being tackled, needs to be practised.

Game–related activities are always a great option but, sometimes, you need to break down the skill to the basics and the best way to do this is ask your players to do a sidestep, a swerve or even a spin, in isolation.

Running around cones is the simplest way to test these skills but cones, however convenient, do have limited uses because they can be stepped over.

A training pole cannot. Here are some tips for getting the most from training poles.


Swerve past angled training poles without touching them to make steps more pronounced

Have an end point

If you ask your player to run to the training pole and sidestep to the right, don’t let him stop there. Place a cone or even another training pole that he must run to. Just as in a match, stepping into space is good but having the ability to sprint out of it is also important.

Maximum effort

If you wish players to run around several training poles, have the start and finish line at the same place. If you allow a player to simply run out and walk back, they will delay the progress of your session.

Make pole to pole competitive

Having set out a course of poles, set out a matching one next to it and ask two players of similar ability to race each other.

Also, if they touch the training pole, it means they have not completed the skill correctly as you are working on an evasion skill.


Once you have decided where you wish to place the poles for the session, try leaning some of them to the left or the right.

In a race, the more agile children will bend at the knees, lower their body position and sprint back to you. This is great training for taking the ball into contact, allows them to use their leg muscles to generate power and also works on evasion skills.

Develop footwork with this easy star–shaped drill

by Dan Cottrell

Use a star shape to help players develop footwork skills. A star has sharp corners, meaning turns are hard and players have to accelerate away from almost a standing start.

Star shapes can be part of the warm–up in which players can perform a rugby–related exercise in a box and then run into the star, do some footwork movements and then run out again.

Mark out a 5m square with a cone in the middle as pictured. Place a speed ladder 2m outside the box that will serve as the finishing point.

The player begins on the cone in the middle and runs out to touch all four corner cones, returning to the centre cone each time.

Next, the player runs out to the speed ladder and sprints through the ladder.

Emphasise players taking two steps out to the corner cones, staying low and performing quick, explosive changes of direction.


Players change direction through the central cone then finish on the sprint ladder

The player can carry a ball to the first cone and back, put it down in the middle before running out and back to the next cone, picking up the ball and carrying it for the next leg and so on.

You can also have two players running at the same time, with one player a corner behind, aiming to catch up the other player.

They will have to avoid each other when touching the middle cone, meaning they will be looking up as well as running hard.

Pressure game to mimic match day

Start off passing in any direction to keep possession while defenders pressurise, then call a numbered try line. Attackers have to realign and all touch the ball before a try can be scored.

Set up

Set up two 20m squares side by side. Inside each square, place an equal number of attackers and defenders – between 6 and 10. Number the sides of the square 1–4.


The rules

Attackers pass the ball between themselves while the defence tries to intercept.


If an intercept occurs, the sides swap roles and the defenders become attackers.

When a side is called, the defence stands still – in our example “3” is called.

Attackers from both squares must score a try on the called side with every player handling the ball.


The try–scoring pass must be backwards but can be lateral, switch, miss or any other type of pass you would be happy for your players to perform in a match Defenders, although not allowed to move, can intercept the ball if it is passed to near to them.


The winners are the team that has all of their players handle the ball and score the try first. A forward pass or dropped ball is an automatic win to their opponents.

Tell your players…

“Loud and informative, calling for the ball.”

“Movement throughout the square must be sharp.”

“Realign in attack to get behind the ball once a number is called.”

Coaching tips

Here is a pressure game where the requirements for success can change in a heartbeat – just like in a real match.

Supplement advice

Several supplementary aids, such as creatine and isotonic sports drinks, have been proven to enhance performance in specific elements of rugby fitness. However, many products make misleading promises.

Always check the following before using a supplement:

Is the substance banned by the International Olympic Committee?
Are there any short– or long–term side effects to usage?
Is there scientific support for the supplement’s purported benefits?
Who recommended the product to you?
Dedication to a sound nutritional plan and a well–designed training regimen are your primary means of meeting your energy requirements.

However, the following are supplements that many elite rugby players regularly use:

Protein powder to boost protein intake and recovery from strenuous exercise
Creatine to support recovery from anaerobic training
BCAA, branch chained amino acids, for building muscle
Glutamine to boost the immune system and prevent the breakdown of muscle
Glucosamine and cod liver oil to support the building and repair of cartilage and other supporting structures
Vitamins and minerals, the need for which should be met by a well-balanced diet, but you may want to add them as a supplement if your diet is poor and your training levels are high

Fact file

Several supplementary aids, such as creatine and isotonic sports drinks, have been proven to enhance performance.

3v3 game for fitness and passing accuracy

Three–on–three touch rugby places the onus on the attack. Players have to work extra hard to make overlaps or get into space. With only one tackle and quick turnovers, there is a premium on fitness and accuracy in this game.
Set up

Players: 3 v 3.
Area: 20m wide, 10m long box.
Equipment: One ball.

Game notes

Use only touch tackles, with a two handed touch below the waist. Don’t allow kicking.
Restart the game for infringements, with the noninfringing team starting with the ball on their own try line.
Let the game run for one minute, and then rest. You can have more than one game going at once.

BRC_i836f BRC_i836e


1 point for a try.
What to call out

“Pass and move”
“Keep running back to run forward in support”
“Talk up in defence”

Coaching notes

Players will discover clever ways of keeping the ball alive. It won’t necessarily help their “go forward” skills, but it will improve their handling and fitness. The game will be more popular than a normal fitness workout.
If you have more than one box going (which is likely), then you can swap teams around and play for a longer period of time.

Rugby quotes

“I’m so proud of the team. To win back–to–back World Cups is a dream come true – it’s a special feeling to be part of such a great team.”

Dan Carter, All Blacks fly–half on winning the World Cup.

Dan Cottrell’s Rugby tactics made simple.


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