By Ian Kennedy, 4 Jun 2012

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Are you bored at the way rugby teams now endlessly bash into each other over and over again - barge & bash - trying to overcome an efficient defence to no purpose? It is like 'Ring a Ring of Rosies' - 'Tishoo, Tishoo, We All Fall Down'.

There is a better way.

Professional rugby seems to have become mostly brawn and little brain. Even allowing for the unpredictability of Refs, many of our top professionals are making unbelievably bad, basic errors in major games and thus losing points, even in the World Cup! What hope is there of our youngsters playing proper rugby? Where are their models? All professional players should have to pass a 'Player’s Licence'.  Before they are let loose on the field, they should be tested on both theory and practice, to be sure they at least know the rules - abbreviated, of course! (See 'Rugby Union Rules, A Player's Guide', Eddie Knights, 1997 Ward Lock/Cassell - Some rules may need up-dating)

New Zealand play so close to the wind, that, although tries may not be scored against them, the penalty points mount up and they can still lose games by penalties – so much for the world's best team! While watching games, it is useful to keep notes of silly errors by players. This book is based on dozens, possibly hundreds of recent games, including the World Rugby Cup. There is deliberate repetition to re-inforce certain points.

Basic Plays & Errors

What is the solution?



Ball Handling



Some Food for Thought


Did We Really Win?


  1. Stay on your feet. Why fall down? -  Stay on your feet? 
  2. Keep the ball off the ground. - Balls on the ground get lost.
  3. Pass the ball. - Passing scores lots of tries. 
  4. Tackle low. - With high tackles, opponents just keep gaining ground.
  5. Don't kick the ball away. - Possession is 9/10ths of the game, too.
  6. Run straight. - Don't push your wing into touch.
  7. The most basic rule. - DON'T BARGE - PASS!

Errors repeated every game are (not a happy list!)

  • Forward pass.
  • Passing too late, or not even attempting to pass.
  • Offside. 
  • Not staying on feet in the ruck. One of the commonest. 
  • Losing ball in a charge.
  • Trying to catch an out-of-reach ball and knocking on.
  • Having kick charged down – very embarrassing.
  • Not keeping eye on the ball and knocking on.
  • Passing wildly without looking and into touch.
  • Passing too far and allowing an intercept.
  • Overrunning the ball carrier. 
  • Kicking directly into touch outside 22m area.
  • (There are more!)

These cannot be avoided by better fitness training. It is about practice, ATTITUDE and common sense.)


1. STAY ON YOUR FEET – One man on his feet is worth ten on the ground! DON’T DIE WITH THE BALL. – This is the main change in play needed and the one most likely to be fiercely opposed. Because diving players appear to gain ground and miraculously, seem to get the ball back, even though it wastes so much time, it seems to be the only way coaches know how to play! It wastes precious time and you may always get a turnover, - SO, STAY ON YOUR FEET.

  • Even without gaining ground, by staying on your feet, the ball should come out faster, than by barging onto your face and then having to extract it, with delays and difficulty extracting the ball. (New Zealand will always take it away from you!)
  • Forget the gain line. Keep the ball in play!
  • The phased ‘barge and ruck’ stunt sounds good, until you lose the ball at the nth phase and all that effort was for nothing! What is the point?

2. GET UP AT ONCE, if you do go down. - You are useless lying down. Bounce up! – AT ONCE! Do not wait till the ball is out. Why do players lie on the ground? Whenever and for whatever reason you go down, let go and get up immediately. You may even be able to Use Your Feet, instead!

  • Not only is getting up immediately, disconcerting to the opposition, it also avoids the danger of giving away free kicks. No matter how good a player is, if, by trying to save the ball, he gives away a free kick, he can lose the game and shouldn’t be in the team.
  • Rucks are very tricky and refs are now very tough on not releasing the ball. Staying down and trying to somehow wangle the ball to your side, just doesn’t pay off.
  • (If you have to fall on a rolling ball, try to bounce up and take the strain on your feet, rather than staying down and have someone take it from you – ruck into maul.)

