Level 200 Coaching Guide: Technical Coaching

This section provides coaches with the ideal progressive manner in which to teach the basic fundamentals of the contact and set piece area.

Basic skills that are essential in rugby are found in many other popular sports. Athletes must be able to make and receive a pass, evade an opponent, create and use space to go forward, and learn to support each other so the continuous flow of the game is preserved. Aside from the Coaching Process, the technical aspect of teaching the game is the second most important step in becoming a better coach. Understanding what to teach your players and when to do so is crucial when they are first learning the game. Understanding and executing the basics are the key components to success.

USA Rugby in conjunction with the IRB and the National Team's coaching staff has laid out the basic fundamentals in this section and suggestions on the various progressions used when introducing the game. A series of examples of coaching specific skills can be accessed by clicking on the links under Technical Coaching. Please watch each one, as coaches will be expected to have an understanding of how to coach these basic technical skills through implementing them in their practical assessments in Level 200.

Level 200 Coaching Guide: Offense


Catching, passing and evasive running with the Ball: Objectives for offense

  • Objectives: to go forward, attack and create space. The ultimate end goal is to score.
  • Responsibilities: organize roles and positioning, pass and catch, run and maintain possession.
  • Skills: identify space, identify threats, communicate, field awareness

Coaching Tips for Offense

Use the Principles of Rugby to focus your approach; backline play is focused on going forward and the basics of catch and pass.

  • Foster an environment that allows for experimentation and "discovery"
  • All players must have backline skills
  • Build on basic skills and simple patterns
  • Individual backline skills
  • Coach all the players on basics of passing and catching
  • Build the backline by adding other players
  • Add players in roles, create opposition
  • Build into game situation
  • Practice using a small game or game-like situation

Coaching Tips for Catch and Pass

  • Run with ball in two hands close to the body. Protecting the ball and maintaining possession are key while advancing down the field toward the try zone. Having two hands on the ball allows for options such as quickly unloading a pass on either side.
  • Appropriate start position for catching or passing is to have depth and distance, outside foot forward so that first step is forward.
  • Pass backwards into space. It is important to follow through with your pass, ending with fingers pointing towards target, extending arms for maximum power.
  • Pass in one motion, reach for the ball (no backswing), pass quickly across the chest. Back hand is all power, front hand is all direction. As you advance into the contact game it is important to pass across the chest this way even if the player is being tackled the ball can still be free to offload.
  • When catching the ball make sure to provide a target, fingers toward the ball providing a target to absorb the pace of the ball. It is useful to have new players receive the ball with their hands in the shape of a W. The W can represent a 'window' to allow the receiver to look through their hands or 'window' to receive the pass.
  • Make sure you follow through with your pass; a good pass will end with fingers pointing at the target.
  • When receiving a pass remember to run onto the ball and take the pass from space ultimately breaking the gain-line. This is important to go forward down the field.
  • Start with two players stationary practicing a catch and pass, repetition is key. Let them advance to a walk, jog and run progression. After the players are exposed to these key concepts add in more players in a progressive manner building up to a running line.
  • The natural progression from here is to add opposition/defense to allow players to gain understanding of using the basics of passing, catching and running with the ball under pressure.

Level 200 Coaching Guide: Defense

Now we have a list of things to coach players to help them perfect their offensive skills. So you are now probably wondering what to do about helping players understand what they need to do when they don't have the ball. Many coaches make the early mistake of failing to teach basic elements of playing solid defense. The old adage of offensive play resulting in points, but the defense determines who wins matches certainly applies to rugby! In this section, you will gain a greater understanding of the principles and skills associated with coaching quality defense.

Objectives: go forward, take away opponent's time and space, tackle, regain possession

Responsibilities: organize roles and positioning, tackle, poach/pressure, regain possession

Skills: identify threats, communicate, work as a unit, tackle effectively


After seeing an example of defensive play, hopefully you feel a bit more confident about how to go about effectively coaching the right thing at the right time. There are many different learning styles such as auditory (listening), visual (seeing), and kinesthetic (doing). Players AND coaches all have their favorite methods.

A basic understanding of the principles and skill associated with attacking (offense) and defensive play are extremely valuable to all coaches. Identifying the key points associated with skills such as passing, receiving, evasion, and creating space lead to continuous play and lots of scoring! On the defensive side of the ball, understanding why applying pressure, going forward, "crossing the street," and maintaining a solid line get the job done helps to lower the score and create more excitement. As a coach, the better you can communicate how to carry out these basic skills, the greater your team will enjoy playing rugby.

