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Are we teaching the wrong tactics and drills in junior rugby?
This being the first opportunity to press the keys for hub pages in quite some time ( coaching & work preventing me from doing so!) I thought I would make known my views on the way we coach our junior players and question whether it is the best or right way and perhaps compare to the way our successful counterparts coach.
Having watched the fast and free-flowing way that the southern hemisphere countries play, I have to wonder if we are not putting the reins on the natural talent we have and instead nurturing more mundane and "safe" game play tactics.
When juniors start the emphasis is placed on how to tackle, carry and pass the ball. As they become older we then get into rucking, mauling and contact and concede that rugby due to the physical nature of the game is a late development sport.
New Zealand however, just throw a ball to the younger players and just let them get on with it. There are a number of advantages to this method one being, ball handling.
" Hold the ball with two hands!"
How many time have you heard or even shouted this? I would have to say that I am as guilty as many other junior rugby coaches of doing this both at training and during matches. But hang on! What are the all blacks doing? Yes I know they are professional adult players but a lot of their success comes from fast open play ball and yes they are very good at handling the ball one handed and some of the offloads are magical to watch but, this is not something they are taught when playing senior rugby, it is something that comes naturally to them! This I believe is due to them as juniors being left to play their way and then refining those areas of play that need improving. To further reinforce what I am saying, we spend all our time teaching them to carry and pass the ball two handed yet, I was fortunate enough to attend one of my fifteen year old sons county training session and guess what? the county coach asked if any of the backs were able to do one handed passes as this was a crucial part of the game!
Rucking is a vital part of the game however, how many times do you see a multitude of players getting evolved at domestic and international levels today? not many, only when in deep defence the emphasis is on fast ball out to the backs to work their magic. yet we treat rucking as a break in the game giving us time to set our attacking lines. How many times have you seen the ball turned over after squabbling over the ball when setting a maul up. There is a time and a place for every aspect of the game, but we should be coaching when to do it instead of when not to do it.
At thirteen years old I experienced a situation where junior players was taught to keep the ball in hand and I noticed that at every penalty one our scrum half would keep taking touch ball and running forward around the opposition and being forced into touch thus, giving the opposition a lineout! When asked why he was doing this he said " We are always told to keep the ball in hand and not kick." I think at this age territory is important and if you have a good kicker in the team - kick a penalty for touch unless three points are on the cards or you are inside your opponents twenty-two, then take a quick tap and run but, it needs to be quick!
So there you have it my take on what we need to do to make our juniors the world beating players of tomorrow.
Whatever, let them enjoy it - it may pay dividends!!