Rugby skills for 13-18 year-olds

During this age group, coaches need to focus on teaching technique and enhancing skills. Concentrate on the following:


Running is used to evade opponents without becoming isolated from team mates unless a try can be scored. When running in support of the ball carrier, the objective is to maintain continuity of play. To evade opponents, players can use the side step, in which the ball carrier changes direction close to the defender by pushing sideways off one foot or the other, or the swerve in which the ball carrier changes direction by veering away into the outside space.

Both the side step and the swerve can be used in combination with a change of pace to accelerate into space as the defender hesitates.


Key factors in executing the pass include: run straight; hold the ball in two hands; commit a defender; prop on the inside leg; turn side on to the defender to face the supporting receiver. Further key factors include: swing the arms through in the direction of the pass; use the elbows and wrists to control speed and flight of the ball; follow through with hands in direction of the pass; pass to the "Target"; support the receiver.

Handling skills

Handling drills are designed to allow players to practise the key factors related to passing and receiving passes in more game-like situations. Players must be able to draw defenders, time their passes and execute accurate well-weighted passes to the receiver. Similarly, support players must adopt good running lines and time their support so that they can move into the space created by the ball carrier.

Opposed handling drills can also be used to reinforce the fundamental concepts of defence. The defenders must work on reducing the time and space available to the ball carrier to force errors in execution that will lead to turnovers. At the discretion of the coach, players can be allowed to tackle.


When a player makes contact with opponents, the objective is to retain possession of the ball. This is best achieved by the ball carrier standing in contact. Standing increases the range of available options compared to when the player falls to the ground. To retain this range of options, the ball carrier must both protect the ball and maintain stability.

To achieve this, the player must run in a position that is able to withstand impact and carry the ball in both hands so that options can be performed immediately.


Many types of tackle are used in rugby. The side tackle should be introduced first as it is the simplest and builds confidence in young players. The tackler should position inside the ball carrier, run in a crouch, keep the head up and the back straight and sight the target, just below the ball carrier's buttock.

Drive with the legs to make firm contact with the shoulder. The tackler should keep the head behind the ball carrier's body. After contact, wrap the arms around the ball carrier's torso and hold on tightly until the ball carrier is on the ground. After the tackle, get to the feet and attempt to recover the ball.


A maul is similar to a ruck. However, because the ball is off the ground it can be moved down the field. The bound forwards should anticipate sustaining the drive for a longer period of time. In a maul, delivery can be delayed if this will result in an advantage being gained.

Once again, these supporting forwards must bind and drive, leaving the ball with the first support player. If they do not, their body positions may be higher, they will not bind and there may be confusion as to who is holding the ball.


If a ruck is formed, the remaining players bind and drive past the ball on the ground. Individually their body positions should be the same as locks, flankers and the No. 8 in the scrum. As a unit, they should attempt to achieve a scrum formation. To protect the ball, the middle row of flankers and locks should be formed before the No.8 is added.

These forwards must resist the temptation to pick up the ball as this will slow down delivery and cancel the advantage of ruck ball.

(Health24, August 2011)

Read more:

Rugby skills for 4 - 5 year olds
Rugby skills for 6 - 8 year olds
Rugby skills for 9 - 10 year olds
Rugby skills for 11 - 12 year olds


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