The Rugby Coaching Manual
(a) Importance of the place kicker in the game. The importance of a goal kicker cannot be exaggerated in rugby union. In the ideal world you would probably have him as first choice on any team sheet – then a second one as reserve in case the first choice is having a bad day at the office. Penalties and conversions are the easiest, least tiring and unopposed method of scoring in the game– and nobody can tackle the kicker!
The drop kick is also a useful way to score so find out who is best at it and do not fall into the trap of assuming he has the number ten on his back. You will need strategies and plans to ensure that you get the ball in the right place at the right time during a game – and that the designated kicker is ready and in the right spot. The whole team needs to know what is being planned so that they are aware of precisely where and how the appropriate possession will be available.
But don’t leave it all till match day. Make the drop kicker practise against a couple of defenders at training sessions and get them to attempt charge-downs. It is as well to have at least one attacking centre alongside the kicker in this practice as there is a very good case to abort the drop kick attempt if one or more of the defenders gets too close to the ball. They are virtually out of the game in this phase and it can be a productive moment for the kicker to do no more than attract the intended charge-down and give a pass to the first available player, who ought to be able to find a space to attack.
Then there is the unplanned drop kick, which has to be encouraged if you have a player with good technique. Even if the attempt fails, a chase can be very dangerous to the defenders. Such a chase ought to be part of penalty kick attempts, because too many teams stand and watch the attempted three point effort. Organise a chase of at least three players in case the kick falls short or bounces back from the post or crossbar.
Kicking is a skill that tends to belong in the category of ‘he did it last year’ so most teams go along with that. Why not, however, find out for yourself who is good at it? Hold some tests and competitions pre-season to sort out who can kick in a reliable method – and regularly. Success here does not automatically mean that the kickers who seem to be effective and in control of technique will be able to perform when the two league points are hanging over them like the Sword of Damocles, but you will get pointers before the season starts.
Do not assume that your kicker has to be from the backs, but do resist most forwards’ entreaties to be considered for the role. They tend to be capable of prodigious feats at 6.45 p.m. on Thursday, but that is not a very reliable guide to their likely success rate seventy nine minutes into Saturday’s relegation or promotion battle. However, if you have a forward who is reliable and accurate under match conditions, use him.
Make sure that your two kickers practise in a sensible manner. They do not need to go for length – the process of accuracy with a constant kicking method is what they should aim for. Get this aspect of the game right and you will never regret it.
(b) Simplify the options that your players really do have when they are running with the ball. Don’t be afraid to go through a checklist with them and you can build up a pecking order of what you want them to do. You are, hopefully, de-cluttering their brains by simplifying the available options. This may smack of regimentation but on occasions it can be useful in this complex game. This list of options does not have to be followed – you can easily rewrite it to suit your team’s requirements.
(i) Beat the man in front of you with a sidestep or swerve. We don’t practise this enough with the whole team, especially with the big forwards. When a large object is driving at an opponent, the tackler will almost always slow down and sink to prepare for the impact. That is when he is extremely vulnerable to a change of direction by the ball carrier and the forwards especially can surprise themselves with how (relatively) simple it can be – probably because it has not been suggested to them before.
A useful warm-up session can easily use this practice that needs no more width than 6-7 metres.
The Rugby Coaching Manual is now available for easy order from Amazon. This book will greatly help any rugby coach whether they are an old pro or overseeing their first training sessions. For more tips or information on the book, please visit The Rugby Coaching Manual official site. And check out a preview of the other chapters from the book on Rugby Rugby.
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