Rugby skills for 6-8 year olds

What a six to eight-year-old can do:

  • Players now start to develop eye-foot coordination
  • Start to understand the concept of a team and individual roles
  • Enjoy activities that use the arms and legs
  • Have good balance
  • Start to enjoy rule-based games such as rugby
  • Individual strengths and weaknesses will be apparent
  • Some players can become extremely competitive at this age, so it is important to curb over-enthusiasm and aggressive play

Mini Rugby (with rules) is played in the under seven to nine age group. With this age group, more emphasis may be placed on the correct execution of the skills.

The following pieces of equipment will be required: a large plastic ball, a size 3 rugby ball, flat beacons, a pillow and a mattress. These activities would be best executed on a field but the back garden will suffice. These activities have been selected so that they can be practised with Dad, Mom and siblings.


  • Passing
  • Catching
  • Supporting
  • Tackling
  • Dodge/side step
  • Give-and-go/decision making

At this age it is important to teach the children about the importance of a warm-up and stretching before playing rugby. The muscle groups to be stretched: quadriceps, hamstrings and groin, lower and upper back, rib area, shoulder, arm and neck.

Fun active warm up called “Dodgem-cars”: Serves to increase the heart rate, focus the child’s attention on the other players and ball. Place four players at beacons which are set out in the shape of a square 3 m apart. (see illustration below)

On the count of 3, players 1 and 2 run and swop places and so do players 3 and 4. Players may not touch or interfere with the other players. Watch other players throughout. Once this is done successfully introduce two rugby balls. Player 1 and 3 each have a rugby ball. On the count of 3, players 1 and 2 run towards each other and so do players 3 and 4. When they reach their partners in the middle, they hand the ball to them and continue in the direction of their partner’s beacon. Repeat.

1. In partners or rather a group of three. Run in a line and pass the ball to partner who passes it to the next player. Move up and down the lawn maintaining a gap of about 2m between the players.

Practical suggestion:Remember to introduce and explain the rule stating that the ball should be passed backwards. Teach them to propel the ball by bending the arms and flicking the wrists. Aim for partner’s hands.

1. Static Position – pass the ball to the child and let him learn to catch the ball on both the left and right side of the body. Pass the ball torpedo style so that the child grows accustomed to the spin of the ball.

Practical suggestion: Vary the pace and distance of the pass, also the height of the pass as the child becomes more able.

2. Catch while running – place beacons as follows:

Parent stands at (c) while child stands at (a). Parent throws the ball towards (b) and child runs from (a) and tries to catch ball at (b).

Practical suggestion: Try to anticipate exactly when the child will reach beacon (b) and time the throw accordingly.

3. Lineout catch – parent throws ball straight from above his head so that the child has to jump up in order to catch the ball above his own head.

Practical suggestion: Tie a piece of string around ball and let it hang down from a branch. Child jumps up and clasps ball in both hands before releasing it. Shorten the string and make the ball swing to-and-fro to make it more challenging. Focus on bent knees and feet shoulder width apart before the jump.

1. A group of three players standing 2 m apart. Player 1 passes to player 2. Player 1 then runs behind both player 2 and 3 so that he is ready to receive a pass from player 3. Player 2 and 3 do the same. (See illustration below).

Practical suggestion: The player who has passed the ball must move in behind the other players quickly enough in order to be ready to receive the ball from player last in line. This activity will have to be practised on a field as a back garden will be too small.

1. Place an old mattress outside on lawn. Parent holds pillow out over one end of the mattress. Child runs from a certain distance, puts his arms out and dives towards the pillow in such a manner that he falls on top of the pillow (onto the mattress).

Practical suggestion: Parent holds pillow at correct height. Teach child to pretend that the pillow is the upper part of the legs of the opposing player. His head must be on the side of the pillow and his shoulder should make contact with the pillow (the “upper legs”). His arms should encircle the pillow tightly and he should land on top of the pillow. Parent must release the pillow at the right time.

2. Tackle without mattress – as the child grows stronger he should practise the tackle on the grass without using the mattress. He can continue practising with the pillow.

Practical suggestion: Once again remember to tackle with both the left and right shoulders and always try to land on top of the pillow/ball carrier. Keep eyes open throughout. Remember to tackle low.

Dodge/Side step:
1. Slalom run – place set of beacons in straight line 3 m apart. (see illustration)

With ball securely under his arm, the child runs through the sets of beacons in a slalom fashion avoiding contact with the beacons. As he nears the beacon on the left, he steps firmly on his left foot and pushes hard to his right so as to pass the beacon on the right-hand side. Repeat this stepping away hard on the right foot at the next set of beacons and so on.

2. Dodge Dad – parent stands between the beacons and tries to touch the child as he runs past. Parent not allowed to move his feet.

Practical suggestion: Discuss the transfer of weight from the one foot to the other when dodging/feinting. Encourage them to use small little steps and run on their toes when close to beacons.

Give-and-go/Decision making:
1. Give-and-go. Make a square using four beacons 2 m by 2 m. (see illustration below)

Player 1 passes to player 2 and then has to run across the diamond to (d). Player 2 catches the ball, passes it to Player 1 and runs across the diamond to (c) ready to receive the ball again.

Practical suggestion: Encourage the child to call for the ball once he has reached his beacon. Teach him never to take his eyes off the ball even while he is running across the diamond. Parent could speed up the passes to make it more challenging.

2. Decision making (for the older children). Make a square using beacons as in the activity above.

Player 1 has the ball. Player 1 always has to have two options for his pass, so players 2 and 3 have to be at beacons (b) and (c). Should the ball be passed to player 2, he needs to have two options so player 3 will have to run to beacon (d). Once the ball is at beacon (d), player 1 will have to run to beacon (c) and so on.

Practical suggestion: This is rather an advanced skill but it teaches the child to watch, think and decide where he has to move. Start this activity off slowly and walk the players through it until they are comfortable enough to run between the beacons.

To make this activity more challenging, one could introduce a fourth player who stands in the middle and then runs out to the sides and tries to intercept the passes. We have only referred to boys in this article but girls can certainly master these skills too.

Activities supplied by Playball. For more information on Playball in your area search or contact Anne at A booklet on Mini Rugby (rules and skills) is also available.

(Health24, August 2011)


Activities supplied by Playball. Click here for more information on Playball.

(Health24, August 2011)
(Reviewed by Anne van Niekerk, Playball, September 2011)
Read more:
Rugby skills for 4 - 5 year olds
Rugby skills for 9 - 10 year olds
Rugby skills for 11 - 12 year olds
Rugby skills for 13 - 18 year olds

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