Using games in training is acknowledged throughout the coaching profession - from grassroots to the top of the professional game - as one of the best ways to coach rugby skills and tactics.
So why should you use games in training?
- Competitive - tries are scored and points awarded. Players have to work hard to win
- Relevant - games get players practising under match conditions, at a level of intensity you control
- Easy to set up - you only need a ball and a few players to run a constructive training session
- Active - players are active, not queuing for the next drill, and are involved in both attack and defence
- Flexible - players take responsibility and are free to experiment, make mistakes and learn through experience. Games are suitable for all players of all age and standard.
- Effective - there are plenty of opportunities for skills to be reworked outside of repetitive (and boring) drills
- Outcome focused - games concentrate on the result, winning more matches, not on creating a team of "robots"
- Greater variety - different games mean different decisions to make, problems to solve and skills to use
- Energetic - games are a "sneaky" way of introducing fitness and footwork into your training regime
- Promote teamwork - games foster team spirit, enforce team values and motivate the players in training
- Games are fun to participate in, watch and coach... and no referee is needed!
That's why I have launched a new coaching manual of 48 rugby games, focused entirely on the skills and tactics needed to win rugby matches.
Designed for all players, whatever their skills levels, 48 Rugby Skills Games is the ultimate resource for any coach who wants to replicate match-like conditions in their training sessions.
Practice key skills
The games in 48 Rugby Skills Games cover the range of attacking and defending skills, to help your players improve in every department:
- Passing & handling
- Support play
- Kick & recovery
- Attacking as a team
- Defending as a team
The games are all competitive, with clearly defined objectives and scoring systems. They are divided into 3 categories:
- Small-sided games
- Conditioned games
- Game situations
Small-sided games give players the chance to practise their rugby skills in different situations. Since there are minimal numbers of players involved, play is intense, fast and furious.
The two teams frequently change from attack to defence, ensuring all the players will get plenty of opportunities to be involved in both sides of the game.
Conditioned games focus on isolating rugby skills in a game with constrained rules. These games avoid obvious repetition, enabling skills to be continually reworked. There is a more defined attack and defence, resulting in a more rugby-like game.
Players get plenty of chances to test out "what works". They will find their own solutions to common rugby problems - solutions that naturally will play to the team's strengths.
Game situations look to replicate match day conditions and scenarios, giving the players plenty of opportunities to test their skills under pressure.
These games are as close to playing a "real" match as you will get in training.
So who am I, and why am I qualified to give you advice?
I am Dan Cottrell, the author of nine rugby coaching manuals, two DVDs and editor of Better Rugby Coaching, the twice weekly rugby coaching email you receive.
When not digging out insightful coaching approaches, I am working in the game as a practising RFU Level 3 Coach, a WRU Course Tutor, and Ospreys Academy Skills Coach. I'm also an attached coach for the Welsh Women's team.
I know the value of communicating ideas correctly, because until recently I had responsibility for 16 teams. I was Head of Rugby at Cranleigh School in Surrey, England, a role that taught me every aspect of the game at the grass roots level.
Throughout my coaching career, I've been a magpie. I'm constantly collecting "shiny" new ways of doing things, asking questions, borrowing advice, pinching insights.
What catch my eye are the simple yet powerful rules that can be turned into practical tools to solve everyday coaching problems – the ones you face all season long.
More individual responsibility, better team performances
Incorporating individual skills and team performance, the games call on the players constantly to refine their understanding of their roles and responsibilities, in both attacking and defensive positions.
Players will soon learn how their positioning and the support of their team mates can be used to overwhelm a defence or neutralise an attack, to give the team the greatest possible chance of scoring or winning back possession.
Simple to understand, easy to use
I designed Rugby Skills Games with you, the coach, in mind. Each page follows the same format:
Introduction – An explanation of the game, and the skills and techniques it focuses on.
Set up – Showing everything you’ll need to run the game, from the suggested number of players, to the size of the area, and the number of balls and cones.
Game notes – The simple game rules, like "allow rucks", "don't allow kicking", "swap the teams after each tackle", "give the attack five goes to score".
Scoring – Key to meeting the game's objectives and keeping it competitive. In many cases, scoring is simply "1 point for a try", but sometimes it's more sophisticated, to reward good play. For instance, "2 points for stopping the attack getting over the gain line".
What to call out – Never be lost for words with these concise phrases to address the key factors of each game.
Coaching notes – Ways to adapt and develop the game to suit your players, or to introduce the game into a session.
Skill area – The key skill be practised, covering: tackling, handling, support play, rucking, mauling, kick & recover, attack, and defence. All the games address footwork, team work and decision making too.
Category – Indicating the type of game: small-sided game, conditioned game, or game situation.
Key – Making sure you can differentiate between runs and passes, and pitch markings and try lines in the illustrations.
Illustrations – Three pictures clearly showing you how the game is set up and developed, and highlighting the key techniques involved.
Captions – Explaining the key points of the game.
Free sample games
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so the saying goes, and I couldn't agree more.
So I've selected a game from the manual that you can download immediately for free.
Click here to download The rock
Give it a go with your players and I'm certain you'll be rushing back from training to place your order.
The games included:
Goal line stoppers
Passing & handling
Rule of 2s
Hot box feet
Gather and go
Fast, slow, fast
Neat and tidy
Smash and go
Ruck stops here!
3 seconds, 3 rucks
Twist and turn
The maul lives!
Kick and recover
Get your kicks
Catch and go
Attacking as a team
Defending as a team
Wall of defence