Rugby: Pressure Ball

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Make sure your warm-up area is marked out before the players arrive.

  • Depending on the number of players you have at training, mark out several warm-up grids.
  • The size of your grid is a suggestion, but around 10 meters x 10 meters. The bigger the grid, the easier it is for the attackers - they have more space. The smaller the grid, the easier it is for the defenders. Break your players into two groups, pads and passers.
  • One third of your players will be passers; the rest will be on the pads.
  • Have one team quickly demonstrate the game to the other players. In each grid have four players on pads, and two passers. You could have more passers; I'll leave this to your judgment.
  • The job of the players on the pads is to put pressure on the ball carrier, to surround them and stop them from passing the ball. The players on the pads are also trying to force the passers to make mistakes e.g. drop the ball, throw a bad pass etc.
  • The passers have to move the ball around the grid, avoiding the pads.
  • Passers can pass the ball in any direction.
  • Players on the pads should have a little fun, and within reason push the passers around a little.
  • You can award points for each successful pass, and points to the defending team on the pads for every occasion when a ball carrier is surrounded or the ball carriers make a mistake.
  • Don't forget to change the players around, and to give players on the pads a go at passing the ball under pressure.
  • Law Variations: You could insist that passers have only 3 second to make their pass, or risk losing a point to the defending team.


Remember you don't have to focus on all of the following point. Pick the ones that are relevant to your session, or decide on your own coaching points.

  • Players on pads or on the passing team use good communication skills to either keep the ball, or apply pressure to the passing team.
  • Passes are moved to space, or into a space where a catching player is going to be.
  • Passes should be correctly weighted in terms of speed and distance.
  • Passers use judgment, does the ball really need to be spun over a short distance?
  • Is the pass sympathetic to the receiver?
  • Ball receiver's hands should be out.
  • Ball carriers draw pads away from the player they are passing two.
  • Ball receiver's work to draw defenders away from the space in which they intend to receive the ball.
  • Ball carriers use sidesteps and changes in foot speed to avoid contact with pads.
  • Players on pads work together in units to isolate receivers and ball carrier.
  • Work rate and game tempo should be high.
  • Ball carrier foot position and stance should be such that they can offer resistance to contact and retain the ball.
  • Ball carriers spin out of contact when possible.



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