Level 200 Coaching Guide: Ball in Contact

Safety in Contact Basics

  • Objectives: safely and effectively tackle; be tackled in a manner that allows for safety and game continuity
  • Responsibilities: identify and execute tackle safely and within the laws, safely retain body position that allows for ball placement after tackle to maintain possession
  • Skills: identify who is to be tackled, quick feet, good tackle form, body control, effective ball placement

Ball Carrier Key Factors

  • Low body height
  • Balance and stability
  • Legs continue driving
  • Two hands on ball
  • Present "hard" body parts to tackle (shoulder/hip)
  • Fall on knee, hip, back of shoulder (do not use arms/hands to break fall)
  • Rotate so ball carrier's back is to opposition
  • Present ball to own team

Tackler Key Factors

  • Low body height
  • Eyes open and on target
  • Head behind - "Cheek to Cheek"
  • Head up - chin off chest
  • On balls of feet
  • Elbows in
  • Wrap arms around ball carrier
  • Drive with legs and core

Level 200 Coaching Guide: The Ruck

What happens after a tackle? When a player goes to ground. how do we continue to play?

What is a ruck? The ruck is formed when one or more players who are on their feet contesting close over the ball. In this video, the two players who go into a tackle will have a support player from either side come and contest over the ball.

Coming through the gate - The referee needs to make sure players are coming through the gate, or coming straight over their teammate. If the player fails to do so, they illegally have entered the ruck.

Ruck Basics

  • Objectives: maintain possession and position break down for ball retention
  • Responsibilities: body positioning, strength, speed, balance, agility, aggression, and field sense
  • Skills: knowing your roles and threats in order to position yourself effectively and safely in the ruck

Roles in the Ruck

  • Rucker
  • Combat
  • Firewall

Level 200 Coaching Guide: The Safe Scrum



  • Provide a solid platform to launch an attack
  • Provide quick, quality ball for backline


  • Apply pressure, disrupt opponent's possession
  • Cause turnover/regain possession


  • Proper body position and binding, aggression, consistent high effort during scrums


  • Core strength, proper body position, effective binding on teammate and opponents (front row)


Key Factors

  • Core strength
  • Spine in line
  • Back in strong "flat" position
  • Feet shoulder-width apart
  • Hips, knees, and ankles at 90-degree angle
  • Shins parallel to ground

Proper Body Profile

  • Objectives: core strength, proper body position, effective binding on teammates and opponents (front row)
  • Responsibilities: strong flat back, feet in proper pushing position, low body height, spine in line of direction of desired push, legs in strong drive position
  • Skills: core strength, aggression, knowing/executing objectives & responsibilities

Proper Binding

  • Objectives: consolidate power of 8 together and create forward push
  • Responsibilities: tight binds that prevent splitting, binds based on core and arm strength and position and not just fingers holding cloth
  • Skills: core strength, arm strength, knowledge of leverage and body mechanics, aggression, know/execute objectives & responsibilities

Steps to Build a Safe Scrum

Body Position

  • Feet positioned shoulder-width apart
  • Head in a neutral position
  • Knees bent
  • Bend forward at the waist with flat back and shoulders above hips
  • Core tensed and weight balanced on both feet

Front Row Binds

  • Hooker sets on the referee's mark
  • Hooker has the right foot in front of the left
  • Loose head prop (left of hooker) binds on the hooker near the shoulders in the middle of the back and the hooker binds on the loose head prop the same way
  • Tight head prop (right of hooker) binds on the tight head prop the same way
  • Front crouches together using the key factors of body position
  • Hooker calls in second row


  • Follow the referee's instructions and engage on the invitation
  • CROUCH - Strong body position, core tight, and firm binds
  • TOUCH - Props touch outside shoulder of direct opponent
  • SET - Drive into contact, front row head goes to the left of direct opponent
  • After engagement, shins parallel with ground and knees are bent
  • Heads are neutral, back is flat, and eyes are looking forward
  • Feet remain shoulder-width apart

Level 200 Coaching Guide: The Lineout

Lineout Basics

  • Objectives
    • Offense
      • Provide a solid platform to launch an attack
      • Provide quick, quality ball for backline
    • Defense
      • Apply pressure, disrupt opponent's possession
      • Cause turnover/regain possession
  • Responsibilities: proper body position to jump and lift, quick movement on the ground, speed into the air
  • Skills: core strength, proper body position, effective communication with teammates

Level 200 Coaching Guide: Form of Completion