It’s almost that time of the year for the dreaded ‘P word’...Pre-Season! For many player’s, just the very thought of what’s in store for the next couple of months is enough to give us all that feeling of fear and panic! And rightly so...
Pre season is a time associated with sheer hard work and pushing your body to its absolute limits in order to reap the rewards come the start of the season. It’s essential for players and teams to prepare correctly and set the foundations; however it’s not only a time to focus solely on the physical aspects, but also on the finer details and skills component of the game.
Typically, a successful pre-season will accommodate these 3 sections: Strength & Conditioning, tactical development and skills – covering all 3 is extremely important.
Everything you need to know on pre season Strength & Conditioning can be found in my latest article here. (Link)
A big focus in pre season should be put on getting match tactics, patterns and structures right and identifying core moves for your lineouts, scrums and backline plays. Not to mention all of the rucking techniques and individual position-specific skills required, such as kicking, hookers throwing, pack scrummaging etc.
However none of this will work if the simple things are not done properly. Therefore, pre-season should be a time where we put a big emphasis on ‘back to basics’ and perfecting the core principles of rugby that all layers need: I.e. Catching, passing, running lines and tackling technique.
There is no point whatsoever in spending hours on fancy elaborate game plans and moves if the players don’t have the basic skills to execute them.
During my time learning from the New Zealand Rugby Squad, one major thing to note was the time they spent on basic skills. Passing the ball in pairs back and forth 10 yards apart wouldn’t look out of place in the local under 7’s training session, yet here were world class superstars performing the same drills for lengthy periods.
The importance of basic skills is certainly not to be underestimated and pre season lends the perfect time to ensure the basics are done well and accurately and can be progressed as the season approaches.
The 3 basic skill drills that should be undertaken repetitively during your pre season are:
- 1 – Handling (including hand eye co ordination, passing, catching)
- 2 – Running lines
- 3 – Tackling technique
It’s important to re-emphasise: do not underestimate the simplicity of the following drills.
Drill 1 (Pairs Passing)
Begin using a tennis ball (yes you heard it right!)
- 1 – Pairs stand 5m apart and perform static passes from both the left and right side (it’s important not to favour your strongest side)
- 2 – After 20 passes each, each player takes 1 big step away from each other and continues. This fashion is continued until there is (roughly) a 15m gap between.
- 3 – We now progress this to passing on the move by completing it whilst running the length of the pitch, again ensuring both players are passing and catching from both sides. Progressions include speed of running and increasing the gap between players.
- 4 – Now exchange the tennis ball for a rugby ball and complete the whole process again.
It may not seem like a challenging task but the more accustomed you become to catching a rugby ball without thinking, the more this will transfer in to an in-game situation.
Drill 2 (Line Running)
Successful attacking rugby must consist of players being able to run good lines to beat or fix defenders. Most common lines are ‘North to South’ (straight and hard), ‘Unders’ (running to the inside shoulder or back against the grain) or ‘Overs’ (running to the outside shoulder).
- 1 – Player starts on the try line. 10m opposite is a cone and a further 5m on awaits 2 players holding tackle shields. Either side of them are 2 more players with shields (so 6 players in total with shields)
- 2 – Left side shield carriers are ‘Number 1’, middle shield carriers are ‘Number 2’ and right side shield carriers are ‘Number 3’.
- 3 – Player sets off straight and listens for a number to be called out. When he makes it to the cone he runs the desired line (over, straight or under) and receives the ball from a passer and drives through the shields.
*Ensure attacker receives the ball from both the left and right side during the drill.
It’s very easy to simply crash into a tackle bag, so ensure you take the contact and do all the necessary movements to ‘secure’ possession.
Drill 3 (Individual tackling)
1 – Working in pairs, players take it in turns performing 4 different tackles on each other – front on tackle, left/right side tackle and rear tackle.
A) Firstly, tackles are performed with partners starting on their knees, then progress to standing, And finally walking.
Time should be taken to emphasise important coaching points, such as target area, head position, finishing position to win ball etc.
2 – The next progression is 4 attackers starting on the try line with a tackler starting on the 10m line. First attacker sets off running and the defender performs front on tackle. As soon as the tackle is complete the next attacker sets off and the defender should be quickly up on their feet, ready to perform a right side tackle. Next up is a left side tackle and lastly defender must perform a rear tackle.
It’s important that these drills are initially done at the start of training sessions, when players are fresh, so they can master the techniques and optimise their performance.
As the season approaches, you can then use these drills at the end of a session after some physical conditioning when players are tired. This makes it very game-specific as it re-creates match conditions and teaches players the importance of being able to perform basic skills under fatigue.