3. DON’T CHARGE AND BARGE – with, or without the ball. One trick seems to have vanished from the rugby field. You do not have to fall down! Instead of barging and falling flat on your face, as you engage, Stay On Your Feet, Keep Your Head Up, Turn and Give Your Back and Brace. (Give your whole back, so you can assess what is happening behind and you don’t pass the ball to an opponent. Some players do seem to turn the back, but accidentally, not intentionally. It must be intentional.)

Advantages  of turning  your back, over barging:

  1. You can release the ball to your mates following up, or at least have them take the ball and push on in a maul, rather than trying to pick it up off the ground in a ruck, which just becomes a mess. (Playing New Zealand, you have lost it! – my obsession, but it is true! – see below)
  2. It is much more difficult to bring a man down, or take the ball from him, when his back is towards you. Also, you are much more likely to have the ball taken from you, if you are facing your opponents, than if they can only see your back!
  3. If you can not turn, still stay on your feet, but try to put the ball on the ground, (is this a ruck?) and hack it back to the scrum half, instead of just falling down. (Is it ever done, at present?)


Avoid rucks. Rucks stop the flow. RUCKS are a piled up mess – Avoid at all costs. You never can know what the Ref is thinking, so don’t take chances.

  • You are much less likely to be brought down if you stop moving,when tackled. A moving player is always more easily pulled down. Forget about gaining ground, just stop, stay up and avoid a ruck.
  • If you hold the ball high, you are free to pass it to whom you will. Keep your head up, not down, when you can not help falling.

Barging is counterproductive

  • Coaches are obsessed with game plans and gain lines and ignore the most simple, basic plays that win games – Just play rugby! While you may gain some ground by barging, you are no use to anyone on the ground. You should be up defending or attacking, specially if there is a turnover, when every man is needed.

What use are you in a pileup of bodies?

  • Everybody must realise by now, that it is impossible to plan games. They just take off on their own and we have to adapt to the play, on the pitch. It may even be foolish to stick to a game plan, when the game is going another way. Playing good, basic rugby, is what counts. So, Stay On Your Feet and Avoid Rucks and the deadly 'Off feet at the breakdown', penalty. 
  • It is pathetic to watch a defending forward rushing up to a tackled player to try and rescue the ball and always, just being blown away by the storming attackers, who always have the flow with them.  Why just get blown away – every time - what for?
  • Someone has at last analysed why the New Zealand forwards are so good at turnovers: the first two forwards do not go for the ball. Instead, they turn side-on to block the opposition. The third chap then can lift the ball out – simple and so effective.

The “STAYING  PUT” trick

  • Don’t try to lift the ball out by hand, when you are obviously just going to be pushed away by the opposition (see above). Better still, first turn sideways  and stretch the back leg back, to get stability, take the strain and wait for your mates. You can resist force more easily in this position, than bending down concentrating on lifting the ball, which you are bound to lose and there is always the problem; are you still on your feet?
  • Never try to get the ball standing with your feet together, so you have no balance. Always spread your feet. You have no purchase with your feet together.
  • Most of the Ref's blow-ups in a ruck, are for trying to get at the ball, when you are not properly on your feet. Do not take the risk - it loses games.
  • In the old days, only hooking with feet was allowed at a ruck. I suppose the IRB decided this was too dangerous and allowed the hands in. But it is now too confusing and one is always tempted to do more than is allowed. When does the 'Hands OK' change to 'No Hands'?

‘Put the best foot forward’

  • You never see this done. It is controversial and not all refs will take the same view. Rule 15.6 (c) At a tackle or near to a tackle, other players who play the ball must do so from behind the ball and from directly behind the tackled player or the tackler closest to those players’ goal line.
  • Put your foot behind, but as close to the ball as possible, this may be over the player. It gives you more balance and purchase, to stop being blown away. Have you ever seen a player do this? I do not see how this can be offside, if your foot is level with the ball. Perhaps it may be considered dangerous to the player on the ground.

