The coach who guided Fiji to gold and our resident columnist
is upon us and with most clubs limited to one or two nights’ training a week and time at a premium, I want to share ideas on how to get the biggest bang for your buck on the field.
Firstly, be prepared. I’m a fan of keeping everything to less than 75 minutes – and you can get a lot done in that time. You need to keep the tempo high and combine skills with fitness. Even the warm-up should have key skills that are part of your attacking strategy.
Skills for pass, catch, tackle and run should always be incorporated into that first part of training. Make sure you pick up on the finer points of the skills too. If it’s a passing drill, ensure the receiver’s hands are ready and that there is communication. Make sure the passer’s hands follow through to the target every time and pick up on any that don’t.
If you think I’m being pedantic fine, but the game, when it’s all boiled down, is about executing your basics as well as you can. They underpin everything. I see a lot of teams practising and not doing the basics, so it’s vital for all players and coaches to understand how important consistent application of them is. And you’ll spot bad habits straightaway.
I like to plan warm-ups so that when you’ve finished you know a player, on average, has passed and caught 100-plus times. That quickly adds up and the progression is marked. To keep tempo and standards high you should also ban everyone from putting their hands on their knees when resting.
This reinforces good body language.
Reduce or eliminate water breaks too. Be aware of player welfare but you don’t need lots of water breaks if you are well hydrated beforehand, which sets good habits. And have micro conversations with players rather than lots of coach interventions to help the session’s flow.
There is a great book called Inverting The Pyramid that talks through the development of football formations. In rugby, advancements in attacking shapes haven’t been quite as varied but they have changed. Playing a flow or a pod pattern, or a combination of the two, are the general ones and first-phase attack should focus on creating a line break.
Think about how you want to play and then break down the skills needed so you can put them into practice. Attack is about skill execution, seeing space and opportunity, and supporting that. Again, basic support patterns – the ball-carrier should always have options left, right and behind – can be in all the drills you do. Two other things to emphasise are one, always take the ball moving and two, once you pass you’re a support player so keep moving.
I hate using tackle shields and much prefer having defenders. It means training can be three-dimensional as defenders can turn to counter-attack and so on.
I like to create my own practices and wanted one that encourages all the basic tenets of attack support/offload play. I call it the Rondo because it came from watching Barcelona FC play a one-touch game with attackers in a circle and defenders in the middle trying to intercept the ball. It led to high levels of skill under varying degrees of pressure, so I used that concept to design this.
Set up attackers and defenders – it can be 3 v 2, 3 v 3 or higher numbers – in a confined space. It can be full contact or grab tackles, and it’s about movement to create small ‘diamonds’ of support everywhere in attack and it promotes offloading, with the object of the game to score – head to benryan.co.uk/ the-rondo-practice to watch examples.
It is so important to ‘breathe’ in attack by having depth, which gives options for footwork, angles, decision-making and movement. You can have width but if everyone is flat the attack suffocates. You want to breathe in attack and suffocate the opposition in defence. Create drills that encourage this and your overall attack will incrementally improve.
“Even with width, if everyone is
flat the attack suffocates”
Basics instinct Waisake Naholo works on his pass