The Rugby Coaching Manual
Don’t ever finish the session with restarts, because that practice evening will never end if you say that you will all stay there till you get it right. The restart is the kiss of death on any session and the sooner you accept this, the better your practices will be. By all means say exactly how many you will be doing, but do not go beyond that number if things go wrong.
Why do teams persist in running the chasers (nearly always forwards) into the ground before it has been ascertained whether or not (usually not) the kicker can drop kick accurately most of the time? If the outcome of the kick is uncertain, go long and get a good chase on it. It is not pretty but it offers a greater percentage chance of success than the short one that is badly directed. If your opponents can score by running the ball back from their own 22, you are probably going to lose the game anyway – and they’d have scored even more quickly from a poorly directed short kick.
The chase of the long kick should probably have five in the first line of chase, comprising a combination of three or four backs and one or two faster forwards, which leaves plenty of backs to organise if the opponents kick back against you. A waiting deep line of three to retrieve kicks, (scrum half, full back and one winger?) would make the opposition think twice before aimlessly kicking back. The rest of the forwards should be spaced between the first chasing line and the kick-retrieval line of three at the back.
Rather than aimless sprinting to retrieve long restarts in training, try to get structure and organisation into where everybody will go and try to get them all aware of what is likely to occur.
If the opposition do kick straight back to you, the dilemma then is what to do next in counter attack. The simplest advice to the player who receives the kick is to head immediately for where the ball came from and/or where the greatest number of opposition players seems to be grouped. It is not a bad blueprint for any counter-attack strategy and could serve your players well. It is all very well to invite your counter attacking players to look for space, but it easier for them to quickly scan for opposition numbers then head for that area; space will start to emerge from that direction of thrust.
If their restart from the middle does not go 10 metres, be very careful before insisting on playing it as once you touch it, the ball is in play and you may not gain much from their error. However, consider this. Why not take the scrum as you have to be pretty inept not to win that ball cleanly. Now your No 8 will see right side pick up, dummy, shimmy, show of genuine pace and No 8 scores with no assistance. Immediately disabuse him of this foolish optimism and become pragmatic. Get your longest/most accurate kicker to poke a long kick to a corner straight from the scrum and chase it hard. With a good chase you might be pleasantly surprised how much yardage you make. You can usually end up with a lineout in their 22, pre-call/arrange what you will be doing, win an early ball and pose a threat to the enemy goal line. This has, from my experience, a greater chance of success than the no 8’s solo performance that all too often gets more marks for artistic impression than for content or success.
It also gets at the opposition’s mental resources as they will be none too happy if a badly-struck restart from the middle ends up with their defending a lineout in their own 22. There could be just a little discord between the eight forwards and their own restart expert. Taking the scrum reinforces their annoyance with their inept kicker.
When you have a long restart strategy, you must ensure that you also find a kicker who can put a short kick on the button. The long kick will be relatively safe with a proper chase, but you will need options once you identify your kicker and the short restart does become an option.
If you go short left, it is best if you have one or two chasers who can actually go up for the ball with their left hand; similarly you need right hand-up jumpers on the right. If they go up with the wrong hand, they almost have to turn their back on the ball to try to make contact. Yet time after time you see teams restarting left simply because the kicker likes that side best, when nobody in the chase is naturally left-handed or proficient in the left-hand take.
If the ball cannot be caught, then you need a designated player to go behind their receiving jumper so that you can claim any badly tapped ball from them. Remember that, as long as the chaser was onside at the kick, there is no offside at any stage of the restart process until a tackle has been made, and/or a genuine ruck or maul has been formed – so cash in on their mistakes if they make them!
You will need a jumper to go for your own kick and a support player directly behind him for the tap. When you are receiving, avoid lifting your jumper until it has been perfected to the Nth degree. The professionals make it look easy but it is potentially dangerous for part-timers. Just watch some of your forwards try to guess where the restart is going then fear the worst if you have to get three of them in the right spot at the right time with a perfect lift that is synchronised completely with the trajectory of the ball. Play safe and let one player jump for the ball then get the support up and into him as soon as he touches it.
Once you are satisfied that your kicker can put the restart exactly where you want it, there are some simple strategies that may be used to confuse the opposition. The first is to consider using a strong back to go up first for the ball. He will probably get there quicker than any forward and, if he can collect the kick cleanly, could be a threat to the defence right from collection. A 4/4 left and right split can ring the opposition alarm bells, especially when it is pre-called and the players go very quickly to their side. The kicker can quickly assess the opponents’ readiness and restart according to what he sees; if there is an obvious state of unreadiness, go to that side of most confusion.
Once the split 4/4 is ready to go, there could be a dink just forwards and just to the side of the kicker.They are unlikely to have more than one player guarding this area and there are two options: (i) They catch, your centre (or designated player) tackles him, gets up immediately, straddles the defender and takes the ball. There is a very good chance of the defender being penalised at this stage or you could win the ball at the tackle and play from there. (ii) Your player catches the restart and you attack. Again, as with most things, it needs practice, but it could get possession in an area where the opposition is not numerically strong.
I advocate a long ball strategy until you can get the restart kickers to practise so that a short kick can be a safe and sensible option.
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.
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