Rugby 15’s and 7’s sides frequently overlook one very beneficial training drill in their sessions: touch rugby.
Touch rugby isn’t the first drill that comes to mind when talking about full-contact rugby but it is a great way to develop skills while avoiding the constant hits associated with the game.
It is also sometimes overlooked by some club coaches because they don’t know how to play touch rugby.
Touch rugby rules are easy to learn and individual teams can amend the rules to better serve their team so there is no reason not to include touch rugby in your team training sessions from time-to-time.
Touch Rugby Rules 101
Touch rugby rules are simple. Teams are composed of 6 players each and can be coed. Games have 20 minute halves with a 5 minute halftime. Play begins with a ‘tap’ when the ball is rolled forward with the foot and then picked up.
Once in play, the attacking team builds their attack aiming to score a try but must score before 6 attacking players are ‘touched’ with the ball. Once 6 players have been touched the ball turns over to the other team.
A legal touch can be on any part of the ball carriers body, clothes, or ball. When touched the player must place the ball on the ground and step over for a Rollball. The Rollball can be played back a meter or less and then picked up by the ‘dummy-half’ who continues the attack.
With these basics your team is ready to start incorporating touch rugby into your sessions and remember that the rules can be amended to help work on specific skills.
Touch Rugby Leads to More Attacking Options
Touch rugby forces players to rely on skills to manipulate space in front of the line. With only 6 touches to score before you turn the ball over, every play forces each player to identify space and weaknesses rather than opted for physical strength to breakdown the defense. With the brute force option removed, teams tend to look for other weaknesses to expose in the defense.
This surprises many rugby players:
Once contact is added back to the drill, players tend to see more options developing in each phase after playing touch rugby and can make the split second decisions on the best plan of attack.
Touch Rugby Develops Better Skills
The skill set required to excel at touch rugby is the same as playing 15’s or 7’s rugby; catch, pass, and evade. The better a player’s individual skills are, the flatter the team can play and the more pressure you can put on the defense.
Touch rugby also provides a great way to work on developing skills under pressure without the contact. Many players, especially new players, are hesitant to hold the ball for that extra second before making a play opting to pass earlier to avoid or prepare for the contact. Touch rugby allows players the confidence to take the ball to the line and beat defenders and get a better understanding for the benefits of waiting until the right moment to make a game breaking decision.
It’s not only on the attack that touch rugby helps improve skills.
Touch rugby gives the defense a way to practice keeping the gaps tight, staying square, and running lines as a unit along with better communication developed while working through multiple repetitions.
The pace is so fast that you literally cannot go alone. Working in threes, each facet of the defense can stop even the best-designed plays and moves. The offside rule requires quick reaction time and immediate coverage if one teammate is down. You can’t work on your own or chase someone solo. It’s a numbers game, and stranding the guy next you is punishing.
Much like you might take out decision-making to train the pass, removing contact can train cohesion and communication. With less numbers, athletes work to defend more space. Touch defenses learn to cover more space as a unit, and those skills can be adopted and advanced in tackle.
Simple concepts such as rucks can be phased in without contact. Vision, communication and creativity to manipulate space in front of the ball will sky rocket. Scrum half passing, quick ball movement and angles of run are key concepts that will eventually play important roles in an adult rugby player’s career. Coaches can start touch rugby leagues at their club to bring these concepts to life in a safe, non-contact environment.
After successfully training with touch rugby techniques to create bigger gaps and improve your touch, imagine how much easier it will seem once contact in re-introduced to the game.
Touch Rugby Teaches the Foundations of the Game
15’s and 7’s rugby would not exists if not for players eager to get on the pitch and touch rugby is a great way to increase the number of participants. Clubs can work to develop their own touch rugby leagues for children of players and other players not familiar with rugby in their community.
These programs can be expanded to introduce the game to local schools to highlight the skill and athleticism in a safe, non-contact environment.
Touch Rugby Will Improve Your Game
Touch rugby is a great way to add excitement to your club’s game. Tier 1 nations like New Zealand, Australia, and England have renowned touch teams which is one factor in why these rugby of all codes is so popular in those countries and their 15’s sides are so competitive in international competitions.
Touch rugby will only help to continue to develop the game as a whole in the U.S. and allows players to play tight to the line, manipulate the defense, execute with pace, but remember don’t get touched.
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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 now has returned home as an athlete with Scion Rugby Academy out of Washington, D.C.