Or Boot it!

  • How many times have we seen the ball lying idle, just waiting for someone’s boot and no one does anything. This is where using your boot, is sometimes the only option and can work wonders. Hack the ball back if it is free, or kick it. Sometimes the only way you can reach the ball is with your foot. Kick it. Don't let their scrumhalf have it. 
  • If you lift the ball up with the toe of your boot, does it again become a maul, as soon as it is off the ground? Could you then take it in your hands legally?


  • It is the custom now, at a ruck, for only the scrum-half to deliver the ball to the backs, while the rest stand around wasting time, or stringing back in a long line to get as far from the opposition as possible! Why? First man there, get the backs moving quickly, before the opponents have time to muster. 
  • Refs should apply the 'use it or lose it' rule here, too [a 5 seconds rule is to be tried at last].


  • Blindly careering and falling onto a ruck, may look good (and is illegal, but who cares?), but helps no one and should be stopped by the refs. It seems to be mostly ignored. (Refs are far too lenient here, allowing players to dive into the ruck, without blowing up.) 
  • Do not be a ‘dive dummy’, smothering the ball and giving away a free kick. Stay on your feet. 
  • Keep your eye on the ball and, most important, link up, to gain extra force. Some teams have the sense to stand back from the ruck and leave the other side to get all tangled up!


Mauls can be pushed along, but are very tricky - keep it straight, or you have lost it! The biggest problem with mauls is uncontrollable turning, when the opponents tackle the man with the ball. Get rid of it. The spectators love the pushing and shoving of mauls, but most of it is wasted energy and gains very little ground. Only near to the goal line, can it really work, but do not persist, if it is not moving. Use it, or lose it.

  • Avoid forming maul too soon - allow the pass. Also, it is pointless trying to rumble over players lying on the ground.  Mostly, it is just better to GET THE  BALL BACK!  Refs get very impatient, wanting some action - again, 'use it or lose it'. 
  • When trying to stop a rolling maul, remember to get in low with your back straight, link up and don’t give way.  If you bind and go low at the back of a maul and don’t give ground, the other side cannot move over you and the whole pack falls down, legally! 


Your back must be parallel to the ground, to be able to push properly, like a formal scrum. If you push at 45 degrees, you have no purchase. Also, don't spend useless time trying to pull your opponents off by their jerseys, or interfering with them any other way – just concentrate on where the ball is and push. If you hope to play an 80 minute game, save your energy. Remember, in a maul, you are allowed to take the ball away from your opponent! This should always be in your mind in any contact with your opponent.

  • On the opponent’s goal line, do not dive for the line, unless there is lots of space. Use the ‘turn your back’ trick. Keep your head and arms up and let your mates push you over. It will be much more effective, than just having your face pushed in the mud over and over again, by trying to dive forward, until you lose it! - the new professional 'Submarine Rugby' -  weeding for the groundsman! ‘White Line Fever’.
  • It would be interesting to research how long teams struggle on the goal line, trying to get over and so often failing. What use are 10 phases, if you lose the ball on the 11th, when your backs have been screaming for it all the time? What are the coaches thinking? They seem all to think with only one mind!


PASSING – Passing Scores Tries!


