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3 Ways to Keep Improving your Skills

Once you've learned the basics of rugby, anything seems possible on the field. All you can imagine is breaking through a big tackle, hitting the game-winning kick, or crushing an opponent right as they catch the ball, but your skills can't seem to catch up to your imagination. However, if you keep working on the basic skills, as well as sharpen your "rugby brain," you'll be a better rugby player

1-Playing Smarter!

If you play the game smart, you'll have a better outcome. Stick to your position instead of switching frequently (unless you're new because you need to find the right position first). Play as a unit, not as a superstar or a hero. There is no "I" in Rugby! Support your team's runs by staying diagonally behind the ball carrier. Keep your head up and scanning at all times, even in tackles. Make ball possession your first priority. Know when to commit to a ruck and when to set up outside. Once you start the ruck, Commit! Tackle and play with full confidence. And make sure to support our professional leagues. We can learn a lot from them by focusing on your positions. Watch for several things in particular:

  • Where is your position on defense? Where are they on offense?

  • How does each team dictate the pace of the game? When they attack, do they go wide or jam big players up the gut?

  • When and where are the appropriate times to kick?

  • When is it best to try a last-minute pass and when is it best to just go down?

2- Building Your Skills

Keep your spine straight on rucks, tackles, and scrums. One of the biggest improvements you can make playing rugby is your technique. The best players use their bodies efficiently, wringing out every ounce of energy to gain an advantage over the opponent. One of the best things you can do, in almost any situation, is flatten your back. Not only is a curved spine dangerous, it cuts your power down significantly. Learn to run effectively with the ball anywhere on the field. Rugby is much more fluid than football, so you don't want to keep the ball locked up under your arm like a running back. Instead, you need to adapt your hold depending on the situation:

  • General Play: Hold the ball with your fingertips right near the center of your chest, with the point facing up. This allows you to quickly pass , fake or kick in any direction.

  • Under Pressure / Being Tackled: Grip the ball horizontally with both hands and forearms. Your left forearm is on the top of the ball, your left hand gripping the right end, and your right forearm is on the bottom of the ball, with your right hand gripping the left point. This is for the moment you know you'll be tackled or someone tries to steal the ball, and is usually used by forwards.

  • Open Field: Tuck the ball into the crook of your elbow, gripping it with one hand. This gives you plenty of speed and mobility for a one-on-one or open field run. As you get tackled, you place your other hand over the ball to protect it, turning away from the tackler.

Learn how to get tackled. With all the focus on "huge hits" and the best tackling form, many players forget how often they are the ones getting hit. Learning to take a tackle well helps your team win more rucks, helps you gain ground on a defender, and protects you from injuries.

  • Turn the ball away from the defender. As you approach, pick a side to run at and turn the ball away, lowering your shoulder slightly towards the opponent.

  • Keep moving your feet forward. This might seem terrifying, but you want your momentum running through him, not the other way around. The player that eases up or slows down is almost always the one who gets hurt.

  • Fall "in order." You should hit the ground first with your knees, then hips, then shoulders to distribute your weight when you fall.

  • Place the ball back towards your team. You have 1-2 seconds after going down to place the ball, so do your team a solid and reach back. Remember that any defender is going to need to step over you to get the ball, so placing it far back gives your team crucial time to run.

Ensure that you can throw accurately to both sides. You want, at a minimum to make a 10 yard pass to either side of you, hitting your teammate in the chest every time. The only way to get there is to practice, so make sure you spend time every single day throwing a rugby ball to both sides. Execute perfect offloads as you take tackles. The offload is when you pop the ball up to teammate as you're going down, allowing them to dodge your tackler and keep running. Most beginners are told not to offload, and for good reason: it is very easy to make a terrible pass while you're being pulled violently to the ground. However, as you get better you'll notice how often the pros offload, keeping a run alive and slowly chipping past the defense.

Whenever possible, receive and throw the ball while moving forward. You do not want to be caught standing in rugby, as this is the easiest way to get lit up with a huge hit. You want your passes to lead your teammates so that they can keep their momentum up as they catch, and you want to be in full stride when your catch the ball. This keeps the defense guessing your movement, makes you more painful to tackle, and helps your team gain ground quickly. Once you can pass accurately, you need to learn to pass accurately on the run. A line of 4 players, running and passing simultaneously, is very difficult to contain, especially if you can "swing" the ball from one pass to the other.

3- Always Attend Training

Push yourself as hard as possible in drills, scrimmages, and practice. Rugby requires full body strength, and the best way to develop your strength is simply by playing rugby. This activates your muscles the way they need to activate in a game, but you won't get the benefits if you're only giving 50% at practice. Rugby practice should be your fitness every day you go, and you should be prepared to give it ALL each drill to grow stronger.

On top of that you should be practicing your position-specific skills in your own time after practice. Each position is different, and the best rugby players carve out extra time to get better at their specialty. Spend 10-15 minutes after practice working on your skills. If you don't know what to work on, ask your coach.

  • Kickers should hit penalties for at least 10 minutes every day, from all points on the field.

  • Forwards can hit the scrum sled, focusing on their scrum, ruck, and tackling technique.

  • Fly-halfs and backs should work on kick and catching punts.

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