By Kimber Rozier CSCS, Pn1 – Rugby does not require much equipment. The sport draws out the best of us in that way – it’s just you, your fitness, your skills, your speed and power against the other guy.
However, there are a few pieces of equipment that you should keep in your ‘bag of tricks.’ These items can prevent injury, enhance performance or improve your skills and effort in training. Take stock of what’s in your rugby bag and add a few of these before your next session. Especially…
A Water Bottle(s)
Water is necessary to keeping you hydrated before, during, and after you play. Make consuming water as easy as possible and always have a water bottle on hand and one in your rugby bag. As I touched on in my last article, 9 Essential Pieces of Rugby Equipment for Clubs, clubs should provide a common source of water for players but carrying your own bottle allows you to fill-up and move on to the next drill.
This suggestion is for the forwards. If you’re ever going to be lifted in a line out, you’re going to want electrical tape to keep your nubbins in place. And if you’re ever lifting someone in a line out, you know how much easier it is with something to push off of.
Whether it’s a rolled up sock, a cut up piece of foam, or whatever else you can MacGyver together on game day, electrical tape will hold it together.
And like I always say – a successful set piece launches a successful attack. You don’t want to miss your lineout because your nubbin fell out in the last ruck.
Electrical tape ALSO does a great job of holding cleats together. Yes, sometimes we try to wear our favorite pair of boots until their last breath. And yes, they’re bound to break eventually. If that happens in the middle of training or a match, your trusty electrical tape will do the job. But please, get yourself a new pair afterwards.
If you ever plan on playing in the rain, in the tight five, or on any muddy pitch, you will want to consider soft ground cleats. The studs on these bad boys are specially made to keep you from slipping around on wet surfaces. They also keep your feet locked in place in scrums as you drive tons of force into the opposition.
As a back, I’m partial to the hybrids – firm ground cleats mixed with soft ground studs. They allow for quicker movement off the floor and a lighter feel for kicking. They’re a good option for those used to firm or hard ground cleats to move and cut well in wet conditions. Tight five forwards might want to get the big guns. And yes, back row, they even make boots especially for you.
Related Article: Rugby Boot Buyer’s Guide
The geniuses behind boot-making have come up with all different shapes and sizes for all preferences. However, these little cleats on the bottom of your boots are prone to coming loose after repeated use. And it’s no good looking to drive your foot into the ground only to find that one of your studs is missing. Kind of defeats the purpose. Therefore a) get a pair of soft ground boots and b) pack a tightener and extra studs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost one of those guys (mostly due to my own ignorance) only to be saved by the extras in my bag.
Lacrosse ball/tennis ball
I know these balls are technically for other sports but they can be a life saver when you’ve got sore muscles. Any kind of self-massage you can do to loosen up chronically tight areas (glutes, traps, pecs, etc) can work wonders. Chronic tightness limits range of motion, which can keep you injury-prone. And if there’s any sport where you want to limit injury at all costs, it’s rugby.
Tape two tennis balls together for a great tool to increase thoracic range of motion. Hold on to them when tackling to discourage reaching with the hands. Or just roll around on one to release your overly tight glutes.
It’s absolutely horrible training in wet, nasty clothes for two hours. Especially in the cold, it really increases your chance of illness. Getting a go-to rain jacket and even a contact top for heavy hitting sessions can keep you comfortable in the worst of training conditions. Add on the swishy pants and you can stay dry all over.
It really does change the enjoyment of training if you’re going to go out in the cold and wet conditions to be covered in waterproof gear. Because of this, it becomes more likely that you’ll drag yourself out of bed to training in a downpour. And that keeps you consistent. And consistency breeds success.
Finding the right kicking tee is like finding the right pair of boots. Each person has a different preference, and each tee will provide a different feel, different strike of the ball, and individual pros and cons.
For my style of kicking, I prefer the Dan Carter SuperTee Xtra. It gives me a good angle to place the ball and provides enough height for me to get under it while remaining minimalistic enough. I don’t like big bulky tees – it makes me worry that I’m going to strike the tee instead of the ball. But that’s just a quirk of mine.
There are tall tees, short tees, adjustable tees, tees that allow you to kick the ball upright rather than straight on, or you may even prefer a football tee. Who knows. Talk to a coach or friend who has one you can try out. Finding a good tee (as well as a consistent pre-kick routine) can really make the difference between three points or none. Get a good tee and put in the hours.
Shoulder Pads/Scrum Cap
It’s well-known that rugby players don’t play with much to protect them. It’s almost a badge of honor over our football counterparts. However, there’s no use being stupid. If you’re prone to shoulder injury, are new to contact, have ANY history of head injury, or do anything in or around the scrum, getting shoulder pads and a scrum cap is highly advised.
That’s pretty much all of us. I admittedly don’t wear a scrum cap because it’s hard for me to hear and communicate as a fly half with one on. But I did for a while after taking a few knocks to the head that led to staples. And I wore shoulder pads for the majority of my career. I can say it’s much easier to be confident in contact with just that little extra protection.
These extra preventive methods are especially important if you’re on the younger end of your playing years. Your body is still developing, and it’s really likely that you don’t have the muscular development required to absorb repeated tackles over years of long seasons. Yes, you should work with a certified coach to develop strength and muscular balance in the neck and shoulders. No equipment can replace that. But as you’re growing and maturing, taking extra caution with your body (it’s the only one you have) will extend your playing life.
Ball and Ball Pump
I’m always shocked when a veteran player shows up ready to play and pulls a deflated rugby ball out of their bag and then proceeds to ask around for a ball pump. They feel as though they are on top of matters but without a properly inflated ball they may as well have stayed at home. Avoid this happening to you and make sure your rugby ball always includes some training/match balls AND a ball pump. You will quickly become a team hero without even stepping on the field.
The number one thing to have and you should probably have two of these, actually is a mouthguard. Most people think of mouthguards as protecting your teeth, but they can also protect you from concussion. Yes, that tiny piece of rubber can be the difference-maker.
Thickness and quality of your mouthguard matters as well. Since they work by absorbing shock through the jaw, a custom-made, appropriately thick mouth guard gives you a better chance than a thin, store-bought one. Multiple companies offer custom-made mouthguards for a higher dollar, but it’s a small price to pay for your brain health. Or you can just visit your dentist and ask them to make a mold for you.
Personally, I forget everything. So I always make sure to have at least two mouth guards with me at all time during competition. If you’re like me and will probably leave yours in the shorts for a nice wash, then you should definitely invest in more than one of these. They’re pretty much all we have (outside of good technique and sportsmanship) to protect the most vital organ in the body. Always wear your mouthguard.
Kimber Rozier is a NSCA certified strength and conditioning specialist and Precision Nutrition nutritionist who holds dual Bachelor’s degrees in Exercise and Sport Science and Spanish from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She spends her time traveling the world as an international rugby player for the USA and her career in 7s and 15s has taken her to places such as Hong Kong, Paris, London, and Dubai. She earned a bronze medal in the 7s World Cup in Moscow and played fly half for the squad throughout 15s 2014 Rugby World Cup in Paris. Kimber has recently played overseas in Ireland, furthering her career with Railway Union and as an athlete with Scion Rugby Academy out of Washington, D.C. She is currently training with Harlequins in England.