  • LOOK both sides, to see if there is someone who can better use the ball. Even if you cannot move as fast as you might be able to with your head down and ears back, it is more important you are able to release the ball either side. Except for flip passes (very risky), you must turn and look at the man you are passing to, or the ball will go where you don’t want it to, or an opponent will snap it up. The World Cup has given plenty of evidence of this.
  • If the ball is slippery, tucking it under your arm often means that as your opponent grabs you, the ball just squirts out to give a knock-on, or gives them the ball.
  • If you are not fast enough, STOP, TURN and pass. How many tries have been lost, because the player passed to the wrong side? If it is obvious that an opponent is in the way, or is more likely to receive the pass, STOP and TURN YOUR BACK to pass, or put the ball on the ground behind you. He will then have to pick it up with the chance of a knock-on, or your own side can at least dribble it forward.
  • Do not run into, or over, a tackler – stop and pass! Often, blind passing back, just passes the ball to an opponent. If you turn first, you can see who's coming and if you throw the ball up, your mates have more chance of competing for it. It may seem daft to turn and fall onto your back rather than front, but judging by the way players fall who are tackled, it doesn't seem to matter which way you fall. That is rugby.

2. Always, try to pass, BEFORE YOU GO DOWN. - Most players try too late, when there is no one to pass to. Repeatedly, you see players making no effort to pass. This is criminal. Selfish play loses games again and again. How often can you really make ground by barging against a good defence? (This seems to be how the silly 'phases' idea started)

  • Players are conceited. They are all sure they can dummy and pass through the defence, when no on else can, uselessly dying with the ball. Why will centres not let the wing have the ball?  Often, you even get pushed back and just lose ground! (This has cost lots of points – forwards and centres seem to think that's the only way to play! What is the wing for?). Share the ball - you aren’t that wonderful!
  • PASSING MAKES TRIES - Quick passing, keeps the other side guessing. Why are NZ the only experts? Dummies are only successful, when you have only one opponent in front of you. Even if you get past, the other players usually catch you, so pass. Keep the ball in play. Do not be selfish, but do not pass blindly. Do not just run into a tackler. TURN, TO TRY TO PASS, BEFORE you are tackled.
  • Catchers must hold back at 45 degrees, or will overrun. Be careful running too close to your mate - unless he knows you are coming, you will knock on, and, watch for interceptions with long passes.)
  • Ducks and emergency stops. Very few seem to use the emergency stop. It is very easy to do and used at the right time, can throw your opponent. Did you see Sonny Bill Williams scoring a try in the World Cup, or Toby Flood against S A? 
  • If most of your opponent’s tackles are high, it also pays to suddenly duck very low and get up and go again – as did Halfpenny, in the Wales/Samoa game - and it got him a try. 
  • When an opponent catches hold of you, stop moving – you are much less likely to fall down and your mates can support you on their feet, saving precious time.


  • Players seem to think they must try to catch every ball. Use your head. If you have to stretch full-length to catch it, you won’t. Allow it, football style, to bounce off your body, block it with your boot, or kick it ahead – but not too far.
  • It is dangerous to wait for a rugby ball to bounce. It can go anywhere. Better let it bounce off you, or stop it with your foot, when you can quickly follow it up. Running full tilt, to catch a high ball, is most likely to fail, because the ball will just bounce off.
  • If you do knock-on, it is instinctive, to try to recover the ball. Do not - kick it. The Ref may think that’s what you planned to do! 
  • There is no shame in using your feet. Many tries have been scored by players, who understand this. There is no rule against using football tricks in rugby. They often work wonders.
  • Dribbling is not exclusive to Assoc. Football. It is possible to dribble a rugby ball, but practise dribbling, all the time. Always keep the ball within reach. With a short dribble, you will score a try.


Why do fly halves have to bounce the ball first? Why does everyone kick too far?

ALWAYS FIND TOUCH if you kick for touch; better a poor touch than a give-away counter attack. If you can’t find touch, you shouldnot be kicking. Every kicker must be able to kick touch with both feet, even the forwards in an emergency. (Why do we imagine forwards can’t kick?)

PRACTISE all the time. Low, long kicks to touch, can gain ground over and over again. Watch Ireland's Jonathan Sexton & O’Hara. Always kick the ball into the stands, or follow up at speed, so the opposition can not throw it in, before you get there (New Zealand again!). This makes more sense than the ghastly ping pong.

