Learning the game of rugby can take even the seasoned professional years to perfect, starting from schoolboy grades all the way through to club, domestic and international level. Even stars such as All Blacks’ Captain Richie McCaw are still mastering their trade with the game continuing to advance throughout the modern era. There are various skills to learn within rugby that are of the upmost importance, and by practicing these on a regular basis, this can benefit your game and make you a better player for overall. When playing rugby at contact level, it’s important to train as you would play and practice the basic skills needed before game day. These are ten of the most important skills to master during your rugby apprenticeship.

Running

Learning to run effectively is a basic and common skill, and if practiced enough in training can work to your advantage on the field of play.
Whether it be straight running or sidestepping, both of these skills are important to your attacking game.

  • Practice running on to the ball with speed which gives you a better opportunity to break defenders and gain extra territory for your team.
  • Ball handling is vital when running. If attempting to break away from defenders, carry the ball securely under one arm, keeping the other free to fend off tacklers. This will help your running speed while keeping control of the ball.
  • Sidestepping is another skill used by backline players (and the occasional forward).To sidestep to your right, drop your weight on your left shoulder and leg, driving this leg firmly into the ground and push away on your right. A great attacking weapon, sidestepping is an integral part of backline play.

Passing

Passing the ball is a vital skill which if practiced with the correct technique can benefit your game immensely.

  • Accuracy is extremely important. Make sure you pass the ball at a height which is easy to catch(between the waist and chest).
  • Throwing the ball slightly in front of a player can also give them something to run onto, allowing a better chance to breach defenders.
  • Keep a steady eye on where your team mates are positioned. Make sure they’re able to catch the ball with enough space to avoid defenders or make another pass.
  • Control your passing speed depending on the situation. The quick ball which can be run onto can be effective. Make sure the ball is passed at an accurate height for players to gather. If not, the ball can be intercepted , resulting in an opportunity for the opposition to score.
  • Practice by throwing balls at targets at training, this can help your overall accuracy and passing skills.


The English Rugby Team at a open training session

There are many different skills in catching a rugby ball, whether it be in general play or under the high ball. Catching the ball is all about good hand and eye coordination.
Make sure you focus and secure the ball with your fingertips, closing both hands upon arrival of the ball.

  • Keep palms and fingers spread, giving every opportunity to gather the ball cleanly. Secure the ball for better control so opponents cannot steal in the tackle.

Tackling

Tackling is one thing you’ll do plenty of in rugby, and using the right technique is essential.

As with all skills, practice makes perfect and putting time into your defence can only advance your game further.

  • Keep eyes firmly focussed on the player you are tackling.
  • Aim to tackle in the stomach area with your shoulder and arms, driving your legs so your opponents move backwards.
  • Attempt to tackle lower rather than higher. If you tackle too high, you run the risk of conceding a penalty or a possible yellow or red card.
  • Try to keep correct body position and shoulders and back straight.

Kicking

Kicking will always be a part of the game, and learning to do so is normally determined by your playing position on the field. Backline players are normally responsible for kicking. Harnessing this skill can earn your team good territory and metres.

  • Practice your grip on the ball when punting. Put your left hand to the front of the ball and right towards the rear. Allow the ball to fall accurately on your foot by rotating your hands sideways.
  • For better contact of the ball, keep foot straight for improved distance and accuracy. It’s all about timing, controlled speed and technique which makes for better metres.
  • Learn to follow through when kicking instead of standing still upon contact. This makes for better distance and overall power.
  • When place kicking, practice your technique regularly in training. It’s recommended to take four to five steps back, using your non kicking leg as stability when following through.

Positional Skills

Playing to your position and dedicated role in the team goes along way to winning matches. Whether you’re a prop, first five, fullback or winger, it’s important to study your position and learn all the traits that go with it.

  • Listen to your coach and your team’s game plan. Follow your distinctive role in the team and play to the best of your ability.

The Rules

Understanding the laws and rules in rugby benefits your knowledge in the game and how they can work in your advantage or against you.

  • Study the law book and basic rules of the game. Go over the main points such as the ruck and maul area, scrum, set piece penalties etc. Don’t stress spending days or weeks on it, just familiarise yourself on what’s important and how you can play to this.
  • Study the referee when playing. Watch him around the field on what he does and how he assesses the game.
  • Play by these rules at all times. Respect who is in charge(the referee and the rule book.

Teamwork

Team work is valuable tool and one that can lead to huge success on the field. Rugby is not a game of individuals alone, it’s a game which requires 100% effort from every player to succeed.
Without teamwork, a team can lack cohesion and the motivation to win. As the old saying goes there is no “I” in team.

  • Contribute to a positive team culture. Praise others for what they do on the field and encourage them. Even if players make mistakes, give them a pat on the back and tell them to get back into the game.
  • Work together to reach your goals as a team.

Ruck/Mauls

The ruck and maul area is one of the more complicated parts of the game. Having a full understanding about the area can lead to better play and more opportunity to dominate.

  • Make sure as a ball handler, you release the ball when going to ground. If you don’t, you’ll be penalised. Simple as that.
  • If you’re contesting the ball in a ruck, make sure you are always on your feet and coming in from the right path(straight). If not done correctly you run the risk of being penalised, costing your team field position or points.
  • If you’re attempting to ruck the ball back, watch where you are using your feet. If you are deemed to not be rucking safely, you will be penalised and maybe placed on report.
  • Be careful in mauls not to bring the other team down as defenders. Again it’s a penalty offense.

Enjoyment

At the end of the day we all play rugby for one thing, enjoyment. Without enjoyment the game becomes a chore and more of a job than anything. Learn to enjoy the game and the people around you, this is what makes rugby such a great game and why it’s so popular in world sport.

Categories: Rugby Coaching.

Author : Ben Pearce

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Freelance Journalist from Invercargill, New Zealand. Contact b.pearce@journalist.com. Follow me on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/Rugbyaddiction

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