I am coaching the U11 this season. There are some significant?

I am coaching the U11 this season. There are some significant?

U11 Rugby

I am coaching the U11's this season. There are some significant rule changes from U10. Please can I get some advice on what lessons were learned from coaches who have been through a similar experience.

William OBrienCoach, England
Simon JonesCoach, England


I hope you get some response to this question.

In the meantime, look at our Answers Archive as there will be some good advice for you there.


William OBrienCoach, England

Simon, Are you able to be more specific ?

David WatkinsCoach, United Kingdom

Fundamentally there aren't any specific rule changes from U10 to U11, what does materially change is the addition of 3 players - two second rows and a fallback, so that now you have a complete back line and all of the pack except the back row. 

The rules are the same just more players on the pitch - Oh there is one change "kicking out of hand" is allowed which does mean that your whole squad will only be interested in one thing for the first part of the season and you need to bring this under control - not easy!

As I am sure you are aware from the transition from U9 to U10 the ability of a single player to win games diminishes, the star player who before used to be able to jink his way through the throng to score now finds himself on his back asking what happened! and this theme continues as you progress from 10 to 11.

I am not saying that it doesn't happen still but that less and less frequent and you'll find that organsiation, communication and teamwork really come to the fore and teams that understand this really shine at the start of the season. 

So more players, bigger pitches but perversly more congestion mean greater concentration on team drills, the breakdown becomes more and more important with the need to teach your kids the proper skills not only to win ball and quickly but also safely, support play and communication become paramount and drills to promote this are essential. organisational discipline both in attack and defence espcially the need for back line re-alignement and not getting your players sucked into the breakdown.

Players start to specialise just because of the natural progression of the game but for me it is key to ensure that everyone gets the same skill training as at 10/11 you still don't know how an individual will develop but in the scrum you need to ensure that players are comfortable and physically capable; putting second rows in adds a level of technicallity that needs to be practiced to ensure that they remain safe although you see very few collasped scrums as the front row have yet to learn the "dark arts", so shoulders above hips, tight binds and driving straight still are the fundementals.

Finally 2 positions strart to be key and probably need the greatest work - scrum and fly half - no longer can they just get the ball and run.  The positions become more about distribution and decision making and typically players tend be in these positions because of their ability to run. Now they need to become more rounded and sometimes you can be surprised at who fits the mold best; avoid one dimentional game play as organised teams will spot this and neutralise you attach easily. 

So really its just an extension of what you were doing last season with even greater emphasis on team work.

Hope this helps. 

William OBrienCoach, England


The new things I am wondering about are%3A

1) quick tap penalties - defence & attack

2) fly half kicking? - chip & chase / penalties / open play to gain territory (good idea ?)

3) first player sealing at the ruck (everybody is doing this even though it is illegal)

4) 5 man or 3 man ruck

5) How to use the full back - come in to line or stay back (opoosition kick ?)


Rugby CoachCoach

1) Quick taps for sure, many teams/coaches aren't aware of them.

2) I only like my players to kick at start/re-starts, handling is still too important but if they do chip it tends to be the 12.

3) No

4) I try to instill in my squad to try to keep the ball live, avoiding rucks/mauls like the plague.......still get caught in them so we try to keep no more than 3 tied in and a guard either side but the natural enthusiasm to get into the loose tends to win out.

5) Some teams we played last year at U11 were totally focussed on kicking so we tended to keep the full-back deeper to counter this and the blindside winger being very aware to cover. Depends completely on the opposition really.

Good luck!

William OBrienCoach, England

Steve - thankyou for you response.

I am finding that the new locks (we have had 2 sessions to date) are getting in the way of the scrum half / fly half channel. I am currently telling them that all 5 forwards must ruck to prevent this happening.

Any thoughts?

PS Did you find that most teams do not kick?

Rugby CoachCoach


Could you confirm that kicking out of hand is allowed as the details I have been passed on, says that it is not allowed at U11?

Rugby CoachCoach

@Douglas - Kicking out of hand is allowed at U11.  Fly-hacking is not.

Penalties can be kicked to touch for a line-out, but not for a goal. There are no drop goals. Conversions are kicked after a try.

Apart from that and the extra players the game is pretty much the same.  One minor change is that both teams must be 5m away from the scrum.

William OBrienCoach, England

I raised the initial question and the general theme seems to be that the game is "pretty much the same" as U10.

I however have to disagree.

For example now that you can kick penalties into touch, you are going to get many more line outs, if teams choose to do this as opposed to running the penalties.

The impression I am getting is that coaches are not coaching U11's to use the kick as a tactic in matches and are generally discouraging kicking as a skill.

Is this correct ?

Rugby CoachCoach

William - Our first game isn't till October so am yet to see what others are doing, but we're certainly not looking to kick penalties to touch for lineouts as since there's no jumping/lifting, they're a lottery so best keep ball in hand. Thats not to say we're not teaching kicking, just there is a time and a place.

David WatkinsCoach, United Kingdom

Certainly from my experience kicking is discouraged. I know coaches that ban it all together and some that limit it to only within the 22.  The problem is that kicking needs to be controlled and that more often or not kicking leads to more problems than it solves - if you have a player(s) who can kick, are clued up enough to read the game and can use it as an attacking tool then go for it - for me "keep in hand" as that is what Rugby is all about.

Philip Ratcliffe, Italy

I coach U12s in Italy. For the last two years this has been 12-aside; so, a full set of three-quarters and the rest more-or-less assigned to pack work (no set scrums or line-outs though). That said, of course, everyone has to lump in with everything when necessary.

Although the half-backs and the full-back do become key players, I avoid specifically designating precise positions and have come up with a scheme of 4 groups of 3%3A 3 big lads as the basis of the pack, 3 terriers as SH and 2 flankers, 3 ball-players as FH and 2 centres and a back 3 of FB and 2 wings. The idea being that they share the load and work together in the groups. And, of course, I swap them around from game to game. In practice, the SH, FH and FB emerge automatically as individuals capable of dealing with certain types of pressure.

As for kicking, despite Italy's penchant for the round-ball game, most of my lads are almost afraid to try kicking, leaving it to the 2 or 3 who are really able; so, it's not generally a problem.

Rugby CoachCoach

My suggestion is that we avoid over coaching, don't be too prescriptive and let the players learn by doing, at least in the early stages.  We are very fortunate to have a very capable player that can kick well and makes good choices about when to do it.  If I had told him "Thou shalt not kick" then this element of our game would have been lost.

Catching a high ball and organisation at restarts are both essential skills that must be coached, they require both technique and a plan.  I try to get the players to get to the correct answers themselves by questioning, don't just say "you stand here".  The high ball is a very effective weapon at U11s as it often leads to an attacking scrum from the knock on.  We have spent time playing games such as kick tennis to practise both kicking and (far more importantly) catching.

The quick tap penalty should be a useful weapon, but it is often badly refereed by coaches that are not familiar enough with the rules.  Kicking to touch is fine, but at this age the Lineout can be a lottery, so best to keep the ball in hand (in my view). 

I haven't had to restrict kicking, but I have tried to do this by education rather than dictation.  The pack know what to do with ball in hand and understand that kicking normally gives the ball to the other team.  We still work hard on the basics of good passing, running straight and being quick in thought and deed.  We are having a lot of fun, playing well and getting better every week. 

Happy Days!

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