Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Training To Win!

A coach was recently telling me how his Colts side prepared for a big match. Both sides were unbeaten all season, but the other team were quite strong favourites.

A couple of days before the match his colleagues advised him that some light training would be best, but he insisted on a full contact session. His team went on to win the match 10 -9. The opposition had a long period of play just a few metres from the line, but time and time again the tackles were made to prevent them crossing for a try.

Obviously a balance needs to be struck. You need to give the players a chance to recover from a previous match, and you don’t want them exhausted because they’ve over-trained. But as a general principle, practice should be in some respects at least as difficult, if not harder, than playing a match.

So if you’re wondering why England failed to win the Grand Slam in Dublin, and were completely outplayed and outfought by Ireland, then maybe you need to know just one thing: England had only light training all week.

David Donner

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Rugby Passing 2

Of course backs are also perfectly capable of dropping the ball. One of the most common causes is simply taking their eyes of the ball, being distracted by the opponent advancing towards them, or looking at the inviting try line ahead, for instance. This is particularly likely to happen if your passing drills are unopposed.
It could be that the weather is particularly bad on the day of the match and the ball is slippery. But why not practice this by making the ball deliberately wet or greasy? As well as preparing the players for quite a likely eventuality, it would also make them watch the ball into the hands more carefully.
There is another category of errors which comes from when the ball shouldn’t have been passed at all, because there was no one in position to take it. One of the things that set the top players apart is their decision making. They take the opportunities that come their way, but they don’t make rash decisions if the opportunity isn’t there.
A simple variation to touch rugby could introduce the concept of decision making from a young age. The attacking side forfeit the ball if they’re touched in possession of knock on as usual. But they would also have another option. If a player shouts “tackle” before they’re touched, they must stand still, but are allowed to pass the ball when a team-mate becomes available. The coach would decide how many times this “tackle” option would be allowed before the usual rules are back in play.
The key to making good decisions is using ones vision to analyse the situation as much in advance as possible. The players should therefore be told that they should expect that the ball is always going to come to them, and to think about what they’re going to do before the pass to them is made. But they also need to keep monitoring the position of their own and opposition players so they can change their mind at the last moment if necessary.

David Donner

Passing In Rugby

The standard of passing in the Six Nations so far this season has been rather variable, from excellent to the frankly ridiculous. Sometimes the guy with the ball is so desperate to keep the ball alive, either to stop it going out of play and conceding a line out, or because having beaten two or three people he’s got carried away, that a totally inappropriate pass is given, which the receiver has no chance of catching, and may even be picked off by the opposition.
Sometimes, however, a perfectly acceptable pass is made, and then dropped. If it’s a forward who’s dropped the ball, there tends to be a collective “If only that had gone to a back” reaction. But how much time is spent on improving the handling skills of forwards?
The process of catching the ball starts long before the hands try to make contact with the ball. The fly half could probably recognise the type of pass (e.g. spin, pop pass or loop pass) from the scrum half well before the ball is actually released. But a forward is less likely to be less able to do this.
So one could start by getting the scrum half to demonstrate some different passes to the forwards who would be told to watch how the scrum half shapes to pass the ball, to watch the ball into the hands, and to pay particular attention to the feel of the ball in the hands when it’s caught. This is then repeated while taking the ball on the run. Some deliberately poor passes – too high or low – can be added as passes won’t always be perfect in a match.
The final stage would be to convert this drill into a more realistic match practice. For instance, three forwards have to score a try past two defenders. The move begins when the scrum half makes one of the previously demonstrated passes to one of the forwards of his choice as they’re running forward. The three then have to use passing and movement to ensure their numerical supremacy counts.

David Donner