  • Always try to widen the angle for a better touch, by moving away from the touch-line. If the angle is too narrow (within the 5 m line), a small chip may do better, or pass to someone further in, to make the kick with a better angle.
  • With a free kick near touch with a small angle, why not kick to your wing across the field? No one will expect it!
  • Do not just kick ahead blindly – always try to find space; better, less ground gained, but possession retained. Garry Owens may look good, but are impossible to control.  How many Gary Owens result in useful movements? They are just a way of handing the ball to the opponents! Stop wasting play with Gary Owens – that is just history. Keep the kicks LOW and CLOSE BY.
  • Use cross-kicks more, but have your team ready to expect them. 
  • Stop the senseless ping-pong habit  (Ping-pong is not any better than the old kicking for touch anywhere on the field! – it is ruining rugby! Anyway, with judicious, long, low kicks, you can neutralize the 'no touch outside the 22m Rule'!)

CHIPS AND GRUBBERS – ‘Chips with Everything!’ At last, some players have re-discovered how valuable short chips can be. (RSA's  Bjorn Basson and Sias Ebersohn). Keep chipping to break the barge habit!

KEEP KICKS WITHIN REACH and, if not kicking for touch, kick into the center field. (How many good movements are wasted by the ball just going into touch? If you want the ball to go ten yards, kick it five and you will be amazed at how far it travels - always further than you want it to. Chips and grubbers are safer than up-and-unders. 

  • You will never kick the right chips, unless you practise them. These kicks need just as much practice as goal kicks, but look out for blockers.
  • There is a useful technique. Turn sideways and kick from behind you - a short, scrum-half, ‘box-type’ kick. The kick is less likely to be blocked or intercepted and it will not go so far. The number of World Cup blocked kicks was painful to watch
  • Forwards need to practise kicks, just as much as the backs. One trick I have never seen tried, is just shouting to be used. At a ruck, or scrum, when the opposite side is lined up, right on the scrum line, ready to charge to defend, rather than the high box-kick, the scrum half chips away from the scrum, just over their heads. He is more likely to get it than they are – they may be too surprised! But your back line must also come up close, so that they can whip through to support.


It is pathetic to watch a large forward careering along with two or three professionals hanging uselessly onto him. A player with the ball always tries to move forward. You can only stop him by - getting his feet off the ground, stop your opponents, dead. Target thighs, not waist. As long as your opponent is on his feet, he is a threat. Put him down immediately. Don’t fool about, allowing him to gain yards. The commonest reason for failing to stop a player, is going high. The only sure way to stop a man is to tackle low and stop his feet moving. You may even stop the deadly wriggle, twist and turn, to escape from the tackler! 

The high tackle to smother the ball, or prevent a pass, is mostly a fallacy, because, if you watch how people play, in most cases, they make no attempt to pass! They are too busy barging! Better stop him moving forward.

There are roughly four kinds of stop-tackles: 

  1. You and your opponent are more or less standing. Try to grab mid-thigh, hold tight and stop his legs moving. Apart from heaving him over with maximum force, that is the only way you can be sure to bring a man down. As soon as he goes down, let go, get-up and concentrate on the ball, using feet if necessary. An interesting alternative, is to pick him up and carry him away from the goal line. This can not be illegal, because you are on your feet and he is not lying on the ground. With today's monster heavyweights, it may be hard, but if you are big and strong, too, it should be possible over a short distance and will catch everyone napping! This happened almost on the goal line, in one of the World Cup matches! – Samoa, I think - brilliant.] How do you stop a head-on stomach barge? Grab his middle from above and flip him onto his back. You should then be able to lift the ball out of his hands, since he must release.
  2. If your opponent is moving slowly, grab his thighs and keep pushing. He will fall down.
  3. If he is moving faster, you will not be able to push. Grab thighs and hang on, using your weight, or twist your own legs round his.
  4. At high speed, you just have to dive and grab any part of his legs and try to hang on. This is the try-saving tackle and Austin Healey was particularly good at it. Even if you fail to stop him, you may slow him down enough for your mates to take him. This is the only place where a higher tackle may save a try. If you tackle low, he can still reach out and ground the ball. If you take his torso with speed and your full weight, you will topple him over and he will be unablle to score – that is the theory!

