Subscribe

Richie Gray: How to coach the breakdown

Hands on: David Pocock competes for the ball at a ruck. Photo: Getty Images Rugby World

Richie Gray, Scotland’s defensive contact consultant, explains how to get your rucks right


Australia flanker David Pocock is known as one of rugby’s best jacklers but Scotland coach Richie Gray, owner of Global Sports Innovation, says every player has a role to fill at the breakdown. Here the collision coach explains how to make sure you get things right at the contact area…

1. MAKE IT IMPORTANT

“The breakdown is not an add-on for your defence or attack coach. If you do it properly it can be that 1% that makes the difference – you do it 160 times a game. Treat it like another set-piece and set certain targets for each player.”

Read more!
In position: Glasgow players set up at a ruck. Photo: Inpho Rugby World

2. FORENSIC DETAIL

“Break it down into key stages. You need to look at different aspects of both attack and defence: what you do when you fall, looking at your ball presentation, how you fight on the ground, hand placement, how you recoil, how you get up off the deck.”

3. TRAIN SMART

“Breakdown training can be a nightmare for your medics. I’m a big fan of using training aids – although nothing can replace live practice. So instead of doing 20 minutes live, try ten minutes with equipment and ten minutes live.”

Go low: Billy Vunipola goes through his drills in England training. Photo: Getty Images Rugby World

4. KNOW THE ENEMY

“You want to know how opponents attack and defend – how someone carries, steps or gets forward. Teams target weaker individuals and you never want to be the weak link. I tend to watch every player and see if I can spot any weaknesses.”

5. IDENTIFY ROLES

“Every player must be multifaceted, you must have all the skills. But be sensible. At 6ft 9in, Richie Gray won’t attack the breakdown the same way as John Hardie. Find the right technique for the right player. Not everyone can be the jackler.”

Move in: Munster players adopt different roles at the contact area. Photo: Inpho Rugby World

6. COACH SIMPLICITY

“The breakdown is so dynamic that if players have ten things in their head it’s a problem. Terminology is key. Train under fatigue but with two or three things in mind. Give detail on specifics – Francois Louw, say, is told things a front-row won’t need.”

WHAT YOU COULD DO

Collision coach: Richie Gray (second left) worked with South Africa at RWC 2015. Photo: Getty Images Rugby World

 This article first appeared in the January 2017 issue of Rugby World. For the latest subscription offers, click here.

Outbrain