There are a few basics in rugby, which players and teams must always get right – whether they are an international or a local amateur club side. Now, I may be harsh, but I think getting any of these wrong is simply inexcusable.
Kick-Off. The first opportunity a team has after the clock starts and the whistle blows is the kick off. Players can kick the ball anywhere on the field, so there is no excuse for kicking it out on the full. Yet, we see this every weekend – players kicking directly into touch! Why? Pressure, wind?
Tackling. The next bit of action would be tackling, and most importantly, the first tackle. It’s a contact sport after all! The days where it wasn’t the fly halves job to tackle is over – now that’s normally the first channel the forwards attack. Why can’t players tackle around the ankles anymore?
Rucking our properly. After the ball carrier is tackled, teammates no longer clean the ruck out – that’s why you have so many penalties. Players falling over the ruck, slowing the ball down, etc. If you ask me, the guys don’t clean out because they like to protect the ball. They normally just stand over it, and most times it just turns into a messy affair. This can all be avoided by taking a teammate and clearing out the ruck.
The wing running with the ball in the wrong hand. We all can’t be Jonah Lomu running over our opposite number. As a wing, the first thing you learn is that you don’t have a lot of space running down the touch line, so you need your inside hand to hand off players. Yet every week you see wingers running with the ball in the wrong hand.
The Hooker not finding his jumpers. This is also something you see regularly – hookers trying to find the no. 4 jumper or throwing to the back of the line out, and loosing their own throw (even with opposition not competing!). If your no. 4 or the back is not working, bring it back to no. 2. Surely it’s more important to win your own line-out than to try and confuse the opposition and in the process confusing your own locks.
And then there is the scrum. The no. 8 trying to control the ball at the back of the scrum in his own 22. Something you see from your top teams. I think it is inexcusable. If you are on your opponent’s goal line, then yes go for the push over try, but come on guys – not when you’re under pressure. Under pressure you put the ball in, get it straight back and out where your scrum-half or fly-half can releave some pressure.
I think all of this comes down to the way you train. The way you train is the way you play. You don’t need to have top players or coaches to play top rugby – just change the way you train. Train with opposition. When in a game situation you don’t tackle tackle-bags or clean defending-bags at the ruck. If you want to get the basics right, change the way you train and train like you play.
By: Pierre Mackie