Touch rugby drill to vary training

Paul Tyler recently assessed an U10 coach. The coach used touch rugby during the rugby training drill session in an innovative way. This got Paul thinking about how touch rugby can be used as a viable alternative to contact rugby in training.

  1. Set out your expectations – Tell the players exactly what you want them to work on during the game (for instance supporting their pass) and reinforce this throughout the session.

  2. Set out the rules of the game (the fewer the better) – Be clear and make sure the players know there will be no discussions about the rules.

  3. Offside – Make sure you have an offside line between 2 and 5 metres back from the touch tackle.

  4. Referee the game strictly – Stick to the rules you have set down and don’t be tempted to bend them just to let a nice bit of play go (children have a strong sense of injustice in situations like this).

Score Points Not Tries
Points don’t have to be given just for scoring tries during training drills.
Think of the skill you want to work on (for example
scissors) and give teams points every time they
execute the skill well.

Touch rugby games

“Support touch drills”

When the ball carrier is touched, they turn their back to the opposition and place the ball on the ground. The last
player to pass to them must be the first player to the breakdown to act as scrum half. This encourages all players to follow their passes and support the next ball carrier.

“Mis-match touch drills”

Only half of the players in each team wear bibs (use a different colour for each team). Bibbed players can only be touch tackled by other bibbed players and non-bibbed players can only be touch tackled by non-bibbed players. This encourages players to look at what is in front of them and attack those players who can’t tackle them. 

Case Study: Using touch rugby in a training drill to focus on a skill

Think about your objectives: A team I coached had real problems giving away penalties for being offside in defence. I decided that we had to do something game related to teach them how damaging it was to the team.

Develop a solution using touch rugby: I simply
introduced an offside line into rugby training drills. I set this by standing back from the tackle on the offside line, making sure the defenders were behind me. I then enforced this rule very strictly.

Try it out in a practice: The offside rule led to a very stop-start game. This ended up being very boring for all the players, since I blew the whistle every time someone was offside and restarted the

Refine your thinking: I decided not to stop the rugby training drill for every infringement but instead penalise only the player who had infringed. Every time a player was caught offside they had to run to the side of the pitch and do 5 press ups (or a similar exercise) before rejoining the game.

Did it have the desired effect? Players soon realised that if they stayed onside, their team’s defence was much more effective. After a week or two our penalty count for being offside dropped to almost nothing. Our defence improved as well.

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