What use is it, diving onto the player as he scores? It may help your conscience, but does not help the game and you may both be injured, for nothing


As soon as you see a man has the ball, go in and tackle.

  • Don’t stand, waiting for the man to come to you. That way he is in control. Go in and make the tackle. If you move towards him, he has to act. Players wait back, in case they have to tackle the second man. Leave him to your mates. You bring your own man down. If you concentrate on bringing him down, you won’t all have to tackle the same man. If your mates know you will get the man down, they can concentrate on the others. Don’t accept a dummy.
  • (Many tries are scored by poor marking. Players are so anxious to defend the centre, that when the ball flies out, the ball carrier just waltzes over, untouched.) 


  • Hand-offs go with high tackles. Never accept a hand-off. Approach with the head high to take the hand-off high and at the last moment, with full force, dive under the out-stretched arm and make a low tackle. High tackles just invite a hand-off.



In most games, the two lines of players just barge and neutralize each other, over and over again, whichever side has the ball. What can be more boring? Chip and grubber kicks are the only way to open up the game and score points.

If you make as if to kick, the other side is never sure of what you are going to do, so they start to hang back, giving you time and space.

b) CORNER KICKS don’t always produce tries.

In spite of all the effort, unless you have a pack that is obviously much superior and, if you want to win, put points on the board. The spectators won’t like it, but once the points roll in, they will see why. A successful kick can change the whole game. (It seems, New Zealand can only be beaten by kicks!) 

Don’t exhaust your forwards, trying uselessly to get over a well-defended line, over and over again. Get the backs moving, when close in to the line. With more space, they are much more likely to burst through. 


It always amazes me how quickly the defence can come up and neutralize an attack. 15 a side, is too many on the field. I am surprised 10 a side rugby has not made more headway - there is more room to move! (7 a side is too simple and repetitive. I have stopped watching.)

Defence has become so dominant, that backs are afraid to line deep. The result is, that when they get the ball, they can’t get up speed and theirteammates over-run them, leading to forward passes. Nowadays, the back line is cluttered up with loose forwards thinking they are useful, but who just get in the way. They may be fast, but the back line is for backs. Give yourself space. If the forwards hang back, they can form a second line of attack for looping. 

d) LINEOUTS (Just a BIG mess!)

It is pathetic to watch players running backwards and forwards and jumping too early - what for? Don’t waste time, pointlessly trying to keep up with the other side; you obviously wont reach the ball. If all the forwards stay put and just jump as high as they can as the ball comes in, it is bound to work sometimes. Or, form a quick maul and push the other side away. But don’t leave gaps for New Zealand to sail through!

e) SCRUMS (Why do scrums keep collapsing?)

  • In the old days, the hooker had to hook the ball, but it is difficult to see the point of scrums - hookers are redundant - why pretend? 99% of the time, the in-putting side has the ball put under their feet! (Where are the refs looking - Rule 20.6 (d) - it is illegal! Have you ever seen a blow-up by the Ref for this? Refs just seem to have given up, why?)  
  • When near your opponent’s line, there is one trick worth trying. As the ball comes in, both sides always push. Instead, wait a fraction of a second to take the strain, then push, when your opponents have eased off. They may be taken by surprise and it can work.
  • Why does no one use the blind side anymore, like the RSA scrumhalf, Joost v d Merwe? 


  • Don’t assume that an infringement has always been seen by the Ref. Whatever happens, keep playing till the whistle goes.
  • Don’t waste time appealing to the Ref. He won’t listen – just play the game!


