Note: this page is based on IRB coaching material, my own experiences and feedback from other coaches. Thanks Norman!
When you want to create a high performance rugby team you need to look at the team assets and individual strengths of players. Piecing together the optimum position for the players is one of the great teambuilding activities of the coach and his players.
I think a lot of rugby coaches underestimate the motivational power that will develop when you start working with the players and discussing where their competence's will benefit the team the most.
With these rugby players specific pages I hope to identify the main tasks that come along with the position. A great teambuilding activity would be to let the team match their individual skills with the positions.
Definition is one, to agree with these tasks is important, performing the tasks is the third thing. Doing all three with all the players in the team is an elementary step to a successful team !
Good luck in developing your team spirit!
Loose Head Prop (#1)
The loose head prop together with Hooker has to put pressure on the opposition Tight Head. Total concentration at the scrum is required to be effective, making the scrum an attacking weapon, wearing down the opposition as the match progresses.
He should be dedicated to training in the gym to obtain that competitive edge. Going backwards in scrums should not be an option. Good scrimmaging = good rucks and mauls.
Every rugby player should develop his speed, for the props extra focus should be on the quick burst carrying the ball into the defensive line trying to suck in defenders: explosive steps, agility. Look at my SAQ pages to improve your running technique.
Props must be the most intense players on the pitch. This intensity must come to the fore during a scrum. The focus and concentration--physical, mental, emotional--required to dominate in the scrum, particularly at elite levels, far surpasses that displayed by other players.
There is a difference in the two prop positions that could very well be reflected in the character of the players. The Loose Head (LH) needs to be more aggressive. And although the TH will always be facing both the opposition Hooker and LH and will always be dominated he should be determined to pin the opposition LH down.
Strength and timing as they assist the jumpers in the line out is important. A number of things:
- Take up the same stance in the lineout, no matter where the ball is to be thrown.
- Stand square at the throw-in.
- Bind as closely as possible to the catcher at the same time keeping an eye on your opposition, do not leave a hole. If necessary support the jumper at the top of his leap.
- Bind and drive in the follow up, do not get distracted by the bobbled ball - other team mates will look after the ball.
The Loose Head (LH) needs to achieve a goal: get his head in and under the TH and push; he needs to lift the opposition TH. The LH is at a bit of a disadvantage from the outset and needs to overcompensate. To achieve this he needs to be very aggressive, self-sacrificing and deliberate.
Self-sacrificing: willing to take the pressure on the back of his neck and still slide his head in and under the TH. Deliberate: wanting to do what he has to do to get his head under the TH's sternum, and push up and forward with the back of his head, thereby getting the opposition to stand upright. I have a special page set up for the scrum.
- Try to lead in on your own put in.
- Beat the opposition to the mark on each scrum.
- Stabilize the scrum when the ball is put on the loose head so the ball is delivered from a stable platform.
- Shoulders should be no lower than the knees. If the scrum is to be lowered then bend at the knees.
- Drive scrummage from left leg to right leg, stabilize your footwork.
Open play: offence
Being mobile is important - in effect another back row player - and being comfortable with the ball in hand. In today's modern fast dynamic rugby game it is essential that the two props get to the breakdown quickly, the first few meters are important from set play and make their presence felt with the binding and driving, strong mauling, the occasional pick-and-go and as a runner off 2nd phase ball.
When approaching second phase play, decide whether you are joining a ruck/maul. No decision and simply going over the ball and bridge always seem the safe option - but challenge yourself: THINK! No decision is just as bad as a wrong decision......
- read the opposition
- participate actively in the lineout, support or not supporting the jumper
- support the ball carrier on two sides (anywhere on the field)
- be at the on-even or even second phase-play, divide the rolls op play
- continue play in open area
- look for the room between the opposition, not for the opposition
- bind and drive past the ball
- bind on the side which is most advantageous to your own team, take out the opposition and/of protect the ball
- occasionally you can scoop the ball up and continue going forward. Think fist! are my backs in the ruck and where are my support players. Know this before entering the ruck
- build a platform to protect the ball, at all legal cost
- get involved when you are in the circle of influence
Mauls: own ball
- prevent mauling by having mini rucks
- bind on the side to protect delivery of the ball
- act as the pivot for a rolling maul, after initially contributing to the forward drive
- place the pivot on the spot where the is exploitation possible on the oppositions behalf
This player has to be an all-rounder in open play and is an excellent passer off both hands.
A good defender around the fringes and in cover. With most play seeing many more phases, the props end up everywhere in the defensive line. This can lead to a possible mismatch where a slower prop has to defend a speedy center. For this reason the props have to move inside to the marker positions next to the breakdown.
- have the ability to make good decisions
- make offensive hits
- know the roll you play in the defensive organization
- compete always for the ball
- pressure opposition in every position of play
Rucks: opposition ball
- provide ball retainment
- drive forward to slow down or stop their continuous play
- bind with a team mate for better effect and remember your body position on entering
Mauls: opposition ball
- drive forward to slow down or stop their continuous play
- upset their delivery of the ball
- stop the rotation of the maul by driving onto the legs on the side towards which the maul is rolling, again make it happen to stop a maul!
- be aware that the backs could cut back against the initial flow of play. Be prepared to tackle the initial ball carrier
- He must be a strong scrimmager, strong runner and competitive. One of the most vital positions in the team having to make important decisions at scrum and line out time.
- Strong scrummager
- Support Line out jumpers
- Comfortable with ball in hand
- Ability to make decisions at contact situations
- Support player
- Ability to gain and retain possesion
- Provide support at kick-off
- Concentration and dedication to the team from both props ensures a healthy 'team culture'.
My favorite LH prop of all times
I like the front row of the 2006 and 2007 Italy team: "small" but very strong and clever, beating many bigger and stronger opponents. But my RWC2011 favorite is Cian Healey.
More on the functional role idea: