Rugby: Mistakes Cost – Touch Variation

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Split your players into two teams, giving one group of players a set of coloured bibs to set them apart, and quickly tell your players the following laws:

  • Keep the law briefing, brief! Get your players moving as quickly as you can.
  • Start this game with a rugby league style touch game - when touched a player can set the ball down, standing over the ball, another player moves the ball from the ground; restarting the attack. Make it a two touch turnover game to start with.
  • Punish every mistake; forward passes, off sides, everything; be harsh. Each mistake results in a turn over.
  • When the players get going; tell them that every touch will result in a turn over.
  • On a turn over ball the defence must retreat 10 Meters.
  • Be harsh; any touch and the attack lose the ball. Any law infringements; and the attack lose the ball.
  • Referee the defense equally harshly; if they infringe; force them back 10 meters and allow the attack to continue.
  • Change the laws as you see fit, and let us know the variations that work for you.


Focus on just a few coaching points; the points must be relevant to your session.

  • Keep the laws simple and get the players going as soon as you can, no standing around and no debates.
  • This game can be frustrating; encourage players to keep cool and to think under pressure. While mistakes cost, we can’t focus on mistakes. We need to focus on what we can do to avoid mistakes - to influence what will happen next.
  • Get players to think about how the referee sees the game; are we onside as the referees views the laws. After all; the referee is the sole interrupter of the law.
  • Can we move the ball away from traffic and into space?
  • You might ask an assistant coach to keep count of areas of focus e.g. knock on count, forward passes, touches made, balls lost etc. This could be a talking point - setting the tone for the rest of the session.
  • Communication; encourage players to talk; but also to partake in meaningful communication that directs the game, reading what is happening now and what might happen next. We need to avoid the 'Come on Lads' comments; that means nothing.

Maul Touch | Warm Up

Maul Touch:

  • Be brief when telling the players the laws of this game, it's important to get them moving quickly.
  • This is not a contact game, but there will be some light contact.
  • Break your players into two teams, giving each team their own colour of bibs if necessary.
  • One team goes to attack, and one to defence.
  • Nominate a Scrum Half for each team, it will be their job to move the ball from the back of the maul and out to an attacking line.
  • There is no kicking in this game.
  • Normal laws of rugby apply e.g. a forward pass will result in the ball being turned over to the opposition.
  • If an attacking player is touched: they must stop and turn, a maul is then built based on how you have trained your players to Maul. Only four players should be in the maul - but every player should be able to maul - including the backs!
  • When you start playing this game make sure that the defence is employing your defensive pattern around the maul. They will commit 4 players, but will not do anything more than provide light resistance.
  • Once formed the maul can take four steps before moving the ball. If there is a delay in creating the maul, or the quality of the maul is poor - the ball can be turned over.
  • Depending on your goals decide on the number of touches you wish to allow e.g. unlimited is not a bad option as mistakes will be made!
  • If a team has been in possession for a long time, don't forget to turn the ball over to give the opposition a run.
  • Don't hesitate to shape the game to focus on your session goals, and let us and other coaches know what worked for you.

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