The ability to make effective decisions on the rugby pitch is fundamental to the development of the modern professional rugby player. There are only three core actions possible for a player in possession of the ball in rugby – carry, pass or kick. Without the ball, whether in attack or defence, good movement and communication are the key attributes needed to effectively impact the game. Developing the ‘game management’ skills or more specifically core ‘game understanding’ to know how and when to execute each of these to a consistently high level is ultimately what separates the best players from their peers at all but the very top level of the game.
What are the key learning objectives for each age grade in the PSA Rugby Academy programme?
At this early stage, the main objective from a game understanding perspective is being able to understand your positioning, role and best impact on the game as it happens. At this grade, players tend to chase the ball in both attack and defence, without appreciating the space and opportunity created around them. Developing this aspect of game understanding is delivered through a variety of games that simulate game scenarios, with clear communication and player-led interaction used to identify and embed the learning outcomes.
Building on the game understanding established at Minis level, the game understanding at Intermediate level steps up to cover identifying and managing space on the pitch, both in attack and defence. The introduction of tactical kicking at this age grade adds both opportunity and complexity, with players needing to understand when, where and how to effectively execute different run and kick strategies. At this level, it is about developing the fundamental decision making and execution skills across an increasing range of game scenarios, with specific continuity games used to create the conditions for these decisions to be made, executed, analysed and improved.
For players within the Advanced age group, the building blocks of good game understanding, in what to do when and how, both in attack and defence, should be established from the previous age grades. The next level of development is understanding how to, both individually and collectively, identify and manipulate momentum shifts in the gameplay.
Modern representative and professional rugby at the highest level is about controlling the tempo of a game for longer than the opposition, converting good quality, territorial-based possession into scores clinically. Controlling tempo is a critical game management skill that every player from 1 to 23 needs to proactively develop and hone.
Within the PSA Rugby Academy programme, players are positively challenged with specific games that include critical limiting conditions, creating pressure situations that deliver opportunities to use and develop the associated skills, with communication and post-session analysis used to reinforce key learnings.