Ben Ryan

The coach who guided Fiji to gold and our res­i­dent colum­nist

Rugby World - - CONTENTS -


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 ben­ 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

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