Sunday 17 December 2017

Every player should work on decision-making skills


Coaches Insight: Mils Muliaina in decision-making mode
Coaches Insight: Mils Muliaina in decision-making mode
Coaches Insight: Caolin Blade

Eamon Molloy - Coach Development Manager

What used to be the role of two or three players on the pitch has become a key skill for all regardless of their position.

An opportunity may arise at any time and the ball will usually not be in the hands of the scrum-half. Whether that opening is exploited or goes unnoticed depends on the skill-set the coach has equipped the player with.

A pass is made and a line broken in the blink of an eye, but in that split second a comprehensive process has taken place:

1 Awareness

Players are aware of the options available and what actions the defenders may perform.

2 Vision

They must have the vision to be able to receive the pass while also scanning the defence and also catch any potential support players in their sight.

3 Communication

A key element is the communication of the players in support, as they are often best positioned and have more time to identify gaps in the defence. The ball carrier can be given info such as do you want a long pass, short pass, kick ahead, carry etc.

By making the call you are taking the responsibility off the ball carrier and telling him you have spotted something he may not have.

4 Decision

Having collated the information from scanning and any communication the ball a carrier should make a decision on a course of action.

5 Execution

They then execute the skill that puts the ball where they wish: this may be by long or short pass, kick or continue to carry and evade themselves. As a coach if you have only developed certain skills (eg, skip-passing or kicking) in a few of your players, your team is limited in what they can do. You would be missing opportunities if all players are not equipped and encouraged to perform any of the available options.

Position Specific:

In practising decision-making it is important to look at the position each player would most commonly find themselves in to make any decision.

The standard three-versus-two exercise in a confined grid is a good starting point for scanning and execution, but in match scenarios is probably most relevant to out-halves and centres.

A full-back or wing may have a similar defence formation but may have 20 metres to work into before performing a skill at close to full pace. Therefore they should be faced with these as often as possible in training.

While forwards could find themselves anywhere in the loose in the modern game, their most common decision will be when receiving a ball with close defenders and support either side.

Various other factors come into play when the tackler is so close, as how you catch the ball and carry it will impact if you have any options available or if the best course is to carry through the tackle before looking for support.

For scrum-halves, almost all of their breaks begin with picking the ball from ground (ruck or scrum) from nearly a standing start, and their decision-making exercises should replicate this.

There are as many training scenarios you could set up, as there are rucks in a match. As a coach, you want your players to be able to cope with all, but be proficient with the ones they face most regularly. To enroll in our upcoming Stage 3 (coaches of u16 - Adult teams) course, please contact me at:

Irish Independent

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