What Makes a Good Rugby Coach?

Ethel Gonzales

Rugby is a high contact sport played by 2 teams of 15 players. But I hope that if you are reading any article about Rugby Coaching you already knew that. So what makes a good Rugby Coach?

Player Respect

To be an effective coach in rugby you must have or earn the respect of the players. If you don’t have the respect of your players it is very hard to implement strategic decisions, practice moves, and have overall control of the team. Like with teaching any group, you must have control, and respect to be successful. If you have past playing experience to call on this can often be a good way in with the players.

Good understanding of the game

At the top levels of the game coaching decisions can have a serious effect on the result. Should a player be replaced? Should I wait 10 more minutes? How will this replacement affect the rest of the team? Will other players have to move out of position?

To understand the flow of the game, and when a lift is needed, or when you would be better to stick at it with the current players, is certainly a skill that takes time to develop.

Aside from decisions during a game, there is also the analysis of the game. Who is not playing as well as they should? What areas of the game do we need to work on? Is the overall goal of the team being implemented effectively?

Relationship with players

A coach can be friendly, but they shouldn’t be friends with the players. A coach needs to make decisions without bias, and the relationship a player has with the coach should not affect this. As a result many coaches at the top level of the game have very cold exteriors.


The vision of your team must be clear. How will you succeed? What things need to happen during the game for your team to succeed?  Typically in a rugby match there are a few areas of the game that can have a direct effect on the result. These include:

1) Break down / Turn Overs
2) Scrum / Physicality of the tight 5
3) Lineouts
4) Line breaks
5) Tactical kicking and field position
6) Accuracy when kicking for points
7) Defensive line strength

Teams must play to their strength!

If we look at teams at the top level of the game and look at how they take advantage of their strength. The Springboks (South African National Team) always have a strong physical forward pack, and very a good strategic kicker. They typically play for field position, kicking the ball into their opposition 22 and applying pressure on them, and taking points when they are available.

This strategy is simple, yet it has made them one of the most successful teams in world rugby. Key areas of the game for them are: turnover ball, lineouts (they kick it out often, and want a chance to win that ball back), strong scrum to apply pressure, and all this is capped off typically with a very accurate goal kicker. If you look at all the successful South African teams of the professional era of rugby, you will see the above themes are very common with their success.

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