  • Expect the other team (New Zealand) to catch you napping. Good teams constantly look for chances to catch the others off guard. (Scrum halves with free kicks. As soon as that free kick whistle has blown, get back the 10 metres.)
  • Watch what your opponents are doing all the time and look for the chance to do the same to them.  Vary your position and kicks, to keep them guessing. 


  • Many games have been lost (often, against NZ, & France) when, just as you expect to score, the opponents counter attack and run the length of the field to score themselves.
  • There are at least two reasons for this: 
  1. The normal defensive screen is broken up and so it is easy to penetrate the gaps and once through, the field is wide open with lots of support.
  2. All your side, including the fullback, are rushing forwards and it is difficult to suddenly turn back and try to catch the opposition. 
  • The fullback is meant to be a fullback, not a centre!
  • So, in spite of the excitement of the chase, an eye must be kept on whom is where and someone must stay back. 
  • As mentioned above, if your attack line is only one man deep, you have no answer, if your opponents break through the line. Use a double attack line. 


  • Use the ‘loop trick’. The fly-half passes to the centre and loops round. The centre passes on to the fly-half again, who passes to the second centre, who passes to the fly-half again and so to the wing, giving an overlap. Fly-halves often do this, but only once. It only works if you do it at least twice, or as many time as you like, to create the overlap, but run straight(Why isn’t it used more?)

j) VARY YOUR OPTIONS – But warn your mates - if your side can keep awake!

  • Throw to the front player in the line out.
  • At kick-off, kick a short, straight grubber, just over the ten-metre line. No one will expect it and they may knock-on and your guys should reach it in good time.
  • With a free kick, 5 metre from-opponents-goal, try a chip over the goal line. You probably have as good a chance as the opposition, of catching and dotting down.
  • Change direction. Use cross kicks more, where they’re not expected. Look for open space. Be sure your mates are expecting it! 
  • Don't kick with the flow, unless to your wing or touch. Always kick in-field. ‘Grubber Daylight’



  • Tackling as a maul forms. You may be accused of bringing the maul down. Rather try to take the ball.


  • Feet, not hands, are for Rucks. When is a ruck a ruck? Sometimes the Ref will shout, but it may be better to use your feet, than trying to lift the ball - specially in front of your own posts. Theoretically, to step from the back of the ruck, right through to the front and take the loose ball or tackle the scrum half, looks perfectly legal to me, but Refs don't seem to like it!
  • It is time the players met the refs, to thrash out some of the chronic misunderstandings. What is the Players Association for?


  • The props, leaning into the scrum, seems to be just asking for trouble. If you can't get a grip, you must just go down and clever front rows know the tricks to make you do it. You have to keep a free space to put the ball in, but don’t just lean against the scrum. Get your outer foot forward, as quickly as possible, and you should be able to stop yourself going head first into the ground and you may be able to rest your elbow on your knee instead of putting your hand fatally, on the ground!
  • Similarly, having your head pushed out of the scrum, is sometimes unavoidable, but the Ref won't see it that way. Keep your head down. You may get away with it.
  • When is the ball out? Our scrum-half always used to shout, 'Out', so we could break up quickly. It might even convince the Ref, but he may not allow it. 


  • The quickest way to stop a fight, is not to defend yourself, but simply take the player's legs and put him on the ground. This will either make him madder and he may try to punch you in full view, or he will be so embarrassed that he will just creep back to his side.


With the largely unnecessary(barging), physical battering of modern rugby, it makes sense to build up muscle for protection. The question is, 'Have we overdone it?' Are our muscle-bound heavies slower than they would be, if not so bulky? Should the amount of muscle developed, be just enough for mobility on the field? Is weight so important in the scrum, or is pushing power more use? (It must be measurable!)  (And the lightweights? Are they to be denied any chance to play?)

