The Rugby Coaching Manual
If players really struggle with running straight, they will not be on their own. Running onto a pass and ‘cutting’ the ball is easy to talk about but it is not a natural action.
It needs practice and one way to develop the skill is to use poles. The players simply run through their space between two poles after receiving the pass and this stops them from running laterally across the pitch where they merely make life easy for the defence.
The coach can then start to put some pressure on by decreasing the forward space that the players have between sets of poles by decreasing the distance available to pass/take a pass. Do invest in plastic poles that have a foot piece at the base to allow them to be easily forced into the ground, so that you do not end up wasting time in trying to force a plastic pole that bends before doing what you want. If the weather has been dry and hot, very often in pre-season, invest in a lump hammer and metal bar as even plastic poles with foot assistance often seem not to want to be pushed into rock-hard pitches.
A further progression is to try to get the players to understand the concept of ‘cutting’ the ball as it arrives to hand. To do this, add another pole to each set of two.
Each player has to run outside the new pole, then he has to cut back on a line into the pass and the space. This starts to replicate one of the most difficult skills in the game – taking a space and the ball at the same time. Most players get a pass then look for a space to run into. However, this is easy meat for a defender. It is far harder to defend a player who takes the pass just as he changes his line of run to hit a space, because the would-be tackler is initially being kept on the wrong line and a late change can force him off balance.
The player who takes the pass by ‘cutting’ the ball still has the option of an outside break after the ‘cut’, but he may find that his first ‘cutting’ line takes him inside the immediate defender and into space. And even if the defender manages to tackle, he is likely to be tackling on his weaker side on the inside arm/shoulder.
This aspect of play will not come naturally to all players and it is well worth explaining to them what happens when they master the skill. Show them (by walking through) how a defender has a strong side and a weak one in a passing movement. This does not occur so often among forwards who are supporting in numbers behind the ball, but it does affect backs every time they start to pass the ball.
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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