Sometimes we are surprised that, slim, lightweight players (South Africa's Aplon, France's Yashvili) run circles round their muscle-bound opposites! Intelligence is what counts!  The S A Stormers Club's 'Siya Kolisi' is slim, but is very strong and throws around opponents much bigger than himself !

It seems a lot of time now, is spent in fitness and body-building, with no real skills rugby-practice and no opportunities to correct mistakes in play.

In the old amateur days, weekday ‘practice’ meant the A team playing the B team, perhaps with the forward packs switched, to balance things up. If the coaches keep blowing the whistle till they are satisfied, it will work wonders, in spite of the complaints! With game practice, there is always the risk of injuries and some players may not take practice games seriously, but that is up to the coach. It is also valuable for confirming, whom you want to pick for the team - committed enthusiasts! Professionals have all the time in the world to practise.

[Ideally, we need edited videos of actual play, with critical commentary, to highlight what I have been describing, but videos of the main games are all copyright and so unavailable. Amateur films tend not to be good enough to show what needs to be shown. They also need expert editing, which is not readily available and very time consuming.] 

The best PRACTICE is ACTUALLY PLAYING RUGBY. That is what it is all about.

Watch old videos of amateurs' play. It is a pity the films are not close-ups like today, but they are still worth studying. You can learn a lot. If everyone in the team played this way, you will be amazed at how much better you’d play and what is much more important, you will enjoy it more, because you will realize what a great game rugby can be!

Players joining a team should be made to sign a pledge – ‘I promise stay on my feet, keep the ball off the ground and always to tackle low.’


Will anyone listen?  Has anyone ever tried it? What I have written may seem 'revolutionary', even reactionary, but it is just common sense. How do we changethe 'DON'T DARE TO BE DIFFERENT' attitudeof coachesOne coach I showed this to, said, "That's what we do." My reply was, " Then why can't we see it on the pitch?" How do we change coaches' fear of breaking with convention?]

It is accepted, that it is very difficult, almost impossible for some, to alter the habits of years. What I suggest is, to run some trials, or pilots, to test these theories, for theories they are, since virtually no one plays this way. That is the challenge.

There is a counter problem. With any new idea, it takes time for it to sink in. First, some brave souls accept it, against the opinions of their peers, then more and more accept it, until it becomes the new convention, fashion, or 'culture'. This is the danger time, because there are always some of the new enthusiasts, who haven't grasped the principles and start practicing their own version, which will be a parody of the original. That is human nature, but let's give it a try!

We now seem to have a Top Heavy Rugby Bureaucracy – What do all those coaches do? They are not improving the standard of play!


Rugby Can Be Frustrating.

Often, the obviously better team loses and even if no side has crossed your line for a try, you can still lose on penalties. Some would say, 'Serves you right', but surely we can do better? 

At all the big games now, computers keep track of every player's performance - unforced errors, runs, kicks, tackles, passes, ground gained etc. Would it not be more sensible to award or deduct points for things like possession and territory, unforced errors, fouls and other free kicks etc. and base the win on a combination of all these? This would give a much truer picture of how the game was played and is much fairer. I leave the IRB to work out the points, and it could be done on an experimental trial basis like a change in the rules.

Suggestions for Winning-Code Points:

  1. Possession
  2. Territory
  3. Errors and unforced errors
  4. Lost Scrums and Lineouts 
  5. Rucks & Mauls - Phases lost.
  6. Missed kicks at goal and to touch
  7. Missed tackles and high tackles
  8. Poor passing and intercepts.
  9. Sin Bins 
  10. Not retreating 10 metres
  11. Distance run, ground gained.
  12. Deliberate fouls & free kicks.
  13. Fights – Penalise both sides!
  14. Arguing with the Ref
  15. Tries
  16. Conversions and successful free kicks
  17. Why is a conversion 2 and a free kick 3? The kicks are of the same difficulty!

Contact me and I would be happy to encourage downloading of the text for training or discussion. 

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